As part of his 2010 NCAA Tournament Q&A series, Jon Teitel is joined by Marqus Blakely & Maurice Joseph, the Vermont Catamounts two leading scorers. They talk about their chances against #1 seed Syracuse amongst other things:
Marqus Blakely, SF - 17 ppg, 9 rpg, 4 apg
JT: You are a 2-time America East Player of the Year & also Defensive POY. How are you able to play so well at both ends of the court?
MB: I try to focus on the little things. I try to help my team
out defensively by taking charges and blocking shots. On the offensive end, I
just try to recognize the double-team and what defense the other teams are
playing, and then I try to find open teammates.
JT: Despite being only 6’5”, yo're one of the best rebounders in the AE, what's your secret?
MB: They key is to beat your opponent by being the 1st one off the
floor. It is also important to jump and position yourself in the right place at
the right time.
JT: You had a big game in the conference championship, 24 pts and had 18 rebounds. What was the feeling like in your locker room afterwards?
MB: With everything that happened last week with Evan Fjeld’s family
[His mother passed away due to cancer], it felt like the least I could do was go
out there and play as hard as I could, and it just so happened that I had the
stats that I had. Everyone was going crazy in the locker room: it was kind of
like a dream come true. I do not know when it had set in for everyone else, but
it did not set in for me until a couple of days later.
JT: You are the only player in the country to lead your team in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals. Do you consider yourself to be 1 of the best all-around players in the country?
MB: There are a lot of things that I need to work on, like ball-handling and making my jump shot. I do not know if I would label myself as 1 of the best all-around players: I just try to play hard and leave it up to everyone else to decide.
JT: What part of your game are you proudest of?
MB: I am proudest of my passing ability because it makes it that
much harder to defend me, and it helps get my teammates open looks.
JT: How do you like your chances against Syracuse, the last team Vermont beat in the tourney back in '05?
MB: They are a tough team, but anything can happen on any given night:
that was shown by Taylor Coppenrath and TJ Sorrentine the last time Vermont
played Syracuse and they pulled off the upset. My goal is for us to play as hard
as we can, keep the game close, and hopefully come out of it with a win.
Maurice Joseph, SG - 14 ppg, 3 rpg
JT: What is the basketball culture like up north in Montreal where you were born? When did you first realize that basketball was going to be your path to a college scholarship?
MJ: The culture is different: the number of people who actually play
basketball is much smaller, so the level of talent and athleticism is not as
great. It has gotten better over the years, but the level of popularity of the
game across various levels is not as high as in the US. I knew that I wanted to
be a scholarship player by the time I was 14.
JT: You transferred to Vermont from Michigan St. What is the biggest difference between the basketball programs at the 2 schools?
MJ: I always thought the biggest difference was the size and athleticism, but there are some very talented players in this league.
JT: And why did you decide to transfer?
MJ: I transferred because I wanted to be closer to home,
and be a major part of a team making a run in the tourney and winning a
JT: In the 2006 tourney your Michigan St team was George Mason’s 1st victim during their magical run to the Final 4. What are your memories of that game, and could you tell that GMU was not just a 1-game fluke?
MJ: GMU was an example of what a team can do if they come out and play
with energy and passion. They came in with an attitude that they were going to
be loose and play hard. They had a lot of talent but not nearly as much as we
did: it just goes to show that anything can happen on any given night in the
JT: Your brother Kris plays for your 1st round opponent Syracuse, and you just happened to raise the possibility of playing against him on Twitter before the brackets were announced: what the heck is your family going to do, and are you and your brother even talking to each other this week?
MJ: My brother and I speak every day, as we are very close. My family
understands that one of us has to lose, but they are excited to watch us play
against each other, and it will be a great experience.
JT: Evan Fjeld lost his mother to cancer earlier this month. How is he holding up, and what impact has that had on your team?
MJ: Evan dealt with her passing with a lot of toughness. I respect and admire him for the way he tried to keep his spirits up for the sake of the team. He is a special guy, and I am happy that we were able to win a championship for him.
Other 2010 NCAA Tournament Interviews: