The team, coaches and Athletics staff poured off the bus at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha on Thursday and encountered media aiming for a glimpse of the team before they face off against Purdue on Friday.
Coach Randy Bennett and players Matthew Dellevadova and Rob Jones answered questions in a scheduled press conference before heading off to an open practice in the arena with the rest of the team.
“We’re excited to be here. It’s a privilege to be here,” said Bennett. He went on to describe how the team started the season with two goals: to win the WCC championship title outright and to play in the NCAA tournament. This year was the first in 11 years that a team won the conference championship outright.
Dellevadova remarked on how the team’s appearance in the 2010 tournament will help them this time around. “We will need leadership. We will have more confidence. It also helps because there’s a lot of other stuff that goes on around the game, like this press conference. It helps knowing what to expect.”
When asked how it feels to be at the tournament with the Gaels as opposed to University of San Diego, Rob Jones, who transferred to Saint Mary’s in spring 2009, said he felt he had better chance. “There’s not a player on this team I don’t love like a brother,” he said.
Alumni diehard fans Mike Herbold '67, Geroger Silvestri '63 and Tom Bruce '67 were in the stands for the practice. Silvestri said he hasn’t missed a Gaels trip to the NCAA Tournament since the 1959 run to the Elite 8. “I was still in high school then, so I listened to it on the radio,” he said.