March 18, 2008
PHILADELPHIA - Saint Joseph's held its final practice on Hawk Hill on Tuesday afternoon before heading to Birmingham for the NCAA Tournament opener against Oklahoma. SJU will face the Sooners on Friday evening from the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center at 7:10 p.m. EST (6:10 p.m. local time).
Saint Joseph's will hold a send-off for the team on Wednesday morning at 9:15 a.m. prior to the team leaving for the airport at 9:45 a.m.
Coach Phil Martelli, who has now guided the Hawks to five NCAA berths in his 13 years, met with the media prior to the two-hour practice.
The Hawks will continue to practice in Birmingham, and will participate in the open practice to be held at the arena on Thursday evening.
Phil Martelli QUOTES
Oklahoma in general
Well the two inside guys, Blake Griffin, and Longar Longar, it's amazing: one's playing with a broken foot or broken bone in his leg, Griffin has had two knee operations or procedures and he's still playing at such a high level that he's averaging three and a half offensive rebounds a game.
They really do power the ball. They're unusual for college basketball in that they play inside out, whereas most of us play three-point line and in. They really have a way of playing together, they find each other. They guard as if the basket is their home. They're not letting you get anywhere near there. Great defense, [there is] not a lot of pressure, not a lot of denial, they play great defense. The two inside guys are very sound.
I've concentrated my look at them over the last five or six games. So to really try to study what it really was and who they are right now.
Ahmad Nivins's role vs. Oklahoma
Ahmad is not only going to have to play well, but he's going to have to stay out of foul trouble. They're big, they're strong and they want to attack [the basket]. They go inside with a senior and a freshman, and we're going to come back with a fifth-year senior in Rob Ferguson and Ahmad as a junior. We're a little older and I think they're a little stronger-looking. They seek body contact. The referees call it a little tighter in the NCAA Tournament so we have to be very cognizant of Ahmad and his positioning. And then what we want to try to do is make sure that Ahmad is part of the offense and doesn't disappear.
About Arvydas Lidzius role vs. Oklahoma
He's a fifth-year senior, he's going to be involved in this, he's part of the game plan in terms of either Rob Ferguson or Ahmad Nivins get in foul trouble. Idris Hilliard has tremendous energy, but he's probably not the right guy right now. First off the bench in the front court will be Arvydas.
Relating to the team and a possible first round victory
Getting in, then you take that, and it's not doubling the pleasure to be playing or practicing on Saturday [for the NCAA tournament], it's triple, it's quadruple. It's an amazing feeling to know that 64 teams have started, and only 32 are left. I think anybody can be [one of those teams]. I think we certainly have a chance to be one of those teams. I do think it'll take an "A" effort. We were able to do that in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, but then in the second half against Temple we didn't pass that test.
On Pat Calathes
I think Pat was one of those guys that came in and said `it worked for me this way' and when it didn't work when he was a freshman and halfway through his sophomore year he thought `this is too hard, it should be easier.' Then we took him and we tried to pare it down, let's not be here for two hours, let's do this for 35 minutes and get something done. Then the love of basketball, Pat deserves a lot of credit because of his love of basketball. Mark Bass taught Pat on how to be critical of watching tape [about himself]. He studied other players and then Mark spent hour upon hour with Pat saying this is what needs to be done. And that still happens today. Now we're talking about his obligations of being an all-league player. Now you have to play to that level.