Recently CHN writer Jon Teitel caught up with Southern Miss guard LaShay Page as part of his NCAA tournament interview series. Page, who 11.5 points and 3.3 rebounds per game for the Golden Eagles, who take on Kansas State in an 8/9 game in the East Region on Thursday.
Jon Teitel: Coach Larry Eustachy was recently named Conference USA Coach of the Year. What makes him such a great coach, and what is the most important thing you ever learned from him?
LaShay Page: He is brutally honest with all of his players and challenges us a lot. He helps build our character and makes us better both on and off the court.
JT: Last year your team declined an invite to both the CBI and CollegeInsider.com tournaments. Did you agree with that decision at the time, and looking back do you have any regrets?
LP: No regrets. I think Coach made the right move because we needed to get caught up in classes.
JT: In November you scored a career-high 30 points (8-11 3PT) in a 21-point win over Colorado State. Was it just one of those situations where every shot you put up seemed to go in because you were "in the zone"?
LP: Definitely. After you get in a groove and have teammates who get you the ball in the right spots you can score a lot of points.
JT: In February you had 12 points and a career-high ten rebounds in a three-point win over Memphis. How on earth does a 6-2 guard get ten rebounds in a game?!
LP: It is all about hunger and the "want to". Coach challenged me and our other guards to rebound more, and I figured that I could get in there while the big men blocked out.
JT: Darnell Dodson is a transfer from Kentucky, where he scored six points in a loss to West Virginia in the 2010 Elite 8. How important is it to have a player with actual tournament experience in March?
LP: It is real important. He is a great guy on and off the court and is the sparkplug of our team who gives us instant offense. I think his experience will help us down the road.
JT: Neil Watson was named both C-USA Newcomer and 6th Man of the Year. How has he been able to come in and be so successful so quickly?
LP: He is just willing to listen to Coach and the older players. He is a great point guard and a great shooter who earned both of those awards.
JT: After leading the conference in free throw shooting during the regular season (74%), you shot eight of fourteen (57%) in a loss to Marshall in the conference tournament. Are you concerned that free throw shooting might cost you a game in the tournament?
LP: No. If we defend and out-rebound our opponent, I think we will be fine.
JT: You school is heading to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 21 years. What has the reaction been like on campus?
LP: It has been great. I am glad that it is our group that has been able to get our school back to the tournament. We have been a football school recently, and it is nice to see fans come out to cheer on the basketball team.
JT: How do you feel about your seed, and how do you think you will matchup against Kansas State?
LP: I think we were fortunate with a 9-seed. An 8/9 game is pretty much an even matchup. If we play our game we should be in a position at the end to win, but it will be a dogfight.
JT: Your mom Cathy passed away last month. How have you been able to cope with her loss, and will her memory give you some extra inspiration in the tournament?
LP: She was proud of me, so every time I go out to play it is for her. Playing basketball and being around the guys has been able to let me clear my mind. I have not had much time to sit down and think about it.