"Big Dance" Interviews: Morehead State's Kenneth Faried & Demonte Harper

March 11th, 2011
Recently CHN writer Jon Teitel spoke with two key members of the OVC champion Morehead State Eagles, forward/center Kenneth Faried and shooting guard Demonte Harper. Faried has won both the Player and Defensive Player awards in the OVC the last two seasons, and all Harper did last week was win the tournament MVP for his play in three Morehead State wins. Look for the Eagles to be a tough matchup for anyone they draw next week.

Jon Teitel: You declared for the draft last spring before returning to school. Why did you decide to declare, and why did you decide to return?

Kenneth Faried: I declared because I wanted to test the waters, see how things were, and see what I had to do to improve and get to that level. I came back because my mom and dad told me to get my degree and then go into the draft. The NBA will always be there.

JT: You had a double-double in each of your two toughest non-conference road games (Florida and Ohio State). How are you able to play your best against your best opponents?

KF: I just try to play to the level of my competition and step up when I need to. My team needed me to step up, so I did just that by playing as hard as I could like I always do.

JT: Your highlight in February was breaking the record for most career rebounds in NCAA history since 1973 (when freshman were first allowed to play). What is your secret for rebounding, and how do you get so many rebounds despite only being 6'8"?

KF: It is really no secret: I just try my hardest to get a rebound. Rebounding is all about effort, and I just want it that much more than my opponent.

JT: You did not attempt a single free throw in the semifinal win over Austin Peay, but helped your team with 21 rebounds and eight blocks. Do you feel like you need to make more of an effort to draw contact, or do you think the best way you can help your team win game is by rebounding and playing defense?

KF: I just do whatever is needed for my team; whatever they need me to do they ask me to do. Not taking a free throw is not a big deal to me because we won the game. I could have no points and 21 rebounds and I am fine with that, as long as we win the game.

JT: You had 24 points and 15 rebounds in the title game win over Tennessee Tech (after promising to return following a loss in the 2010 conference title game to Murray State). How important was it to you to fulfill your promise, and what did it mean to you to celebrate the win with your daughter Kyra?

KF: It was very important to me because it is my last year: you want to go out with a bang when it is your last year. For me to celebrate it with my daughter was special because she was about to be born around the title game last year. Now she is one year old and is healthy, so it was wonderful for me to share that special moment with her.

JT: The first paper you wrote in college stated that your dream was to play in the NBA. Even though you are focused on the task at hand, do you feel any extra pressure knowing that there were 15 scouts on hand to watch you last weekend?

KF: Not at all. I do not feel pressure: I just go out there and keep playing my hardest and put forth a great effort and let the chips fall where they may

JT: You are the two-time defending OVC Player and Defensive Player of the Year. What did it mean to you to win such outstanding individual honors?

KF: It means a lot to me, and it feels good to win it again in my last year around the conference. I am glad that my teammates and coaches pushed me hard enough to make sure that I won this award and make sure we came out on top.

JT: What did you learn in the 2009 NCAA Tournament (21 rebounds in a win over Alabama State followed by a double-double in a loss to #1-seed Louisville) that you think will help you in this year's tournament?

KF: I learned that you just have to bring it every possession on every play: there is no looking back. I also learned that we can probably compete with anyone that we are up against.

JT: You grew up in New Jersey. What would it mean to you if you make it to the East Regional in Newark?

KF: It would mean a lot because people from back home who have never seen me play could see me play up close and personal. My family would be there including my mom and dad, who are the two closest people to me other than my daughter.

Demonte Harper

JT: You had a near triple-double (27 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists) in the OVC Tournament final. Where does that game rank among the highlights of your career?

DH: It was one of the best games of my whole career.

JT: You were named tournament MVP while playing in your hometown. Did you have a lot of family and friends in the crowd, and how were you able to play your best when it mattered the most?

DH: My focus and attention to detail were the key. I had a lot of family and friends there, and it helped my focus knowing they were there cheering me on.

JT: You have gotten 10+ rebounds in three of your last six games despite playing shooting guard. Is the biggest obstacle to getting so many rebounds your height (6'4"), or your teammate Kenneth Faried (the leading rebounder in the nation)?

DH: Definitely Faried. He gets almost everything that comes off the boards.

JT: You only have three seniors on the roster, but each of you is among the team's top four scorers. How important is your collective experience to your collective success?

DH: That plays a huge part in our success. Kenneth and I are four-year veterans and Sam is a two-year veteran, so having that experience of playing in big time games in a heated environment has really helped out.

JT: What did you learn in the 2009 NCAA Tournament (10 points and six assists in a win over Alabama State followed by a 1-9 FG performance in a loss to #1-seed Louisville) that you think will help you in this year's tournament?

DH: The lesson is just to be more aggressive. The first game against Alabama State was a team similar to us, but Louisville was the #1 team in the tournament. I was not as aggressive in the Louisville game. They had at least three first-round draft picks on their team.