NCAA BK

CHAT WRAP: UCLA forward Jason Kapono

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Events_Moderator: Okay, everyone! It's time to get started! Let's welcome Jason Kapono to the chat! Hi, Jason — welcome to Lycos Live Events! What's up? jason_kapono: Nothing much, we were just told our fate a few hours ago. Now we have to shift our focus to the NCAA tournament. Question: How does the team respond to the public criticism of Coach Steve Lavin? Do you guys read the papers or ignore it? jason_kapono: Well, me personally, I'm going to speak for myself. I don't read the newspapers — I stay out of the print media. I hear it third person from parents and friends and I don't think much of it. I think it will bog the team down and tear the team apart from within, so the most important thing is to stick together as a family during these tough times and hang together like a pack of wolves. Because that's all you have! Question: What are your thoughts on UCLA's seed? How do you feel about your path to the Final Four? jason_kapono: Obviously our path to the Final Four is a tough one. As you saw and heard, we're probably positioned in the toughest region. It's a very difficult path, but we're capable and talented enough to take advantage of it and make it all the way to the Final Four. I think the tougher the road, the better we'll play. Events_Moderator: This is a question from the FOXSports VIP Club: mr._big_time asks... Are you going into the Draft after the season? What could or couldn't change your mind? jason_kapono: That's something that I really haven't given a lot of thought to. I'm just paying attention to what my team is doing and it's getting toward the end, so I want to take advantage of these last few games so we can be ready for a march through the tournament. I can weigh my options later on when I take a step back from basketball. Then I can decide what's best for my future and my career. Question: Did you have any fear that UCLA wouldn't get an at-large bid? jason_kapono: Not at all. We thought that we played a tough schedule this year and we earned a spot in the NCAA tournament. I don't think in our past few games we've struggled. We've shown that we're a capable team and we deserve a place in the tournament by playing the likes of Georgetown, Alabama, beating Arizona, SC, and Stanford at Standford — those are a lot of quality teams. Just by that, we earned the right to be in the tournament. We're not where we need to be to make a big splash in the tournament, but I don't see any reason we shouldn't have an at-large bid. Question: How do you feel your team does preparing a defensive game plan against opponents? jason_kapono: I think it's based upon who we play and what their strengths are. We've tended in the past to come out and play more of a zone — that's what we've thrived on. Due to our size and depth and the fact that we lack a little bit of quickness, it's better to pack the middle and force teams to shoot outside. Because that's always tougher to do, especially if you're in the NCAA Tournament and playing in a zone environment. You aren't as comfortable and shooting percentages tend to drop. Question: Hi, Jason. I was wondering what you thought about Mississippi, the team you have to play in the first round? jason_kapono: They're a very good team. I've gotten a chance to see them a few times on ESPN and they're very talented. I played with Justin Reed over the summer and he's a very good player. I know that they're a very capable team and the more we scout and look at them, the more we'll find out their strengths and weaknesses and be ready for the game on Friday. Question: In the context of the motion offense, are there significant plays that are designed to get you and Billy open looks? jason_kapono: Yeah, there are certain sets where we run a lot flare screens to get us looks, since we are prolific three point shooters. Since this is a fairly new offense, at times we struggle with the continuity of screening and also establishing a post presence. Dan [Gadzuric] is the most dominant big man in the country and we also have a very potent perimeter attack. Trying to find a balance between the two has always been the goal, but sometimes we're one-sided. That's why we've been up and down and haven't had that consistent play over the past sixteen games. Question: What do you think of our potential second round matchup with Boston University? jason_kapono: Actually, that's wrong — we'd play Cincinnati. You don't want to look forward past your first game, but playing the number one seed is a very challenging path. They're playing so well and are such a good team that we'd be going in as the underdog. Probably no one outside of our families, girlfriends and closeknit circle would believe that we have a chance to win. We still believe that we have the talent and we're capable, though. We've beaten the number one team in the country in Kansas. We have our game plan and if we execute it to perfection and stay focused, there's no telling what we can accomplish. Question: I've heard rumors that you would be more inclined to come back for your senior year if Lavin were gone. Would the coaching situation impact your decision? jason_kapono: Actually, I don't know where you gathered that information. That's pure speculation and there's no substance from my standpoint in that matter. I think the only thing from my standpoint is that you only have a small window of opportunity to become a pro basketball player and you must maximize that opportunity by choosing if it's the right time or not. I love UCLA and its baskeball program, including Coach Lavin and everything else. There isn't any animosity toward the program or any hard feelings that would make me want to leave. For me to leave, it would solely be a career choice and not because I don't like the university or the coach. Question: Hi, Jason. Which freshman are you looking at to become the dominant player at UCLA? jason_kapono: I would say all three have a very good shot. I think they're all great in different aspects of the game. It's been tough this year to really showcase their talent because of the senior-dominated team that we have. There really aren't many minutes left over so the freshmen have been forced to play a limited role. Not because of their talent or abilities, but just because of the makeup of our team. I think each have shown flashes of brilliance and you can only expect more to come. Question: How does it feel to take the court in the NCAA tourney, especially playing for UCLA?? jason_kapono: It's a dream come true! I grew up in L.A. and I've had a fairy-tale career so far, being able to go from high school to college in the same city and play for the storied program of UCLA. Obviously there's a lot of pressure that comes along with that with the bar of expectations being set so high by John Wooden. It's extremely exciting to play in the tournament and you get a great feeling when 60,000 fans are either cheering for you or taunting, because it's a positive both ways. Because even if they're taunting, it's because you're good and you're the favorite. Events_Moderator: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us this evening, Jason. It's been fun! We'll have to do this again sometime! jason_kapono: Thank you very much, I've throughly enjoyed this! It's always a great pleasure to interact with the fans of college basketball and I hope to give a few tournament wins and advance to the Final Four. Not only for my sake and my team's sake, but for the whole city of Los Angeles.
Tagged: UCLA, Stanford, Mississippi

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