During the NCAA Tournament, KUSports.com editor Ryan Greene will spend 90 quality seconds with a member of the team getting set to face KU. In today's episode, Ryan chats with 6-foot Southern Illinois senior Tony Young who hails from Schaumburg, Ill. Young scored 17 points in SIU's second round win over Virginia Tech.
Ryan Greene: When you hear the name 'Kansas,' what's one word that comes to mind?
Tony Young: I don't know, I don't really think about it like that. Not really. Nothing really, honestly, I don't too much think about it like that. When you say it, don't nothing come to mind, I just get a little happy thinking of playing them.
RG: Do you guys look at yourselves as a mid-major anymore after what this program's accomplished in the past several years in the Tournament?
TY: Nah, man. I don't ever think we're a mid-major. I don't even too much like the words, I just think we're a regular team, man, we just go out and play hard.
RG: You were part of a pretty big upset your senior year of high school in the state championship game (Schaumburg knocked off a loaded, Eddy Curry-led Thornwood squad 66-54 to win the 2001 AA Illinois state crown), going into a game where there's so much being made about the other team, what's the key to getting ready for that and tuning it out?
TY: I look at it like I've been through battles my whole life playing basketball, so I don't let the David-Goliath stuff and talk get to me. It really doesn't matter to me. I know that anyone can step on the court and lose on any given day. Regardless of who you have on your team, or who's going where or what's happening. Like you said, in high school, state championship game, we played a team with seven Division-I players on there, we had two. So, I mean, you can't get caught up in that kind of stuff, you can't get caught up in what everyone else is telling you. You've got to stick to what you know and stick to what you do best, and hopefully it just comes out right for you.
RG: I've heard some legendary stories about your guys' practices. Is it one of those situations where you've just got to get used to it or you're not going to last?
TY: If you don't see it, you won't believe it. It's easy for someone to say they do all this stuff and they do that and think it's all just an exaggeration, but I mean, I've seen a lot of casualties at war. I mean, you know, you come in there and you think it's going to be easy and think you can do it, but obviously once you get on that court and you start doing it, a guy goes 'Man, I can't do this, it's too much for me.' Every player in this locker room has been through it, diving on the floor, heads banging against bleachers, elbows, stitches, all that good stuff. It just goes to show that hard work can still get you where you need to be.
RG: So playing at these NCAA Tournament games is almost like nothing?
TY: Actually, sometimes we laugh at it. You've got a lot of teams who are physical and do certain things, but they just don't expect us to do it back. They're so much bigger than us and they think 'We're just going to run them over, we're going to get physical with them.' But I'm 6-feet and I'm guarding people 6-foot-8. You elbow me and push me, I'm going to jump on your shoulder and elbow you back like 'What the hell's this dude doing?'
RG: What's the worst injury you've had form a practice?
TY: From a practice? I've got stitches numerous times. Just a lot of different things, just playing hard, I broke my ankle last summer playing. A lot of crazy stuff that goes on.
RG: So do they keep a gurney in the hallway waiting to take you guys to the hospital?
TY: We have doctors on-hand at the arena, anything we need done we get done right there. Stitches, you get done, come right back on to practice. I've done it a couple times. You go to the training room, get stitched up, come right back.
RG: So do you think Kansas truly knows what to expect from you guys?
TY: I don't think anyone can simulate exactly how we play and what we do. But I mean, that goes for any team. You can never take what a team does well, try to do it and try to simulate it, because that's what they do well and what they're known for. As far as them, they can play defense hard and go hard at each other, but it's not going to be the same, because it's how we do it, it's what we do. It's what we've done for 32 games, it's what we're going to continue to do.
Young averages 9.8 points per game for the Salukis, and symbolizes SIU's defensive-minded style as a three-time member of the Missouri Valley Conference's All-Defensive team. KU will take on Southern Illinois at 6:10 p.m. Thursday night in San Jose's HP Pavilion, with both teams trying to claw their way into Saturday's Elite Eight.