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February 8, 2008North Carolina State redshirt sophomore power forward Brandon Costner could miss Saturday's Maryland game because of the rib injury he sustained during Monday's practice.
Costner, who missed Tuesday's game against Virginia Tech, had an X-ray done, but it was negative.
NC State coach Sidney Lowe discussed Costner's injury and how he was disappointed to hear some individuals talk about how the Wolfpack are a better team without him.
For more on Lowe's weekly press conference, click on the link below:
How is Brandon Costner's healthy and will he be able to play vs. Maryland?
"I don't know if he'll be able to play tomorrow. I know he went and had X-rays done yesterday. We'll see how he feels today. If he's not feeling really good, I just don't think he should. We need to look out for Brandon more than anything with his health.
"While we're on Brandon and that subject. I've been hearing some things, questions and comments, things made about Brandon and our team and 'are we better off without Brandon?' and all this kind of thing like its Brandon's fault. That's really unfair. Not than any of you guys are saying that but I've had some questions asked to me about that kind of thing. That's not fair, it's not fair. He's hurt. We definitely are not better off without Brandon, so that's a stupid question if anyone has ever asked that question. That's a stupid question. Brandon is a good basketball player and when he gets healthy he's going to come back and help us. But this negative stuff that I'm hearing is just not fair. He's doing what we've asked him to do. Is he shooting the ball the way he was last year? No. But that's just one part of the game. Some games he's had 10-11 rebounds or 10-11 free throws at the half but there was no talk about stuff like that. I just wanted to get that out there that no we are not better off without Brandon Costner. And we look forward to him coming back."
Does it show how far the program has come that you can win without Costner?
"Yeah, that's the nice thing about it is that this year we can do that, when we do have an injury. We do have a guy that we can plug in that position. We did have another point guard that we can plug in. We are young, but at least we had a couple that we can put in there, whereas last year we didn't have that. That was part of it. The program is coming along, and it's continue to get better in that area."
Have you talked to Costner about not letting others get him down?
"Absolutely. I've talked to him. He knew that we didn't feel that way, but as a coach, I think it was important that I let him know that I'm hearing it. And if I'm hearing it, I'm assuming that he's hearing it. And it's not fair. It's not fair to him at all. I hope that whoever is making those comments or statements or whatever, that they understand that it's not fair. It bothers me that they're going to try to pick on this young man when he's hurt and focus on him. Lets focus on our team. Lets focus on our team. And to make it clear, that question of 'Are we better off with or without Brandon?' No. Period. We need Brandon."
Where did you hear the criticism?
"Radio. Heard it on the radio, something was said and it's just questions, just things beings said and it's just not fair. That's not the most important thing right now, to talk about Brandon Costner and what he's not doing or whatever. Talk about his injury, yeah, the fact that it definitely hurts us and the kid wants to be out there playing, yeah. But let's talk about our team and what we're doing and what we're trying to do. Those are the things that you like to hear."
Did Costner come to you about it or you to him?
"I went to Brandon. I'm sure if I hear something, I'm sure, because they read the paper. I don't read the paper or Internet or anything like that, so I'm sure something could've been said or written. I just wanted to make sure that I got to him before he heard anything."
How do you handle Maryland's big guys?
"We have to be extremely tough and active. There guys are aggressive and very physical and very active. We have to do that. We have to be able to match that and not allow them to get those easy baskets inside, and those duck-ins on us and getting into foul trouble. And those hustle plays because their big guys are very active and they go after those loose balls and offensive rebounds. We can't just stand behind and let them post up. We have to be physical and active for 40 minutes. They are both non-stop."
Is Maryland's James Gist going to be hard to guard?
"Yes, he's tough because he can do that. It's not just inside because he can pick and pop, and he'll pull our bigs away from the basket, which again takes our kids from that rebounding area. He's a tough cover, he's a tough cover."
What is it like to play in a game where both teams have been hot of late?
"I like that question and that statement because just a little while ago, we weren't talked about being in those positions. Now, you are talking about being right in the thick of things. Like you said, we are one of the hot teams right now. I don't know how hot, but I like that. That means we are moving in the right direction. It's a big game, it's a big game. Our guys are aware of that.
"We've been really watching the standings. It's something we really didn't do much last year. We've been really watching the standings and showing our players in the locker room to let them see where they are. We did it when we were 2-4. We talked about how if we win this game against Wake Forest, we have a chance to bump up a notch. If you talk about the Virginia Tech game again, and again. And now here we are. Now we have a chance to play this team, to play Maryland, and maybe bump ahead of them. This is a big game, a huge game for us. It's going to be tough in that environment, playing those guys up there because they are hot right now."
What do you see in Maryland's sophomore backcourt?
"I'm very impressed. I tell you what, with Vazquez, listening to him after a big win, he talked about how he had to change his game. Or not that he had to change his game, but that he had to play a little different. Earlier he said he was trying too much, committing too many turnovers and he wasn't really helping the team. He took it upon himself and said that, which was really impressive. He said he needed to trust his teammates a little more, and he did that in that big win. He's in total control of their team. I think he's really the guy that makes them go. He plays with a lot of energy, a lot of pashion, and he's smart. He's smart, he certainly knows how to make the game a lot easier for the rest of their players. Their backcourt, they are young, but cagey. They are smart. They get those guys going."
Will it be a busy day for Courtney Fells chasing Vazquez around?
"It's going to be a very busy day for all of our guards. But you know what, it's going to be busy for our big guys too. Their bigs are very active and aggressive, as I've said earlier. It's going to be a nice test, a nice challenge for our guys to see if we can keep this thing going. To go up there and try to control tempo and see if we can keep their crowd out of the ball game. Really concentrate on details. We have to really be focused on details and what we will try and accomplish."
Are you curious to see how the freshmen handle the back-to-back road games in comparison to when they played UNC and Clemson?
"I'm not curious to see, but I'm hoping that they'll be OK. I think they've done a nice job of progressing and getting better, game-in and game-out, and not just on the road, but in general. That environment is different being at home and having your fans in front of you. I think Javi has done a real nice job, especially late in the ball games at controlling things. This is another test for him and a chance for him to continue to grow. It's going to be this way. Hopefully, his experience early will help him for this ball game. Same thing with J.J."
Will Gonzalez start?
"Yes, he will start."
How is Gonzalez improving on the defensive end?
"I think so [he's better than given credit on defense]. He's got anticipation and has quick hands. He gets his hands on those balls. He has a knack for digging in the post for guys or anticipating getting in down there. Sometimes, we have to hold him back when he's guarding a Paulus or somebody like that, not to go down in there. He just has a nice feel for it and a knack to get down in there. Once he gets his hands on it, he's pretty good. He's pretty strong. He doesn't look strong, but he's pretty strong for his size anyway."
Was showing the standings a good spark for the team?
"Yes. Looking at the standings, we weren't looking ahead, we were just looking at the Wake Forest game. It was showing that if we just win this ball game, where we can move up. Then we did it again with the Virginia Tech game, showing where we could end up. Based on what the other teams would do, would determine if we move up higher. That was really it. We didn't really look forward to any games, just looking at one game. I just thought it was something, that they needed to see for them to understand, that in some eyes, it has been a disappointing season, that we are right there. We are right there. I wanted them to see that. That it isn't all negative and not all bad. We've actually put ourselves in position to do something good. Now, we have this opportunity and we want to take advantage of it. They came out and they did it and we are right in the thick of it. I wanted them to understand with what they have accomplished and what they have done. Now, here we are again with another test, another challenge. If we win this ball game, we are going to move up again. The main thing was for them to understand that it wasn't as bad as some people think. That we are right there and right in the thick of things."
What is the difference between Maryland in the nonconference part of the schedule and what they are now?
"One, I think losing to American. Two, just time. This was a team that had different guys that needed to step up and be the leader of their team, or who to go to. Last year, they had a couple of guys like D.J. Strawberry, guys who were sort of like the leader of the team. They were searching this year, searching to kind of feel each other out and how they would play together and gel together. It took them a few games for them to see what they could do. Once your point guard or once any player steps up and says, 'It's my fault.' Especially the point guard because he's in control. He said 'I've been turning the ball over too much and I'm costing us game. I need to trust my teammates a little bit more.' I think that was a growth period for them. They started to play that way. That is the difference. It is time. They've gone through some lumps together. They fought through some games together, and they obviously got the big win [over UNC]. Sometimes that gets you going."
Does that sound a lot like your team?
"Absolutely, absolutely. Exactly, exactly. I've said it all along. Sometimes it just takes time. You never know when it is going to click in. You just never know. It could have been later on and you get on a nice roll. You just never know. I do know that you have a new group or young group, there is an adjustment period. There is no designated number of games in that when they start to get it. Maryland definitely has it, and our ball club has progressed well."
What were your thoughts when you first saw and met J.J. Hickson and what he is like now?
"He's a great young man. He's very respectful. He looks you in your eyes when you are talking to him. Basketball-wise, just a great work ethic. I saw him go through a workout that you would see professional guys doing. It was a serious workout. He and one other player were the only two doing it."
Was it at his high school?
"It was a facility, like a camp. He was doing some things that I've never seen a high school kid do. I really haven't. His work ethic, getting up at 6 a.m. for a morning practice and then going to the team's practice. You don't see that often."
What is his relationship with his grandmother like, Marie Myers?
"That his heart, Ms. Marie. He's everything to her, and she's everything to him. They just have a great relationship. She gives him a little tough love, but she knows him really well. She knows what makes him tick. He doesn't like to disappoint grandma. She loves him and is a great lady. We thanked her a lot for him coming here because she had a lot to do with it."
Do you think you are just born with a good work ethic?
"I think it is just within that individual in how bad you want to be good. How important it is that you want to be the best. Then, being able to endure the pain. With that comes some pain. With those guys, that are the special ones. The ones that are willing to endure the pain. There are guys that are overly talented, and then you put that work ethic with them and that is a great player. I don't think you can change people in that way. It has to be something from within that you have to have."
How far away or is Hickson already from being a great player?
"I think he still has a ways to go to be a great player. Do I think he can get there? Yes, I think he can get there. He still has a ways to go, and one is his experience. When you are starting to talk about great players, that is an elite group. He's a very good basketball player with a lot of potential and room for growth. Once he starts to get it, and I mean understand all of the little tricks to the trade, and things that guys in our conference knows, some of the big guys. Once he starts to learn and get that, he'll be a step above."
How much has the college experience helped Hickson?
"It has helped him tremendously. He would have been semi-lost had he gone straight to the NBA because that is a huge jump. His talent would have certainly helped him a little bit, even that. But going there, you have to understand a lot about the game and get a chance to first play on this level, and play some of the top guys on this level and learn. Having done that, he'll be better going to the NBA. He'll have an idea of what to expect, but it will be even tougher. At least he had this first to prepare him for it. There is no question in my mind that coming to college will benefit him in the long run. He'll be more prepared and more ready to go once he goes to the league."
Does it take a great actor to be drawing charges?
"Certainly, there are certain guys that take them better than others. Acting, we use that word where we say he's an actor. I think it's just helping the official to see that I'm here and in position. That I'm taking it right in the chest or right in the gut. I think when you see some guys flying back seven, eight feet away, that's a little bit over the top. Sound effects, head jerking back, all of that. You just take it, and I think when you stand there and take it, the impact is even more severe and you see it. You are taking it and falling back and jerking, you are really weakening the blow, so you don't really get it."
Do you have to sell it?
"You do have to sell it because you have to bring it to the officials attention. They can see that you are there. We sometimes see a guy who is 6-8, 6-9, and is 250 pounds, and you see him flying behind the backstop, when the guard charges, that is a little over the top. I thought J.J. was perfect and in great position [when he took the charge vs. VT]."
Does taking charges help shorter teams?
"Absolutely. Now, you are playing position basketball. Guys can get out of control, or big guys try to overpower you and you are in front of them, you take that charge. It is definitely an equalizer when you are a quicker team, playing against bigger guys or teams that like to penetrate or jump up in the air. There are scouting reports about guys that like to jump before they pass and things of that nature. You try and take that charge, it can be the difference in the ball game. It can be a game-breaker. J.J. taking that one was huge. When you have a big guy who is willing to take a charge, he becomes even better defensively. As a guard, when you are driving in there and trying to draw contact, you don't know if he is going to go for the block or take that charge. Taking the charge is better, sometimes."
Do you think there is an epidemic of flopping in college basketball right now?
"I think there are some floppers, definitely. There are definitely some floppers. There are some floppers going on. There is definitely some flopping out there. There is some flopping going, definitely. Some floppers are better than others."