Quotes from Temple guard Khalif Wyatt and Owls head coach Fran Dunphy:
Q. Khalif, first of all, how’s the thumb?
WYATT: It’s good. It’s a little sore right now, but it will be fine. It will be fine by tomorrow.
Q. Did you get any X rays?
WYATT: Yesterday, but everything was fine.
Q. You didn’t hesitate after the game to say you wanted to play Indiana. Why is that?
WYATT: I think it will be a good challenge for us. That’s why you play basketball. You want to play against the best. It’s a good challenge for us, a great opportunity for us, and we’ll be ready for it.
Q. Khalif, can you just talk about how important it will be for you guys to keep them under 80 points?
WYATT: They’re a good offensive team, and they play a good pace, and they’ve got some good players. We’ve just got to be solid on defense and try to limit them to one shot as many times as we can. And just know their personnel. They’ve got some guys that can shoot the ball. They’ve got some good inside players.
Just got to know who to guard and try to limit them to one shot.
Q. Khalif, how much in a short turnaround time can you kind of study how Oladipo defends guards? He usually draws Indiana’s toughest back court matchup.
WYATT: I know he’s Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. I know he’s a great athlete, and he plays really hard. I know, if he’s guarding me, I know he’s going to be up for the challenge, and he’s going to play hard. I’ve just got to let the game come to me and just go out there and play my game, let my teammates get me shots, set screens, just work without the ball and stuff like that.
He’s a good defender, but, I mean, he’s not the first good defender I’ve faced.
Q. Khalif, you know, I look back over the course of the season, and you pretty much had two games, Duke and Xavier, where you didn’t shoot well, you didn’t get to the line, you didn’t create a lot for your teammates. What do you recollect of those two games, and why you know, January, February, you really didn’t have a game like that where you really didn’t contribute in one way or another.
WYATT: I really don’t remember much about the Xavier game or the Duke game, but I know I couldn’t I was getting good shots, just they weren’t going in. So I don’t really know I don’t really know what they were doing or if they were doing anything different than anybody else has been doing.
I think, as the season’s gone on, I’ve just been getting in a better rhythm and just trying to let the game come to me and just trying to make the right play.
Q. Looking back when you were in high school, like you were a two star recruit and Oladipo was a three star recruit, why are guys like you and him overlooked when you were in high school? Is this the kind of stage you’ve been waiting for since you’ve been in school? I know you’re the A 10 Player of the Year.
WYATT: I’m not sure about Oladipo’s case. I know I went to a small high school. I know I played with some really good players in the summertime. I don’t know. Just got to take advantage of the opportunity when you get it. I’m just happy that Coach Dunphy recruited me and gave me a chance to play at Temple and gave me a chance to showcase what I can do.
Q. Khalif, have you seen what La Salle did yesterday? Do you have any friends on the team? Did you trade any texts or any exchanges with any of the guys on La Salle?
WYATT: Yeah, I’m good friends with Ramon Galloway and Tyrone Garland and Tyreek Duren. I just congratulated them. I didn’t get to see much of the game. I think they were playing around the same time we were playing.
I was definitely happy to hear the news they won. I texted them and told them congratulations and hope that we can both keep it going.
Q. For the second straight game, you’re going up against a high scoring opponent. Is the approach the same as it was last time, try to keep it below a certain point level, total?
DUNPHY: I don’t think you have that option, to be honest with you. I think every game takes on a different personality. It may be a low scoring game; it may be a high scoring game.
Like for us yesterday, we played very well defensively in the first half, knowing full well that NC State was going to make a run at us. So there are stretches of game where you’ve got to manage the game. There might be possessions where we get our best look at ten seconds on the shot clock. We may have to wait 30 to 35 seconds to get a decent look at it. There may be some possessions where we don’t get any shot at all. So it depends on that.
I also think that how we run our offense will dictate how we play our defense. If we shoot good shots, then we’ll be in pretty good floor bounce because one of the concerns about Indiana is that they push the basketball on makes and misses and they have great transition game and they find each other very, very well.
So we have to be prepared for any style of game tomorrow.
Q. Do you anticipate any Khalif having any limitations as it relates to his thumb? How important is having him play well in this game?
DUNPHY: I think, as he goes, we go many times. He’s such a not only a great scorer but he’s such a terrific play maker. He’ll be a little tender probably on that thumb, but as we went through our workout today, he rested when he needed to and caught the ball pretty well. I think always the big concern is how you catch the basketball when you have any kind of injury like that.
I don’t think it’s real severe. The doctor looked at it today and taped it up, and he did pretty well. So I don’t think it’s a huge concern. Even if it were, he’s not going to let me take him out of the game. He wants to play.
Q. Fran, I wonder about the matchup potentially tomorrow with Khalif and Oladipo, what your thoughts are there. PHY:
DUNPHY: He’s a terrific basketball player, and his defense and length and speed and athleticism will be difficult to handle for us, but hopefully we’ll get our share of looks if he’s on Khalif, and hopefully Khalif will be able to make some plays for his teammates as well. But he’s a really good player.
Q. Jake O’Brien’s played pretty well for you guys over the last month. What’s he meant to you lately for this run? Also, what was it about him that made you consider him as a transfer?
COACH DUNPHY: First of all, he’s such a high quality individual. He’s obviously a very good basketball player. He has some unique abilities as a big guy because he can step away from the basket and make shots. That’s not necessarily what we had going for us at the power forward and center position, so we needed that kind of attribute in our program. And we needed a power forward of sorts, and I think he’s really gotten better defensively.
One of the things that happens is he before you can make a shot, you’ve got to know how to get a shot, and he’s been getting his share of shots recently, much better than he did early on, whether that was him getting used to us or vice versa.
But he’s really added a great dimension to our game, and he’s done a terrific job.
Q. Khalif, I believe, was a two star recruit, only had a few offers, and now he’s the A 10 Player of the Year. Oladipo was ranked 144 in his class, and now they’re the two better players in the country. Is that him being overlooked? Is it player development? How do you explain that?
DUNPHY: I’d like to tell you it’s all player development and me and my staff are killing it with player development. I think it’s just a little bit of luck.
I think you see things when you watch Khalif play as a high school kid, he had a unique, unique game, and now you just needed to talk to him all the time and harness this thing and let him go sometimes and bring him in other times.
He’s just developed over the years. I think it’s just a natural maturity that kids go through. What he did have is a fearlessness as a high school player. That might be as important as anything out there because of the competitive nature of what it is we do. Respect everybody but fear nobody, and that’s what he does as a basketball player.
And to get back to the ranking, we’d all like to get the top, top guys, but it’s not always going to happen. So when you do get somebody that has that little piece of something that you can work with, then you take advantage of it.
Q. Fran, the A 10 is having a nice run in the tournament. Can you just talk about the varying styles in the league and how that might get you ready for the tournament?
DUNPHY: I don’t know we’re any different than any other league. Everybody is the same. Each league is really competitive. I think ours this year was absolutely superb.
You had St. Louis, who won the league and just a great defensive basketball team, but also had the ability to make shots when they needed to. They had great balance and great depth. VCU had a terrific season as well. When they turn that pressure up, it’s really difficult to play against. So that’s another style of play.
There’s 16 unique styles. There are some similarities, but they’re certainly unique styles. But I don’t think it’s any different than most leagues. We’re playing against a Big Ten team, and it’s a great, great league, top to bottom.
So is it good that our league was so competitive? Yes. In terms of the style of play, I think we all have to go through ranges of style of play.
Q. You mentioned Khalif’s unique game in high school. Could you describe that a bit more. Did any part of you feel you were taking a risk on somebody given maybe his unorthodox talents?
DUNPHY: No, I don’t think so. We needed a good player, and we needed somebody who could score points. He didn’t play a lot as a freshman. He was just getting used to me and me him. We didn’t hit it off all that great when he was a freshman, but he hung in there and stuck with it. And his sophomore year he was the Sixth Man of the Year in our league because he was a dynamic scorer and he could just he could make plays.
Again, not only can he score, but he can make plays. He makes it easier for you to run your offense. And when it breaks down, which it oftentimes does, especially against a really good defensive team, you need individual talent, and he had that. Despite the fact he’s not the fastest guy, he has a degree of quickness, but his IQ is off the charts.
Q. Across college basketball last year, we saw a huge rise in the number of transfers, a record number. A lot of them are playing prominent roles in the tournament this year, including Jake O’Brien. What are your thoughts on the trend? Has it been beneficial to college basketball? Do things need to be changed at all?
DUNPHY: I think it’s equal parts troublesome that so many kids are looking at different schools to go to, and when the immediate gratification of playing doesn’t hit, everybody wants to take off. So it’s a lot of work for a college basketball program to work with kids and make sure that they understand that their time is going to come.
Jake’s a unique situation where he had Boston U was leaving their conference, so they weren’t going to be eligible to go to the NCAA Tournament, and he looked around for some opportunities. I talked to his coaches, and they were great about it.
We had him down for a visit. It clicked, and we made it work. Again, there was some getting used to, though. It wasn’t like it was instantly something that was going to be easy to work with. He’s a great guy. It’s just us getting used to each other.
But it’s troublesome, and yet it’s what’s happening today. You’ve got to get there’s so many changes in our sport, whether it’s the conference issues or the transfer issues. You’ve got to get ready for change.
Q. Fran, I just wanted to go back to what you said about maybe you and Khalif not clicking at the beginning. Why was that, and how would you describe the relationship now?
DUNPHY: I think it’s of great respect right now. But I think in the beginning he had his way of doing things and I had mine. We were trying to get together on it, but he was a pain in the butt sometimes, you know, and he’ll be the first to tell you.
But he’s grown, and that’s what happens. When you sign on for these guys, it’s not perfection. And you sign on for the good and for the bad. It’s kind of like for richer or for poorer, for better, for worse. That’s what it is.
He’s been great down the stretch of his career, and I had to sit him out he didn’t start three games for us last year, including the Atlantic 10 Tournament game. So it’s just it’s what we do as coaches and players. We get along, but it’s not without its highs and lows and peaks and valleys and fits and starts of maintenance, high maintenance and low maintenance.
Now he’s a very low maintenance guy. Early in his career he was killing me with high maintenance. But I’m glad it all worked out. I’m glad it all worked out, and he’s going to be graduating from Temple University in May, and I couldn’t be more proud of him, how he’s turned out as a man.
Q. Coach, Indiana is a team that likes to run down their teams, like to bring fatigue to the game. Are you at all concerned about the possible fatigue factor that might face your team in this short turnaround?
DUNPHY: Yeah, I am. I’m always concerned by that. But I think the big thing is how talented they are, how big they are, how well coached they are. That’s the biggest concern.
We’re going to have to do a really good job of resting on offense sometimes because we’re not going to be able to rest on defense because they’re at you the whole game.
Very impressive team. Am I concerned about the conditioning piece? Yeah, sure. But not as much as I am about how talented they are.
Q. Question about Oladipo. He played at DeMatha, an East Coast kid. Was he a guy that you considered at all recruiting?
DUNPHY: We did not. He had a guy at his position, so it’s one of those things you’re trying not to load up at any one position. But he’s a great story. I think Khalif Wyatt and Oladipo are great stories out there, where you don’t need to be this highly, highly rated player, that you can make yourself a terrific player.
Again, going back to our player development, I’d like to think that it’s pretty good, but I think you have to sit there and give these kids the bulk of the credit for where they are today because they watch and they see and they read. They want to be the best that they can be. When you are a great competitor like those two guys are, you’re typically going to be a pretty good player.
Q. Fran, you haven’t faced Indiana in your career yet. How much respect do you have for that school? Temple and Indiana both have rich histories as far as basketball is concerned.
DUNPHY: Yeah, Indiana obviously, Coach Knight was an unbelievable coach there, and now Coach Crean has them to the highest level you can be in the country right now. So I can’t have more respect for a university and a basketball program than I have for Indiana.
Q. I think Indiana had five guys that made 3 pointers in the first half yesterday. Everybody but Zeller in the starting lineup could shoot them. What’s the challenge defensively when you’re trying to figure out how to stop that?
DUNPHY: I think the problem is there’s not a weakness they have. I think, if all they did is shoot 3s, you can control that a little bit, but each one of those guys that can make a 3 can also drive off the dribble and help and drive and kick for their teammates. That’s a huge concern for us.
And then transition is a huge concern because they can run it at the rim each and every time as well. We’re concerned.