Dominic James & Buzz Williams Media Availability Transcript
March 2, 2009
Senior Dominic James and head coach Buzz Williams addressed the media Monday afternoon to discuss the James' season-ending injury. The Richmond, Ind. native suffered a break in the fifth metatarsal of his left foot four minutes into the Feb. 25 game against Connecticut and will miss the remainder of the 2008-09 campaign.
Senior guard Dominic James
"I'm doing fine. The last couple of days have been kind of rough but the best thing for me was seeing my teammates go out there on the court. I know they carried me out there with them, so it felt like I was on the court again. Watching those guys play, leaving it all on the floor, it really means a lot. Obviously a different perspective for me having to watch it on TV was kind of hard, but at the same time, just knowing that they were out there playing for me and the way they performed out there on the court really meant a lot and got my spirits up.
I still haven't watched the clip from the game. I got the tail end of it on ESPN when they showed the highlight, but I wasn't even sure if that was the play that really hurt it. All I can remember is that I planted on it wrong. It kind of felt like my shoe had busted open, that's what it felt like. I felt a little pop, and then I came back down the court and I signaled over to Coach like I needed to come out of the game. Like always, if you look at Coach and tell him you want to come out of the game, he'll kind of look the other way. I finally got his attention and I went over to the sideline and I knew something was wrong, especially when I tried to maneuver a little bit more. I went into the locker room and they told me that I had broken my foot.
I didn't know how to be hurt because I'd never been hurt. I've been speaking with my family a lot - my mother and my father - along with the rest of my support system that has been here. It's kind of funny because the theme that Coach has brought on this team was, "Worry about today." It just goes to show that the life lessons that Coach has taught us doesn't just apply to basketball, it applies to everyday in our life. On our shorts it says, "Just today." I'm injured but I can't worry about my future right now, I have to worry about what I am going to do today to better myself and influence the lives that I've always influenced. That's the main thing I've been doing - praying everyday constantly with my friends and my family and my teammates, and just taking care of today. I'm not looking too far into the future, I'm just worrying about the things that I know I can control.
I know those guys love me and they're going to play the game the exact same way that I would. Right now, I'm living my dream through Maurice Acker. I wasn't just living my dream through Maurice Acker when I got hurt, I was living my dream through Maurice Acker when I was playing too. Because at any given time, even if it was foul trouble, Maurice would have to step in there and play, and so would David Cubillan. We poured our hearts in everything that we did, everything that I did, even when I was healthy and even more so now. Nothing has changed. Nothing has changed. Coach isn't loving me more just because I'm hurt, Coach has already loved me enough. He's not treating me any differently. I told the guys and the guys told me that, you know, the ship must keep moving. I'm not going to be an anchor to my teammates, I'm going to be a propeller. I want to push them away. They're doing an excellent job of that, and like I said, nothing's changed. They know I don't like sympathy, and Coach is not a sympathetic guy. He's going to be on me, and I'm going to be on those guys. The criticism hasn't changed and I'm just living my dreams through them. They're doing an excellent job of living that out for me.
It was my first surgery since I had a hernia when I was five or six years old. My mom was there with me again when they were putting me to sleep. We had a couple of laughs before I was knocked out, but it was my first serious injury and surgery.
I was always confident and always felt like Maurice could get the job done. We compete every day in practice and we always try to make each other better. If there's any guy to fill my shoes or exceed what I've done with this team, it's going to be Maurice Acker. He's faced a lot of adversity himself, on and off the court, and the responsibility that is placed on his shoulders, I'm very confident that he can handle himself and do what is expected of him to carry this team to the places I hoped to do.
My faith is too strong for that. I have way too much faith to ask God, why this is happening to me. It's come full circle. Coach and I have sat down a lot of times and he just told me that God hasn't revealed what he has planned for you. Just like anything else that Coach has brought my way, I really bought into that. When you're surrounded with people that have that much faith in yourself and the Lord, it's easy to live out your dream and not lose that hope and belief that God has something better in store for me in the future. It's been easy. For a lot of people, I think it would be hard, but for me and where my faith is at right now, I couldn't be any more confident.
I feel like my purpose has really been touching a lot of people's lives, more so the people that said I couldn't do it and the people that have people in their lives telling them they can't. To all the naysayers, just saying that anything is possible. I want to be known as a winner, as a great teammate, and I paved the road for other people to come along behind me. Travis Diener did the same thing. I had a talk with him and he went through a lot of the same injuries. Dwyane Wade, guys like that - they paved the roads for guys like me, Wesley and Jerel to come in behind them. I want to be one of those guys that really set the tone and be one of the first players to play under Coach Buzz.
That's always been my dream, that's always been my aspiration. Like I said, my dreams haven't changed. My goals haven't changed at all. I'm just worried about today. After I get done with you guys, I'm going downstairs to work on getting better. That's the only thing that I can control - taking care of the things that are going to better myself.
It was a lot different. I was a little mad because they didn't have any pregame coverage. I'm sitting there with my dad, like, "The game's not on, I need to see my guys warming up." He's just asking me, "What would you be saying to your guys right now?" I'd be like, "I'm rallying the troops up." It was a lot different, but something I'm going to have to get used to. I'm going to enjoy it from a coaching perspective. I've always felt like I've been a coach, especially being an extension of Coach out there on the court, but now I'm just on the sideline. Hopefully Coach will have a seat saved for me so I can be close to the guys. It was a lot different. It's going to be hard just sitting over there. The worst thing for me is just watching basketball. I hate watching it. I would much rather be out there playing, but this is where God wanted me to be and I'm just going to take full advantage of it.
Tomorrow, I'll see the doctor and he'll give me a full assessment. The first thing I asked for was a calendar layout of when they expect me to recover and things that they think I'll be capable of doing. I want to exceed the expectations just like in anything else. I'm going to attack this treatment and try to get better faster than anyone who has ever done it. Obviously, I want to be as healthy as I can be, but I want to challenge myself and challenge my body.
Like I said, I'm just going to take it a day at a time. I'll see the doctor tomorrow and we will discuss the dates and go from there.
It's been unbelievable. I couldn't ask for a better group of guys. It's hard just discussing them - that's my family. Not playing on the court with all my teammates, but obviously guys like Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews.
Coach Buzz on the sideline, you couldn't ask for anything better to support - it's been unbelievable. It's not just from my teammates but from the whole Marquette family. That's the reason why I came here, because I knew that if there were instances like this that came up, I'd be taken care of. That's the best thing about this university. It has nothing to do with how long the ball is bouncing, it has to do with how long your heart is going to beat. As long as my heart is beating, I know I'm going to be taken care of when it comes to Marquette.
I have to be strong for them, and that's one of the reasons why I came back out there on the court after I found out I had broken my foot. I have to be strong for them, because if it happened to them, I know they would be in the same shoes and the same seat as I am. They would expect this of me. We always demand the greatest out of one another, and that's why we're in the situation that we're in. If I'm hurt, they expect me to still be there, just like if they were hurt, I would expect them to be there for me. So, no questions about it, I'm going to do anything that they ask me, and they're going to do the same thing in return.
If they get a ring, I get a ring, so they have to keep it moving (laughing). My season is not over with. We play Pittsburgh on Wednesday, and I'll be right there with those guys and they're going to carry me on the court with them. That's why I hate when people say, "Your career is over with," or "Your season is over with." No it's not - Marquette still plays Wednesday and we have some business that we have to take care of.
Our margin for error has always been very slim, regardless of who had got hurt. If it had been Rob Frozena our margin for error would have been even less. We still have to value the ball, have perfect possessions, and just like I said, Maurice has a lot of responsibilities just like I had. We have to defend the ball like we always do, get back on defense, and obviously guys are going to have to pick up the slack. I feel like they did a great job and we were still in position to win the game at the end [at Louisville]. We just have to continue to do the things that we're accustomed to doing when we win ball games. The most important things are we have to value the ball, have perfect possessions and stick to the game plan.
Maurice just has to go out there and play like Maurice does. He can't go out there and over think the game, he just has to let his natural instinct take over. That's when Maurice is at his best. If Maurice plays like he does in practice and provides that same type of energy, enthusiasm, and intensity, we will be fine. You all are going to see a lot out of Maurice Acker and like I said, he's going to have a lot of doubters on him. I have the utmost respect for Maurice because he made me better as a player. If he can do as good of things that has made our team better and has made me better, than we're going to be in a great situation as a ballclub.
Not being able to go out there and play my last game. The hardest thing to accept is going out unexpected. That's why they always say, "Play every game like it's your last." I'm just glad that God gave me the opportunity to hit that last shot - that's one that I'll always remember. I just had to suck it up and swallow it that it's over and done with. My playing career, as far as on the court, is over here now at Marquette. It's going to be tough but I'm not worried. I know my guys are going to go out there and represent me well, just like they have done any other game.
A lot of maturity. I came in and was getting a lot of attention, and I realized that was the best thing for me but at the same time could have been the worst thing for me as well. It kind of went full circle and I wish I had three more years under Coach Williams, because of how much progress I have made. I feel like this year, I was the best player that I ever have been. Running the team, understanding fully what it means to be a point guard - to sacrifice for the better of the team. When you sacrifice, I always believe that God is going to give you double in return, and that's what He has done for me. More than anything, I matured more as a person more so than as a basketball player. The four years have been a learning experience. There has been a big learning curve, but it's something that I'll always embrace, and as a person it has made me a lot stronger.
I didn't get an opportunity to talk to Wade, but I did get a chance to talk to Travis [Diener]. He endured pretty much the same circumstances that I did, but he just told me not to rush back and continue to be there for my teammates. I remember sitting home watching Travis on the sidelines cheering on his teammates and how much it meant to him. Travis was one of the all-time winners here at Marquette - he's just a winner in spirit. To watch him, I learned a lot from him. From the conversation, he was just like, "You just have to continue to be there for your teammates and get back healthy. Do whatever the doctors say you can do." He just reassured me that my playing days are still to come. I still have a lot of basketball yet to be played and it really lifted my spirits just to hear him say that.
Any regrets? I think it all played out the way it was supposed to. This is my story. Coach Williams and I talk about it all the time. Any regrets? No, none that I can remember, none. I really don't have time to regret anything really, to look back in the past I just have to go head long into the future.
Head coach Buzz Williams
"I'm not sure you guys have any questions of me, and I know you guys have been doing this a lot longer than I have been doing it. You guys know a lot more about Marquette than I do, and I'm respectful of that, but I don't know how much more maturity and how much more wisdom you could get from a 22-year-old young man whose career at Marquette ended on the stage that it ended on. As I've said to several other people that have asked, Dominic James has a spot with me until he decides he wants to play or until he decides he doesn't want to play. For whatever reason, I'm not sure, he and I have developed an unbelievable relationship in a very short period of time. I'm very grateful for that and I'm very hurt for him and for his family that it ended the way that it did. But what a statement about our program and about him as a human being to have the response to the ending the way that he has.
Dominic just said then, I don't talk to those guys about basketball probably near as much as you think. As much as I would like to say I'm a really good ball coach, what I really think is that [Dominic's] life has changed, so has his game. I talk to [Dominic] at two and three in the morning, and we text message like girls. I think Jerel McNeal is an old soul, he's kind of an old man, and I really connected with Jerel when I first was hired here as an assistant. I said some things to Jerel as an assistant that I didn't say to any other player because I didn't have a relationship such that I could. I've said some things to Dominic James that I haven't ever said to any player, and he didn't necessarily like hearing it. And it wasn't about him as a player. I'll forever savor it, and I probably ought to have a little more juice than I have right now, but it really hurts my heart to know how his heart has changed. For him to have the maturity to say that it was in God's plan - that's the thing - God sees the start and God sees the end and we all think we're smart enough but we're not smart enough to figure that out. I think for him to be able to be able to sit here and say that says a great deal about him.
I didn't talk to him a lot when I was an assistant. He knows that too, because he's asked me why I didn't. [Our relationship] has changed a lot, a whole lot.
I'm like [Dominic], I haven't watched [the UConn] game, I don't want to watch that game. When it happened, I subbed Jimmy in because, he's right - it's kind of like when Jamie played for me - I know he's looking at me so I'm turning and looking the other way. I like really good players to play the most number of minutes as you guys have kind of figured that out. So I put Jimmy in, because I thought maybe he had to go throw up or maybe he had a cramp. And then maybe two minutes of game time, Coach Layer said he was out. As I was walking through the tunnel at halftime, Mike Broeker told me, "He broke his foot. He's in there and he's a mess." When I went in at halftime, he was in there with our team. I addressed our team and then our team left, and I said, "Dominic, you have to get your stuff on, let's go." That was the first thing I said to him. Obviously he was upset, and he just looked at me. My assistants said, "Coach, we'll get him out there," but I said, "No, you guys go get with the team, I'll get him out there." So me, him, Leonard, his dad, and his brother - that's why I was late to the court in the second half - and as we were walking, I said, "Everything I say, you say it the way you say it, and you sit in my seat." He was very vocal during timeouts, but I also thought that was the best thing for him at that time. And depending upon what Dr. Gertel says, whatever the specialist is that deals with blood, that's going to determine whether or not he can go to Pittsburgh. You get that high up in the air, and you don't want to have that blood clot.
Relationships built on trust overcome all odds. It wasn't distrustful, but it wasn't a relationship built 100 percent on honesty at all times. I think that's where he's grown and that's what the lesson is I'll take as a coach. But more so, that's the lesson I'll take as a person, because that's what I've always believed. It's always hard I think, no matter what, no matter the forum, no matter the audience, no matter the consequence, to always tell the truth. Always tell the truth. Because I think when you do that to human beings over a long period of times, in good times and bad times and trying times, when there's a lot of peer pressure and different things focused on you, I think when you can bear that out and always be honest, I think that develops a lifetime relationship.
I thought yesterday when nobody thought we would win and they have a Hall of Fame coach and they have five NBA players on their roster at their place. Last year, I think we got beat at their place 17 and we got beat at our place by 14. In essence, they're returning everybody plus a McDonald's All-American in Samardo Samuels. For it to be a one to two possession game throughout most of the game, I thought the character of our team was revealed. And I don't think it's callous - Dominic's hurt and life moves on. It's sorrowful as it relates to Dominic and the rest of our guys, but we still have to play. I think how we responded yesterday was really well. The hardest thing about it is injuries are a part of sports. The problem is that when that injury took place, it was ten games left in the regular season. So when you take away not his points, even not his assists, but when you take away what he gave to our team, everybody talks about it offensively but we can overcome it offensively. He went from the fourth or fifth leading scorer on our team, but the problem is what he gave us defensively and some of the things that he did for our team. Ten days left, today will the first time we've had practice all year the day following a game. I'm not going to grind them up today, but the reason why is we've got to figure out with the best way we can and the most efficient way we can how to give ourselves a chance for success on both ends of the floor. We had one practice - we practiced Friday before we left for an hour, and we practiced Saturday in the girls' gym at Louisville - so I thought we did pretty well to be honest. We had 11 turnovers on the road which is about our average over the last eight games. I thought we had to change up, we can't play man straight up, not for long periods of time. I'm not sure we can do anything defensively for long periods of time. But considering that was our first game reps of anything without Dominic involved on both ends of the floor, I thought we did pretty good, I thought we did pretty good. Whether or not that means we'll win another game, I don't know. But nobody thought we were going to win at Louisville whether Dominic played or not, and nobody thinks we're going to win at Pittsburgh whether Dominic plays or not. Like everything else, we've got to make sure that today we figure out a way to just take a baby step to get better. Tomorrow before we leave to go to Pittsburgh, take another baby step to get better. Because we have a new team - it's a new team on both ends of the floor. Can we be a good team? I hope so, but we've got a short period of time to figure out how it is that we can be the best team that we can be.
That's not what I'm supposed to say but yes. I've been to the NCAA Tournament a couple of times and I really haven't paid that much attention to seeding. [Mike] Broeker's done a great job at teaching me that kind of stuff. Whatever you think we're going to be seeded, it'll be one below it. That's what I think.
I think Liam was very consistent and diligent in his rehab. He had never been hurt before and he's not near as good as a player per position as Dominic is. Obviously, Dominic's motivation will be a little different. I thought Liam attacked it because he was on foreign soil and he knew he came here to be a basketball player, and he know before, in essence, before we ever started practice he couldn't do that, so he's trying to hurry to get back. I think maybe not the best, but one of the best hires I've had was [athletic trainer] Ernest [Eugene]. He worked in the NBA for five years, so he's used to being around elite level athletes. I think the thing that makes him best is this fear of people that he deals with, is probably atypical to most fears that collegiate trainers deal with. He's hungry to do the absolute best. He treats those guys like they're Gilbert Arenas. He attacks it like that, and I think there's a spirit about Ernest that makes our players want to attack it in the same way. I think [head strength and conditioning coach] Todd [Smith] did a great job with Liam. Liam's in there working out and he can't move one leg. He's in there doing any sort of contortion you can do using three limbs. Those two guys don't get the credit they deserve because they're behind the scenes, but I think their spirit with which they operate probably makes them is what makes them better than their knowledge. Albeit their knowledge is kind of what is a conduit to their spirit.
I think on Thursday, [the team] was shocked, probably like you guys were, like I was. On Friday, we had never had a practice without Dominic and I thought we did pretty good. I thought we took a baby step. On Saturday, the first 20 minutes of real practice, they sucked so I stopped it, told them they sucked, and we started again. It got a lot better so I revved them up some more and we divided up. We did shell drill and I revved them up some more. That lasted about 20 minutes. Nobody feels sorry for you in life. Your mom, your dad, maybe your wife. But in the end, nobody feels sorry for you because life keeps moving. I don't know what the lesson is as it relates to me, but one of the lessons I think it is for our program is: we have to keep working. If we just want to sit back and get beat, then we can just sit back and get beat because everybody will say, "Hey, you lost your point guard and you weren't very deep and you didn't have any post players. You guys are 12-2 and were potentially playing for the BIG EAST Championship and you were picked sixth. Nobody thought you were any good. Buzz has got three senior guards and you all just dribble around out there and run dribble weave and shoot it up there." We can go out like that. Or we can go out the way we've manufactured to go 12-2 and to win 23 games - more games that have ever been won in BIG EAST play, supposedly, the best league ever in the history of college basketball. So whatever side of the fence you want to be on, get on that side of the fence. But as long as I'm here, we're going to fight. At Louisville, we went toe-to-toe from a rebounding perspective. We turned them over more times than they turned us over, and we were playing five, six-and-a-half, Maurice Acker, 33 minutes. I know how it's spun - that's the way it goes. I haven't built enough equity to say a lot of things, and for the most part, that's why I'll always shut up. But what I tell our team, is probably a little different than what you guys typically hear.
I miss Dominic as a person more than I miss him as a player, because I can accept that he's hurt. I think it's best for Dominic - I mean this in the right way - to be with us as often as possible. He had surgery Friday morning, I was with him, he's scared, they're about to knock him out, and it's me, him, his dad and his mom. He's nervous, we're all nervous. Then I saw him right after surgery, right after he kind of wakes up. We're leaving after practice [and he said], "Coach, call me before you leave." I call him before we leave, I send Coach Orr over there to pray with him, I talk to him when we land in Louisville, I talk to him Saturday morning, I talk to him Saturday afternoon, he asks what story time is going to be about because he knows that the night before the game is story time, I said I'm still thinking about it, it was an extended story time. I talk to him Sunday morning. I think he understood why he couldn't come to Louisville. Physically, I don't think he could anyways. Tomorrow after the doctor sees him, it will be a lot harder telling him he can't go to Pittsburgh. He needs to be with us and we need to be with him, just from an emotional standpoint, just from a vocal standpoint. Dominic is as smart on the court as he is in how he presented himself 30 minutes ago. We need that. The things that Dominic was telling Maurice during the game were things that I should have been telling him, but I'm worried about the other nine guys out there too. That's why he sat in my seat and so, I told him I'd buy him a Robert Talbott shirt and a Robert Talbott tie and he can stay with me as long as he wants.