Johnny Jones and Michael Weathers met with the media after losing to Michigan on Saturday.
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JOHNNY JONES: I want to congratulate Michigan on an outstanding game. I thought they played really well. They got off to a great start tonight. I want to commend our guys. We didn’t get off to the start that we wanted, but I thought they did a great job of coming back in the second half and battling and cutting it to eight, nine points or whatever the deficit was there late.
So I want to commend our guys for the way that they finished and continued to battle against one of the top four teams in the country.
Q. Johnny, their inside guys made it so tough for you guys, and you guys have a good inside game, but was that one of the big differences that carried through?
JOHNNY JONES: Yes, Dickinson is probably one of the premier players in the country. Their center, number 1, outstanding job throughout the year. We knew that he’d be a force to deal with. He’s 7’1″, 255 pounds, an excellent back-to-the-basket player, extremely smart, crafty. They have done a great job utilizing him all season long, and that certainly gave us some problems.
We wanted to try to help inside, but they have adequate shooters as well and guys that are very capable. So any time we played off of him trying to help inside, they actually made us play, and that was one of the reasons I thought we had a big deficit there in the first half.
Q. Johnny, to follow up on what you mentioned in your opening comment, just how proud are you that your guys just keep battling all the way till the end?
JOHNNY JONES: Well, I knew they had that in them. I didn’t question that, and I knew that they would. Unfortunately, we didn’t get off to a great start, but at the end of the day, I thought they emptied their tank out there on the floor and played extremely hard and didn’t leave anything out there and have any regrets.
So extremely proud of them. Unfortunately, our season ends today, but extremely proud the way that these guys grew throughout the season and put themselves in a situation where they had a second game here in the NCAA Tournament.
Q. Congratulations on a well-played season and guys never giving up the fight. Now that you’ve gained this experience, what do you think it’s going to take for your program and other programs to get over that hump to advance in the next round of these tournaments?
JOHNNY JONES: It’s just going to take a little bit of luck, Mike. I thought that we had a team that was extremely capable. You have to really be hitting on all cylinders when you’re in these games and playing extremely well.
Unfortunately, we weren’t hitting on all cylinders today there in the first half to apply enough pressure to Michigan that they would feel it and maybe feel the intense pressure there in the second half because they had such a huge lead there.
We cut it to eight or ten there late. That’s what we’re capable of doing. Unfortunately, we weren’t close enough so that gap would have been a two- to four-point game with about four or five minutes left for us to try to overcome the deficit we had at halftime.
But that’s what it is. At the end of the day, I thought we had a great corps of guys. Just take one of those games, unfortunately. I don’t think you play a perfect game, but you’re going to have to come close in these type games, in tournaments, to put yourself in position to continue playing on. We only shot, I think, 35 percent from the field. You’ve got to shoot about 48, 50 percent, take care of the ball, which we did tonight, but we just didn’t make the shots we needed to.
Q. My question to you is this was the first time this team made March Madness since 2018. How do you look to make it back next season?
JOHNNY JONES: We’re hopeful. With the new rule, hopefully, a lot of these guys can possibly return next year. We’ve got seniors that can be a part of this team, and if this corps of guys stay together, I think they can be an outstanding basketball team.
They were just really learning to play together and feeling each other out and understanding exactly what it takes to win at the highest level. They won a lot of close ball games this year, even in conference play and come-from-behind victories.
So I think this is a great corps, but, again, takes a little luck to make those things happen. We finished well in our conference tournament, got here, and I thought our guys did a great job of making a showing.
Q. I want to say congratulations on a great season. Just kind of talking about that showing, what do you hope you showed the nation? And what do you hope they take from it these last two games of Texas Southern basketball?
JOHNNY JONES: That our guys compete and they play the right way. I think they’ve done a tremendous job. As a coach, you want to make sure they implement your philosophy, putting your offense and defense in. These guys did an exceptional job of going out there and carrying it out and trying to play within the lines, in the frame of what we’re asking them to do and executing at a high level. That’s all you can ask.
I thought we practiced them hard. They did a great job of conforming to the things that we asked, and they were able to carry those things out throughout the season and had a phenomenal year. I think they won 15 out of their last 17 games. So on any scale, I think that’s really good and really solid. I’m really proud of these guys.
Q. Coach, what has Michael Weathers meant to your program this year?
JOHNNY JONES: Mike is outstanding. He’s a force to be reckoned with. Mike’s high level. He’s a special player. He’s one of those guys that he engineered our basketball team, and he was a big difference maker. Most nights he was the best player, absolutely the best player on the floor, and I think Mike has another level to his game.
Mike came in with a group of guys that transferred in along with him. I had to force Mike and told him that I needed him to be a little bit more selfish because he has an unselfish attitude, mentality. He includes his teammates, which is great, but there are nights when I needed him to be more aggressive and have a little bit more of a selfishness about himself with his ability to score.
So I absolutely think that Mike’s an outstanding player and has so much to offer.
Q. Do you think the recent publicity at Jackson State in football can cross over to SWAC basketball programs?
JOHNNY JONES: I think we’ve done an outstanding job, even prior to and even this season. We have great tradition here at Texas Southern in terms of basketball. We’ve been to several NCAA Tournaments, always finishing at the top of the league, always recruiting top tier kids, and we’re a very attractive campus and institution to attend.
So we actually feel like we’re — and really in basketball. Several other programs have done extremely well because we have a lot of top tier teams in our conference. The publicity part, I think, is there. We have a great media market here in Houston, and the great things are happening for us. People know that, when you say Texas Southern basketball, they’re certainly familiar with it.
Q. So what does it mean to the program, to the school, to play on this stage?
JOHNNY JONES: Can you hear me, Mark?
Q. Yeah. Can you hear me now, Coach?
JOHNNY JONES: Yes. You asked about playing on this stage.
Q. Yeah. I’ll say what does it mean to the school, to the program, to have played at this level on this stage, national television, that sort of thing?
JOHNNY JONES: That’s what you play for, and I think our guys did an excellent job of representing our institution, our community, and the city of Houston. They were phenomenal. It’s been great for us. I thought they represented themselves extremely well. Winning the other night with a come-from-behind victory.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get off to a great start, but I have to commend Michigan, the way that they played and the shots that they knocked down early, the way that they came out, you have to really commend them for the way that they played.
But I thought our guys performed well on this stage. It’s something they look forward to, and it’s great they had an opportunity to share it with one of the number 1 seeds in this tournament, being that they’re considered one of the top four teams in the country. And for our guys to battle and be that close to them at the end of the game, I think it says a lot about the character of these guys.
Q. You touched on it early. How big was it — what does it say about your team that you got down 24 and cut it in half and made a game of it?
JOHNNY JONES: That’s the character of these guys. They don’t quit. They never give up. One of our mottos is making sure we fight and get after it every second, every play, and we like to empty our tanks out there on the floor. I thought those guys did that, and that’s why we were — and we got close later in the game when we, I guess, got down nine, ten points at that time.
Q. My final question is with all you’ve had to experience with your team — COVID-19, protocols, all the inconveniences that you had — how would you summarize this season even though it didn’t end the way you wanted it to?
JOHNNY JONES: Well, I would look back on it, and I told these guys that they’re absolutely winners at the end of the day because of everything that we did go through. There was a lot of adversity. There were a lot of shutdowns, postponements, and you’re dealing with the unknown. There is no guide for what we were going through, and I thought these guys did a tremendous job of rolling up their sleeves every day.
Most of the guys on this team have 3.0 or higher GPAs. All of them are seniors and are graduating or have graduated already. So these guys have tunnel vision. They have the moxie about themselves and the stick-to-itiveness and didn’t have excuses and came to work every day.
Really proud of this group. Couldn’t be prouder of them as well because I thought they gave this institution everything that they had throughout this basketball season.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, I’ve got one quick one for you. What does it mean to have the NCAA Tournament back after last year’s cancellation?
JOHNNY JONES: I just want to say I want to commend the NCAA on the tremendous job they were able to do to get this tournament going. It was very difficult, and I’m sure a lot of people may have questioned exactly what was going on and the safety and everything that they went through with the hotels, the buses, the airplanes, to ensure the safety of everybody that was involved.
I certainly want to commend them, and these young men having an opportunity to go out and play and these coaches have the opportunity to go out and coach the game they love, and some of our fans have been able to attend the games.
I’m just hopeful that by next year stands will be full and we can get back after it. Certainly, you have to commend the NCAA on the job that they’ve done putting the tournament together this year.
Q. Mike, congratulations again on the season. This is not how you wanted it to end, but give me your thoughts on the way — it looked like you guys were tight early, and then once you got in t it was a little too late, but you made a great run there in the second half. What are your thoughts?
MICHAEL WEATHERS: That’s just our brand of basketball — never quit, never stop playing, always play every second like it’s your last. Coach Jones preaches to us just a never-give-up mentality. I wouldn’t want to go anywhere without this group of guys, and I know that with these group of guys, I know they’re always going to fight, and that’s how we usually play.
Q. Did you think as a group you were tight early? Man, you had open shots. You and your teammates would make great drives to the basket or have an open shot, and they just weren’t falling.
MICHAEL WEATHERS: I think it was just a little bit of nervousness at first. We just didn’t hit shots enough tonight, and that was just a big part of us. We went 1 of 11 from three, 1 of 12 from three, and I think it was just an off night for us. It was just a great season, great run, and I wouldn’t want to do it with any other group of guys.
Q. How would you put into words what it’s meant to you and your team to get this far and play at this level even though it didn’t go the way you wanted, to be at this stage now?
MICHAEL WEATHERS: I would just say, for us, it was just truly a blessing. Like with the COVID situation, it’s just unknown. So you never know what’s going on. But I want to commend the NCAA, how they held everything down and operated everything.
It was a great run that we had, and like I said, I wouldn’t want to do it with anybody else. I love these guys. These guys are like my brothers. So it was a great run we had, but unfortunately, it had to come to an end.
Q. Speaking of runs, what did you think of the run you all had in the second half that cut the deficit in half as you tried to make it a game?
MICHAEL WEATHERS: I thought, if we played with that intensity in the first half, the first four minutes, I think it would be a different game. For us, we always want to play the — we always want to play four-minute segments and win every four-minute segment, but in those first eight minutes, we just got down too much and dug ourself too deep of a hole. So it was just too much for us to come back from.
But I want to commend Michigan and how they played tonight.
Q. Mike, congratulations again. You guys were a lot of fun to watch over these last two games. Can you talk to me about what you hoped to have showed the nation these last two games about Texas Southern basketball?
MICHAEL WEATHERS: For us, we just wanted to show that we’re a hardworking group of guys. We come in every day with a blue-collar mentality, and we just never give up. This group of guys is always going to fight down to the end, down to the wire. I’m glad it was Texas Southern in this tournament, and that we got to represent Texas Southern in the right way. It was just a fun run, but like I said, unfortunately, it has to come to an end.
Q. Mike, congratulations on a well-played season. Didn’t quite end the way you wanted to, but represented Texas Southern in the conference quite well. My question to you is this. With you being able to play in different avenues as a student-athlete, what was the experience like for you personally being a student-athlete at Texas Southern in the HBCU world?
MICHAEL WEATHERS: When I first got to Texas Southern, it was open arms. So it was basically like walking into a new family. They embraced me with open arms, and it’s just a lot of fun being at an HBCU. The atmosphere, just the people around, it’s just a great group of people to be around. They really care about you, and they really take the time to look out for you.
Texas Southern is just a great university to attend to.
Q. Thank you so much, Mike, for representing the conference, Texas Southern, and HBCUs quite well. Good luck to you in your future.
MICHAEL WEATHERS: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
Q. Your coach just said he had to tell you to be more selfish and look for your shot more. What was that conversation like?
MICHAEL WEATHERS: With Coach, he always tells me that he knows that I want to get my teammates involved because I’m just that type of person. I always want to see my group of guys around me shine more than me.
But for him, he told me that he needs me to be a little bit more selfish and to look for the shot, like you said, just to help us out on more of the offensive end.
But, I mean, I wouldn’t — I wouldn’t trade any of the moments that I had with this team for anything. It was just a great season. Being able to just play with these group of guys, it just means a lot. Even though we did talk about me being selfish on the offensive end, these guys was on my back, guided me, helping me throughout the whole way. So I really want to commend our guys.
Q. Sorry if I’m a little late on this, but obviously Michigan had a size advantage, but you all weren’t afraid to take the ball inside on them. How much was it intended to kind of go with that dribble drive so often against them?
MICHAEL WEATHERS: With us, we wanted — our game plan was to attack Michigan’s bigs, but I mean, they’re a great group of bigs. I’m not surprised. They work hard every day. You can see it on the floor. You can see it. They were a top team in the country the whole year.
It was just a great battle, but unfortunately, we didn’t come out with the win.
THE MODERATOR: I’ve got one quick one for you. How meaningful was it to have the NCAA Tournament back after last year’s cancellation?
MICHAEL WEATHERS: It was great. Just to be back on this stage and have this stage present in front of everybody, it’s just a great feeling. I’m really glad the NCAA found a way to figure this all out and get this tournament going, and I really just want to commend them for that.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Mike, for your time and a successful season.