Porter Moser was joined on the podium by several of his players this afternoon to discuss their Final Four experience.
COACH MOSER: I feel great, but obviously Sister Jean’s press conference is still going on. Thus the open seats. I feel great. San Antonio has been absolutely welcoming as always. And they just — just the weather is cooperating. It couldn’t be a better atmosphere and scene for this Final Four.
Q. I covered Marques Townes in high school a little bit, played with Wade Baldwin and Karl Anthony-Towns. Can you talk about how you came to get him at Loyola and what do you think this all means for him?
COACH MOSER: You know, it’s that, just doing due diligence, there’s those transfer lists that go out there and just kind of scouring. We didn’t know Marques. And then we see Marques Townes transferring. And all of a sudden we’re watching all the film. And then you start digging and calling people.
And the more you dug on Marques, the more people that Marques, he’s a winner — he’s tough, he’s a winner. Look, won three state championships, he goes to Farleigh Dickinson. The more we dug the more we’re like, this is the kind of profile kid we’re looking for.
Then we started talking to him on the phone, building relationship. And it led to an official visit. And one of the coolest things that Marques has said that I loved, I didn’t realize, that came out through this, he said about two weeks ago when someone asked him why he came to Loyola, it was on his official visit, he was in my basement. We had the guys at my house he was hanging with the guys. And I was just watching him interact with the guys.
I put my arm on his shoulder and I said, Marques, it’s like you’re already on the team. And I just said that because I felt it. Fast forward two years, I never knew he felt like that. He said the family atmosphere that you have at Loyola, that was something that drew me to him.
What he means to us? He’s a warrior, he makes winning plays, he makes toughness plays. He’s as high character as a guy as you can imagine. He’s the kind of guy you want to sit next to at a pregame meal because you can sit and talk to about anything. He’s just a great guy. But I love that he’s in our bunker. I love that.
Q. Karl Anthony-Towns, one of his shirts, (indiscernible) did you arrange that?
COACH MOSER: Marques will name drop. He’ll name drop. He knows everybody in the country, according to him. But what a high school team, Karl Anthony-Towns and Wade, what a team.
Q. Do you still have that picture on the desk from the students running out on the streets from ’63 —
COACH MOSER: It’s not on my desk. It’s in a bookshelf right to my left. Yes, I do.
Q. Probably going to replace it this year?
COACH MOSER: Yes, actually I am. I kept those pictures of the past to constantly remind me. If you look at a picture of my office, right up to the left is a black-and-white photo of Jerry Harkness and the ’63 team holding the trophy. And that’s been up since the beginning. And then farther to the left on the bookshelf is an amazing picture of Sheridan Road, with a car — and the car can’t move.
It’s like a convertible, the guys are sitting in there. I’m just like, look at the excitement here in Chicago with the Loyola Ramblers. It’s been something I’ve wanted to look at every day to drive me and it’s a really cool photo. Still in my office.
Q. Two-part question about the process the NCAA has currently to select the NCAA Tournament and teams like yours, had you lost your conference tournament, probably wouldn’t be here. What needs to change? Is your run through this tournament maybe a reason that the NCAA needs to take a look at how they should do things differently and get more teams like yours in the tournament? And secondly, how many power conference schools did you try to schedule the last few years in the non-conference and how many said no?
COACH MOSER: I’ll first acknowledge that the NCAA selection committee has an amazingly hard job, because no matter what happens, it’s going to be scrutinized. I’ll acknowledge that.
But I also want to say, to follow up to your question, yes, I hope our run sparks some conversation on trying to continue to find the best way. I don’t think we’re at that point yet. I don’t think we’re there yet. And I think we need to continue to find the best way, because it was, according to everybody, we weren’t going to get in.
I mean, you could get a tweaked ankle in practice to a star player for us, and lost by one in the conference tournament and we’re not here. You could have a shot bounce in or the other way, and we’re not in after a body of work we felt was good.
This is an interesting stat. I remember being a coach around the country and watching the VCU run and the George Mason run, and how awesome I thought that was. That wouldn’t have happened. Those were at-large bids. Those storylines wouldn’t have happened in today’s day and age because they wouldn’t have got in. I think that’s an amazing thought.
So I acknowledge that there’s just a really tough process for them. But I hope — we’ve got to continue to find to tweak it. The one thing that bothers me and it bothers a lot of other coaches in the country with the scheduling at our level is they, like, blame us for our schedule. Like, well, he scheduled really weak.
That is not the case. I have — we have a list of like I mean a hundred calls — home-and-home, we’ll start there. No. Home-and-home. We’ll do it. Because we want a hard schedule. And that’s what I think bothers us the most where it’s like you’re blamed for not having a tough schedule. It’s like that’s not — we’re trying.
I had a Power Five school buy out of a game this year not to play. And I can tell you right now, the last three weeks, my coach that’s in charge of scheduling, it’s even harder. We played a bye game at Florida this year and won, fortunately. And that’s even making it harder for us to get bought. To get bought now is tricky.
So it is a web of scheduling that is very hard for us at our level to get a good — and the bottom line it’s very hard. We were very, very fortunate to win at Florida. The numbers show to win those road games are harder. That’s why we’re trying to get home-and-homes, because those are becoming so hard.
The tournaments, the MTs, the exempt tournaments, you know, three years ago I was trying to get into the big ones. And they’re like, you know, you’re Loyola Chicago. Hopefully now — because you get into these years in advance. I’m hoping now we can get into some of these to play that.
It’s like Northern Iowa. Ben Jacobson has done an amazing job there; he’s gotten into the big ones. They beat NC State. They beat, who is the other one — I know they took Villanova very close. And they had another great win in that tournament. And they were able to play some good teams in a neutral setting. And that’s what you hope.
But I want to continue to hope that this sparks conversations because these are great stories. To think the VCU and George Mason might not have happened with the at-large bids. But like I said and I’ll end it there, the thing that bothers me the most is us getting blamed for not having a tough schedule when we’re trying our tails off.
Q. As you know, Cameron Satterwhite tore his ACL his senior year, didn’t play his high school season. How did a kid from Arizona get on your radar and how has he settled into his role since he’s been here?
COACH MOSER: Well, one of my assistant coaches knew some people out there in Arizona. One of my assistants that’s not with me anymore. He brought him to the table and he said this kid was going to go to Colorado. I saw him before his injury. He’s really long, athletic. So we got to know Cam and Cam is a great kid.
We kind of took a chance on him because he did tear his ACL. And it’s tough when you miss your whole senior year of high school with that. And then he came his freshman year. He actually got thrown into the fire a bunch his freshman year. And then the strength of his legs — and I thought he’s made a big jump this year.
I know he’s playing a good role for us but it’s not the minutes he probably wants. But we’re playing eight, nine guys. He’s in that rotation. We’ve put the ball in his hand more. He has some point guard ability. And he has some length and he can pass.
So he does a good job of coming into that, doing that, but it’s always tough when a kid misses his entire senior year of high school then having to play college. We have actually two players, Christian Negron from Illinois, same thing happened. He tore his ACL and missed his senior year and he’s going through that as a freshman, just that strength factor of bouncing back after sitting out a year.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll welcome the student-athletes from Loyola Chicago.
Q. Coach, how much of a distraction for you and the team is the ongoing debate about pay, scandals and so on surrounding, how much of a distraction is that for you and the team? And second question, where do you stand on the one-and-done rule?
COACH MOSER: The first question I understand is like the scandal, where we stand on it?
Q. How much of a distraction is it?
COACH MOSER: It hasn’t been a distraction at all for us, to be honest with you. We really haven’t talked about it. We talk about what we have going on at Loyola and how we do things at Loyola. So it truly has not been a distraction.
If anything, we’re proud of how we’re doing things and who these guys are.
So the one-and-done rule, you know, I always look at that as — like people say they’re recruiting one-and-dones. I don’t think coaches go into that. I think coaches go in, they’re trying to recruit the best players possible out there.
It happens to be the elite of the best players out there happen to be one-and-done. I don’t think coaches go “I’m going to recruit a one-and-done.” I just think they go, they’re evaluating the top players in the country. He’s one of the top players in the country, I’ll recruit him, he just happens to be a one-and-done.
So that also isn’t a distraction for us. No offense, guys. (Laughter). Sorry, I love you guys. You guys are great. It hasn’t been a distraction for us, the one-and-done.
Q. Ben, you kind of smiled when the gentleman identified himself as being from China Television. I just wondered how much you guys — it could be a couple of you, not just Ben, but the attention and how it’s grown in the last few weeks, even on campus when you came back from each round?
BEN RICHARDSON: It’s been cool. It’s been really big for the university. I know Coach has talked a lot about how all this stuff has been part of the process. And you can’t really plan or control a lot of the stuff going on, the media, the attention from the outside and expectations.
We’ve just been focused on what we can control in the locker room and how we do our prep and do everything as normal as possible. But it’s been really cool. And I know the Loyola community has given me so much and the university, and so I’m just happy that we can get some attention and get some publicity for such an amazing place and let people know and kind of represent our community and our university, because it’s given us so much and we’re proud to represent it.
AUNDRE JACKSON: I’ll tell you, we worked hard for this. We put in a lot of work. So just getting all the attention, getting the recognition has been great for us. But we know how to block it out and focus on basketball.
Q. Ben and Marques, I remember you guys talking about Clayton when he came back from injury, just saying how things clicked and things work at a different level. Can you describe how he does that or what he does that makes the offense click?
BEN RICHARDSON: I mean, Clay is a well-rounded, unselfish player that — he can run our offense and get things going like nobody else. He’s unique in the way that he knows how to make plays for others, and he also can go get a shot for himself.
And he’s very good at that as well. And I think just having him back, he has so much confidence. He really infuses the rest of us with a ton of confidence. And I think just having him on the court and being able to do everything that we’ve been doing, kind of — because that’s kind of how we were.
With Clay as the starting point guard, when he was out made, it kind of made it difficult for us, but it also gave other guys an opportunity to get some experience and have us grow our depth a little bit. But when he came back, it really brought that confidence back and that offensive ability that we’ve had and our ability to be unselfish. And he really starts all that stuff.
He makes so many things happen with his ability to get downhill, get the domino started and being an unselfish player and put pressure on the defense. Since he came back, it’s shown with all the success we’ve had.
MARQUES TOWNES: Clay, he makes everything on us a lot easier, just the way he handles the point guard position. For any player that plays a point guard, his job is to make the job easier for the rest of the team. He does a really good job at that.
He’s an unselfish player, but he knows the opportune times to score the ball in the way he distributes the ball to the whole team, and he’s a leader on this team. I mean, he’s a player that’s here for a reason. But he’s a humble person. So he’ll probably say that if it wasn’t for us he wouldn’t be in that position.
Like I said, like Ben said, everything he said and he just makes stuff a lot easier for us and we’re just so happy to have him on this team.
Q. Donte, Sister Jean had her own news conference before. It was jam-packed. What do you as players make for the fact that she’s become such a sensation and what does she do for this team?
DONTE INGRAM: Looking in the media room, walking by, you would have thought she was one of us, one of the players, the way she was getting interviewed. But, yeah, she’s meant a lot to this program, to the city of Chicago. Obviously with the prayers that everybody sees she’s been doing for us, she’s around and her aura is so bright. She sends e-mails after the game, generalized and individualized, letting you know what we did well and just to keep it going and instilling that confidence in us. Obviously to have her support, it’s great. And she’s like no other. We’re happy to have her on our side.
Q. You talk about strength of schedule. You have DePaul down the road. Why don’t you guys play each other? Have you guys reached out to them, or how has that gone?
COACH MOSER: Absolutely. We’ve talked many times. We’d love to. I know — there’s so many schools, they’re included, that we’ve tried to reach out to. It’s tough. Like I said earlier, the thing that bothers me, is when you get blamed for not having a strength of schedule when we’re trying so hard. I mean, our phone call, you look at our list of calls that we’ve made and not get any response. So it’s tough. It’s tough.
Q. Wagner is probably going to be your guys’ biggest opponent that you’re going to have to go against, against Michigan, what’s your guys’ defensive strategy and what’s the plan to go against him?
COACH MOSER: Well, no, he is a matchup — he’s a matchup dilemma being that big that can stretch you. In the Valley we haven’t seen 6’11” stretch players like him. And so for sure we’ve been talking about it. Not talking about it. We’ve been game planning with it, because he’s a terrific player.
I mean, he’s really, really good. He’s tough. He competes. He can put on the deck as well. There’s definitely a lot of respect there from our part in terms of what we’re going to have to defend.
I do want to follow up on what Donte said about the Sister Jean thing about you thought it looked like us. I walked by, I thought it looked like Tom Brady at the Super Bowl. (Laughter).
Q. Do you own any bobbleheads?
COACH MOSER: I have an original bobblehead. Depending on all this stuff, from the very beginning, when I got here, she had a bobblehead and I got one of the originals. So I might be a pseudo name on eBay putting it out there (Laughter). I have it. And I think she autographed it.