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What they said… USC players

03.20.09 at 12:33 pm ET

Just so you know what they’re thinking heading into tonight’s showdown with the BC Eagles, here are three of the stars from the USC squad. DeMar DeRozan, Daniel Hackett, Dwight Lewis and Taj Gibson took to the podium, otherwise referred to as the dais, on Thursday. Here’s how they answered the questions from the media.

Q. Guys, coming in here, you know, what you’ve done these last five games. I mean, do you feel like you’re a pretty dangerous team just coming in on the right note?

TAJ GIBSON: I feel we’re coming in with a lot of confidence. Guys that are healthy this time of year, throughout the years, guys have been really banged up and injuries played a key role in a lot of our games, losing one point at Oklahoma, a lot of tough road games in the Pac 10.

DANIEL HACKETT: We feel good about ourselves. But we learned a hard lesson last year. Losing to Kansas State in the first round, so we don’t want to get our hopes too high. Stay humble and keep playing our basketball.

Q. Hey, Taj, how does last year’s experience and the previous years help you guys, with you, Daniel and Dwight and Keith Wilkinson all being here before?

TAJ GIBSON: It has its ups and its downs. My freshman year we went pretty far, then the mishap last year we lost to a tough Kansas State team.

Just a lot of experience. I hope we can use it to our advantage.
But, once again, we have a lot of young guys coming around at the right part of the season, so the sky’s the limit. But I know Boston College is a really skilled team, a lot of veterans on that team, so just looking forward to getting back out there and playing.

Q. DeMar, could you discuss your development through the season?
Tell us about how you have come how far you have come from the beginning of the season to the point where you were the MVP in the Pac 10 tournament, and how did it feel to break through and have three great games in a row?

DEMAR DEROZAN: You know, all season I have been in the gym working, trying to get better day in and day out. And that’s one thing I try to take from it, just to learn from these guys. And learn from the coach.
Taking in everything that was shown to me and use it, you know.

So every game I try to use that to my advantage. And the Pac 10 tournament was a big, big step for us, and I just felt comfortable from all the stuff that I learned all season.

Q. Hi guys. What do you know about Boston College? And what concerns you about them?

DWIGHT LEWIS: We know they are real physical team. They like to crash the boards a lot. They have a great guard in Tyrese Rice, as everybody knows. And also has a good supporting cast. We have to get really physical with them and try to match their intensity.

DANIEL HACKETT: They come from a power conference like the ACC. They beat Carolina and Duke and played Wake Forest tough, I think. So they are a pretty good team. We respect them. And hopefully we’ll give them a good battle.

Q. A lot of guys, a lot of media and even Vegas picking you guys as favorites in the game even though you are a 10 seed. How do you feel about that? What makes what do you think makes you look so dangerous to pull off an upset? And is it kind of surprising that you’re in a position as a favorite as a 10 seed?

DEMAR DEROZAN: I think a lot of people is betting on us, but we really aren’t going to pay no mind to it. We just try to go out, go out there and put in work and just come out tomorrow and give a great game, you know. Everybody is healthy, like Taj said. And we’re just going to go out and give it our all.

Q. For Taj and Dwight, could you talk about what DeMar brings to your team? And what have you seen in him this season as far as his development as a player and as a teammate?

He brings a lot of athleticism to our team. He does a lot for us. He can score, he can rebound, he can defend. Like he said, he has been in the gym since the season started just developing. I think he is getting more confidence and he showed it in the Pac 10 tournament.

Just brings a lot of effort. Real strong leader. You don’t see that much in a lot of freshman, but he stepped up to the plate. As you can see in the Pac 10 tournament, he made key plays late in the championship game. And his development, there’s more to come.

Q. For Daniel. I am interested in your thoughts on Tyrese Rice and does he remind you of anybody that you’ve gone up against in the Pac 10 conference?

Not really, because we well, maybe Taylor Rochestie from Washington State. But Tyrese, I think he has more talent them him. It kind of reminds me of my AAU teammate Brandon Jennings a little bit, playing overseas right now.

As I said, I’ve seen him on tape. And of course he is a lead player.
He is a senior. And, you know, he’s got a lot of pressure on him. And we’re going to pay a lot of attention to what he does on the court.

Q. For Daniel, Taj and Dwight. How has it helped this team that you’ve had this junior core together, three years now you guys have played together? It is a little bit unusual in this era of college basketball to have this kind of togetherness for such a long period of time. How has that helped out?

DANIEL HACKETT: We have been through a lot. We have been through a lot. Practicing has been tough this past three years, and you know with a coach like Tim Floyd who demands a lot, it has been challenging for us. But at the same time we have been able to grow up and stick together.

You know, it’s good. It’s good to have all the guys on the team. The talented young players like Leonard Washington, DeMar. You know, it helps. So I’m going to look forward to this run, and hopefully we’ll go deep.

I think us being together so long we’ve been able to help each other out and our team with all the ups and downs we had this season. We’ve been through a lot together and we have been able to guide all the young players, like Nikola Vucevic and Leonard and DeMar and Donte Smith, and what to expect when things go wrong that it will be a light at the end of the tunnel.

It’s just a great experience. Coming into college. It’s being a freshman and meeting guys and then being a bond on the court, and our three years, getting better and better. And guys just maturing as adults. And on the court and off the court it’s been great. And just looking forward to seeing how we’re going to play, and my first round game as really the leaders on this team. The last couple of years we had Nick Young, Gabe Pruitt, O.J. last year. It is going to be something different this year. So I’m looking forward to it.

Q. For any of the guys. Boston College players are talking about playing in a city where they don’t get a lot of attention, a lot of pro teams. Do you guys feel that way playing in L.A. and maybe wish you had more attention? Is the NCAA tournament a chance for you to make a bigger name for USC basketball?

We’re in L.A. It’s Los Angeles, man. We don’t really care about attention. It’s there, so I will let the other guys talk.
But Los Angeles is basically a media city. I don’t know how Boston is.

TAJ GIBSON: I feel that we have all the attention in the world.
ESPN, all the time. We’re just we’re in California. We’re in one of the most popular cities in America. So it just comes down to who wins.
Everybody wants a winner. But at this time of the year, everybody’s going to be watching, so it’s not really about who watches who, it’s about how well you play. And if you’re gonna win, you get more attention.

Q. For Dwight, do you feel that you guys are peaking right now? Was there ever a concern that you wouldn’t peak, that it just wouldn’t happen for you guys this year? Was that ever in the back of your mind at all?

DWIGHT LEWIS: No, I wasn’t worried at all. We had a lot of injuries throughout this season. And we are getting healthy at the right time and clicking at the right time. And going into the Pac 10 tournament, everybody got healthy. We had great days.

And we have been able to put it together and make a great run. And we’re just trying to ride this run as far as we can.

Q. DeMar, what have you enjoyed most about your first year in college? And what have you gotten out of a year of playing Pac 10 basketball?

DEMAR DEROZAN: One thing that I really enjoyed was the camaraderie of everybody on the team. You know, just how close everybody is with the team and how fun they make the game come. And being my first year, these guys taught me a lot, you know. Listening to the older guys, taking advice from them has been great.

You know, that’s one thing I will never forget. And I credit them for a lot of my success, because they’re the ones that helped me out through my whole year.

Q. You mentioned injuries a couple of times. But I mean, did you notice anything else that changed from when you guys were struggling in February to these last five games where you’ve really turned it on?

TAJ GIBSON: I would say our intensity I believe has jumped out on teams. The last three games we had in the Pac 10, we just came out with nothing to lose, just played our game. With Marcus Simmons coming in, just basically a whole year of his injuries, he just came in and attacked every point guard he’s guarded and just guarded them well, and three straight nights he has just been going at it and guys responded behind him, bringing a lot of energy off the bench. And the coaches just kept just kept teaching us more new things. And it has been working so far.

Read More: Boston College, NCAA, Taj Gibson, USC
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