TCU seniors Kenrich Williams, Vladimir Brodziansky, and Ahmed Hamdy, as well as head coach Jamie Dixon, met with the media after Thursday’s open practice to give their thoughts on the Frogs’ first appearance in March Madness in 20 years. Here is what they had to say.
Q. Just what can you say about Jamie Dixon as a head coach and what he’s done for this program and how he’s helped you to this point and back in the tournament?
KENRICH WILLIAMS: I think he’s a great coach. What he brought for our program is a winning mentality coming from Pitt. He’s been to the tournament many years. So he brought that back to TCU. And he was able to come in and teach us some things and really just guide us to get here at this point where we’re at right now.
Q. First impressions of Detroit, the weather, anything jump out at you?
KENRICH WILLIAMS: It’s cold. It’s way different from Texas.
AHMED HAMDY: It was snowing today.
Q. It was snowing or snow on the ground?
AHMED HAMDY: It was a little snow.
VLADIMIR BRODZIANSKY: Cold, but, you know, like home.
Q. Ahmed, you’re the only Frog with NCAA experience. Have you talked to your teammates about that and what to expect and how to prepare at all?
AHMED HAMDY: I talk to them all the time. I said it’s the most fun part of the season. I told them, like, we need to make it to the NCAA Tournament, because they’re a lot of fun. And we’re going to enjoy it a lot. And that’s what happened. We played hard and we competed and we came here.
Q. Kenrich, what does Desmond Bane do for you all in how well he shoots from 3? What does that give you, besides the obvious? He’s a weapon offensively. But as far as spreading the floor out.
KENRICH WILLIAMS: Definitely spreads the floor. Desmond is a great player for our team. He brings the scoring in. He brings energy to the lineup. He’s got better -- I can tell you he’s gotten better from last year to this year, transitioning. I think he just feels more comfortable out there. And he’s able to shoot it out there with confidence and just play his game.
Q. Ahmed, have you detected Kouat becoming more and more at ease out on the floor? And do you see an improvement from him from early in the year?
AHMED HAMDY: Yeah, for sure. I mean, he improved a lot since we started this season. Like, he became more, like, comfortable playing the game, playing his game, you know. He didn’t put a lot of pressure on himself. Probably he did at the beginning of the season because he’s a freshman. It’s his first time playing. But once the season started going, he started playing, like, more comfortable, and we had more chemistry with the team and stuff. That’s why he started making shots, and then start playing good.
Q. Vlad, playing Syracuse coming into that play-in game, did you have a preference as to who you played? And now that you know it is Syracuse, does that mean a little something extra special with the tradition they have?
VLADIMIR BRODZIANSKY: I really didn’t have a preference. We were talking about it with a few teammates. We were just saying whoever comes we have to play. We really didn’t want to choose who we wanted to play because it was out of our hands.
Q. Did a group of you get together and watch the game?
KENRICH WILLIAMS: We watched it in our rooms because it came on kind of late last night. So we watched it in our rooms. And Coach texted, saying we’re going to be playing Syracuse.
Q. Do you get the sense, have you talked to your teammates, did everybody watch it? Or did some people go see a movie or something?
KENRICH WILLIAMS: No, we all stayed in the room last night and watched it. We’re focused on Syracuse right now. We were focused on Syracuse whenever they won the game. That was our main goal.
COACH DIXON: Great to see Jim here to support the Horned Frogs, to make the trip. But excited to be here for our guys. It’s obviously a new experience for our program, and I’m very excited to get them here. Good practice today as far as light. But we’ll get some shots up today and get ready for Syracuse. Quick turnaround as far as knowing who we’re playing for us. So really unique and first time I’ve been through it. We’re playing the winner of the play-in game. So certainly something that a little different. You get some time, but not time to focus on just one team. And then obviously for us it’s an exciting time for TCU and getting to the tournament. And so exciting, I think our band’s at the shoot-around and our cheerleaders are at shoot-around. I don’t know if that’s been done but first time I’ve seen it. Excited to be here and looking forward to playing a really good team.
Q. Coach, obviously with TCU, a little bit different than Pittsburgh in the tournament, but the guy on the other side, Jim Boeheim, and Syracuse you know all too well. What you can say about getting that matchup?
COACH DIXON: Obviously the Pittsburgh/Syracuse matchup was a rivalry and historic games. And so many great matchups and so many, over such a long period of time. But I joked with somebody earlier that maybe we can start up this Syracuse/TCU rivalry and get that going, the Northeast versus the Southwest and see how that carries. But certainly, obviously, I have great respect for Coach Boeheim, and we can talk basketball and different things, but as I mentioned earlier, with Coach, I mean when I went to Pittsburgh as associate head coach, I knew Coach Hopkins, was friends with him. Through that, I think, we became pretty close with Coach Boeheim when Ben and I came that way. And then there was Jim Zezetich (phonetic), some of you guys know, a Syracuse guy who’s lived in Pittsburgh, was a good friend. Through that, seemed like we were closer attached to those guys right away.
Once I became head coach, he was really forthcoming and welcoming, I should say, to me when I became a head coach -- young, I think I was 36. Similar to him in a lot of ways, taking over the program. And I think similar in that they didn’t want to give him the job either and they didn’t want to give me the job either, but we kind of got it at the same time. Always looked to him with great respect because he’d been at a place for so long and certainly something that I was able to do too as well. And very proud of that. But the thing I remember most is how he reached out to us and reached out to me. And I watched him how he was involved in other outside activities, whether it be the Coaches Vs. Cancer, he got us involved in that, me and my family and my wife Jacqueline and his wife Juli. They communicated on how to get that started and running that. NABC, I think I got the approval from him that I could be on the NABC, I got the okay. I think that helped. Jim knows how that stuff works, the politics. And all different things.
And I often joked with him that I spent my offseason listening to Jim speak at different events, whether it be the Nike trip, which he pretty much ran that, too. USA Basketball, he got me on that to coach the U.S.A. Team in the world championships. So he got me involved in that. So I would joke and we’d hang out in the Nike trip and we’d talk about different things. And I’d laugh, here we go, I’m listening to him give him the state of the game. So obviously I respect him more so for all the wins and I think everybody knows about that, but all the things he does outside basketball. And invited me in and pointed me in the right way, I think, too.
Q. When you look at -- assess Desmond’s season. How do you characterize, did he surpass your preseason expectations or how would you characterize the season he’s had and what he’s brought to the team?
COACH DIXON: On the way up, getting better, improving. And I’d like to say here we thought he’d be just the guy he is, but you’ve got to remember he had no Division I scholarships going into his senior year and a guy who obviously we took late. The only high major offer. And he just keeps getting better. He’s becoming a better defender. He’s becoming a better guy off the dribble, rebounding better. That’s the one the last couple of games -- he had seven in our last game. So obviously he had a knack for scoring around the basket, finishing. I think he became a better shooter as a freshman to the point he’s a 50 percent 3-point shooter. He’s improved in every aspect. And he continues to do so. Great energy, fun kid, great kid, well-liked and wellRev #1 by #188 at 2018-03-15 20:08:00 GMT page 2 of 4 k at the same time we don’t want -- I don’t want to be the team just here, happy that we reached the NCAA Tournament. We’re good enough to win some games and beat some people. But we’ve got a tough one the first one already. So that’s what it is.