March 18, 2003

NORMAN, Okla. - Taking a break from their NCAA Tournament preparations and Final Four defense, University of Oklahoma men's basketball coach Kelvin Sampson and senior guards Hollis Price, Quannas White and Ebi Ere met with the media Tuesday afternoon at the OU basketball facility. Selected quotes follow. The East region's top-seeded Sooners will take on No. 16 seed South Carolina State on Thursday at approximately 2 p.m. CST at the Ford Center in downtown Oklahoma City.

KELVIN SAMPSON
General comment:

"I can't remember a faster year that this season. But now two seasons are over in the non-conference and the conference portions. Now it's the NCAA Tournament and it's exciting. We're excited to be playing close to home. We also understand that you have to earn that right. You can't bid for it, you have to earn it. What we did in the conference and in the Big 12 Tournament is tremendous. Being able to play in front of the fans in Oklahoma City is a help. But, like old coaches always say, fans don't score any baskets and they don't play any defense. So it's nice to be playing close to home, but at the same time we've got to go play and we've got to play well. This time of year, every team can play and is good."

On South Carolina State:
"First of all, I've known Coach Cy Alexander for years and years. He's a really outstanding coach. They're a team that's dominated by their wings. Their best player is Thurman Zimmerman. He's really dominating around the basket. He's too big and too strong for guards and he's too crafty and clever for inside guys. Moses Malone Jr. is probably their best three-point shooting threat and is really having a great senior year. We played against him when he was at Texas Tech. And Dustin Braddick is pretty good at everything. He's real clever and knows how to score. The thing that jumps out at me is that they come from the same conference that Hampton did. What most people remember about Hampton is that they were a 15-seed (two years ago) and beat (2-seed) Iowa State. This South Carolina State team is a better team than that Hampton team. And that's all you need to know about how good this team is."

On the success of Price, White and Ere:
"All these guys came in as good players. The thing that we're proud of is that they all improved and have gotten much better. But, you know, I'm an old-school guy who thinks that integrity and character and being a good person are where you start, a foundation. The common demominator with these three is that they're good kids. They're the kind of kids you want babysitting your kids or (laughing) going out with your daughter. And I think the reason why this season has gone by so fast for our coaching staff is because we really like these guys. Quannas and Hollis and Ebi and Jozsef Szendrei, when they leave I've got four friends for life. That's where it starts. Their era is obviously a golden era for Sooner basketball. Oklahoma basketball was always tradition-rich. But in the last five, seven, eight years - especially Hollis' four years - we've gone to another plateau. We've become one of the elite programs in the country. And one of the things I'm most proud of is the kind of kids with which we've built this program. I think that's important."

On where his team would be without Quannas White:
"The same place Pittsburgh would be without Brandin Knight. Same place Texas would be without T.J. Ford. We'd be the same place Kansas would be without Kirk Hinrich. You're not going to win without a great point guard. Hollis is our best player. Quannas is our most valuable player. He was our most valuable player last year, too."

HOLLIS PRICE
On the possibility of the NCAA Tournament being delayed:

"Basketball is just a game and a war is more important than basketball. Our president has a tough decision to make on whether to go to war or not. I'm sure everybody around the nation will respect his call. If he calls for a war then we've got to respect that and step down for the people who are fighting for us."

On the physical play in the Big 12 Tournament game against Missouri:
"I think that was probably the most physical game I've played in. It seemed like every time down the court I was on the floor. But that's basketball and that's sports. You've got to play through those things. That's what happened and we found a way to win the game."

On if he's spent a bunch of time in the training room this week:
"I was in the training room all day yesterday. I'm feeling better."

On the possibility of making it back to his hometown of New Orleans for the Final Four:
"It's great, but we've still got this game on Thursday coming up. We can't look past that. It's a great opportunity and it's great to dream about going to New Orleans, but that's so far down the road."

QUANNAS WHITE
On the possibility of the NCAA Tournament being delayed:

"My heart goes out to the soldiers who are fighting for us, and if we have to postpone a game or two then so be it."

On whether he's thought about shooting his free throws from the top of the key due to his three-point success:
(Laughing) "I'm taking that into consideration. I might start shooting a jumpshot at the free throw line."

On how much he and Hollis talk about making it to New Orleans for the Final Four:
"After we lost the Indiana game last year it's been on our minds every day."

On how he likes the Ford Center, having already beaten Michigan State there:
"I think it's a great arena. I liked it a lot. With our fans in there I'm going to like it more."

EBI ERE
On his wrist injury and his improvement between the Colorado and Texas Tech games in the Big 12 Tournament:

"After I played on it with the pain, I was thinking I was just going to have to do it anyway. So I got more confident in it as things moved on in the game."

On how he likes the Ford Center, having already beaten Michigan State there:
"I like the Ford Center. It's a good atmosphere. We can get our fans in there and hopefully they can be our sixth man."