The Liberty men's basketball team reached its NCAA First Four destination, Monday afternoon, taking the court for a 40-minute practice. Prior to the session, head coach Dale Layer and players Davon Marshall, Tavares Speaks and Joel Vander Pol met with members of the media for a pregame press conference. Below are a few excerpts from today's presser:
Q: A lot of America thinks that the tournament really doesn't start until Thursday. What would it mean for your program, particularly after all you've been through this year, to win the tournament? Dale Layer: I'm just happy to have a good day. That's been our mantra all day. If you have a good day today and wake up early and have a good day tomorrow, good things can happen to you. We've had the hope that, if we did things the right way, it can turn into a good story. I think the tournament starts today. We've got hats. We've got trophies. We've got banners. It gives us a right to play tomorrow. There are a lot of good teams who won't be playing tomorrow, but I don't think you can marginalize what we did in the face of what we had to experience and overcome. If anybody wants to disregard that or marginalize it, I would say, well, what have you overcome?
Q: For Davon and also Tavares, could you kind of what was the low point of the season? Not to dwell on that, but could you compare it with what it was like to win your conference tournament and knowing you were coming to the NCAAs after everything you've been through?
Davon Marshall: The low point was probably beginning of the year when we were 0 8. Guys started to quit. It was a lot of long days at practice. Guys are just down on themselves. We're thinking about next year, not looking forward to really finishing up this year strong. But towards the end of the year, we started buying into everything the coaches were saying. The chemistry started building, we continued to work hard at practice, and it paid off for us. Tavares Speaks: I think for me the low point was coming off a win and then head into Senior Night, my last game at the Vines Center, and to lose in the way we did, it was just kind of a devastating loss. Trying to keep a clear head going into the conference tournament and coming off a loss like we did, it definitely discouraged our team as a whole. So just keeping each other on the right path and giving each other that confidence back was a difficult task.
Q: Were there moments during the season that you doubted, obviously, that you can get here, but that you could even have a representative season? Joel Vander Pol: I think it's easy to have doubts like that during the season. But when your leader and head coach every single day instills confidence in the players and shows faith in us, that goes a long way. Every single day he was our biggest cheerleader, our biggest fan, and that was a really big deal for us and a great reminder for us.
After the media session, the team took to the UD Arena court for their 40-minute practice session, running through various drills before returning to the hotel. The Flames officially kick off the 2013 NCAA Tournament, tomorrow, squaring off with North Carolina A&T. Tipoff is slated for 6:40 p.m., with the contest broadcasting live on truTv.
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