It was an action-packed morning at NRG Stadium for Villanova, which spent its first full day in Houston with a team practice followed by a slate of media obligations which included an open interview session with reporters in the locker room and a number of television promos that will be part of the broadcast coverage for this weekend’s Final Four. In the first national semifinal game on Saturday evening, the Wildcats take on Oklahoma at 6:09 p.m.
One of the television promos involved a photo and video shoot with Turner/CBS and featured the Villanova players and head coach Jay Wright on a big stage surrounded by cheering fans. There were also on-camera interviews filmed with the student-athletes which will be a part of the week’s broadcast coverage.
Below are quotes from the Wildcats student-athletes during the open interview session, while the link above goes to a photo gallery documenting the team’s first look at NRG Stadium.
Villanova student-athlete quotes from open interview session…
Senior guard Ryan Arcidiacono…
On playing for Jay Wright: He’s a great coach. His philosophy is unique compared to other coaches but it’s something that all of us have bought into, not having to worry about who’s a guard, who’s a forward or who’s supposed to take a shot. He gives everyone the green light as long as you’re defending and rebounding. He’s the first person I have played for who’s said that. It’s pretty awesome playing for him.
On the chemistry between him and fellow senior Daniel Ochefu: We have had great chemistry the last two years. It has come from every single day of being there together, and doing a great job of knowing we’re always on the same page. [Daniel] is big time. He’s gotten so much better throughout the season and he’s playing his best basketball of the year on the offensive end. On the defensive end, he’s just guarding all over the place.
Senior forward Daniel Ochefu…
On the photo of him kissing the V in the Davis Center after his final practice there, and of Coach Wright’s emotional response: After practice I realized it was my last time practicing in the Davis Center, and I figured why not kiss the ‘V’ on the court. I spent a lot of hours there and it holds a special place in my heart. I don’t think I have seen that from him before. Maybe after we won the BIG EAST Championship but I don’t think I ever saw that.
On the difference in this year’s NCAA Tournament run and Final Four appearance versus other years: Everybody holds each other accountable. Just because we are playing on the biggest stage doesn’t mean Villanova basketball goes out the window. We still need to do the things that got us here. This year the only difference is we have five seniors so naturally the intensity level has risen from us. Everybody feels it in the locker room and all the other players in the locker room rise to the same intensity level.
On playing Oklahoma and stopping Buddy Hield: They are extremely tough. We know Oklahoma is extremely well-coached and they have Buddy HIeld, the best player in the country. They also have complementing players who are very good players capable of beating you. We have to try and stop Buddy as a team. It will be hard to completely stop him, but that is what we’ll try to do and we will definitely try to contain him. As players, we are all aware of and understanding of the commitment to the scouting report.
Junior forward Kris Jenkins…
On Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield: He is a great player. He moves well without the ball, attacks the offensive glass, and he is playing with other great players so you can’t really help off too much. Those guys are great players and [Oklahoma] is a great team. It’s something we are looking forward to on Saturday, and we’ll definitely be ready for it.
Freshman guard Jalen Brunson…
On he or Ryan Arcidiacono playing point guard: It honestly doesn’t matter. As long as we’re playing together and playing smart, we will be doing what is best for the team.
On his mindset coming into the season as a freshman: I definitely wanted to come in and respect the guys that are here. Everyone is in this together and I just wanted to be a part of something special, be a part of the family and tradition here.
Redshirt freshman guard Mikal Bridges…
On approaching Oklahoma differently the second time around: We are going into it just knowing how much we got better and the little things we didn’t do [in the first game] that we do now. We got better byt so did they so it’s going to be a battle out there. Everything they do is more physical and tougher now than what they did then. We see how hard they play now and we’re going to be ready.