TRANSCRIPT: Otz, Hunter, Brockington and Kalscheur preview NCAA Tournament

Mar 17, 2022; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach T.J. Otzelberger answers questions during practice before the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The following is a transcript of Iowa State’s press conference prior to Friday night’s match-up with LSU in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Milwaukee.

MODERATOR: We will continue with Iowa State student-athletes Gabe Kalscheur, Izaiah Brockington, and from Racine St. Catherine, Tyrese Hunter. We’ll take your questions for the student-athletes.

Q. For Tyrese, how does it feel to be back home?

TYRESE HUNTER: It feel good. You know, lot of family around here, you know. You know, that’s the reason why, you know, I go hard every day. Just having that motivation around me even closer, it feel good.

Q. How many ticket requests have you been getting?

TYRESE HUNTER: Thousands. Yeah, I really couldn’t even tell you. It was a lot though. Phone went on DND.

Q. Tyrese, Izaiah, and George told us Sunday that, over the summer, a lot of outsiders came into this program and said you guys weren’t really going to be doing much this year. Curious: What did you think when you heard that, and, I guess, how does it feel to be in the NCAA Tournament?

TYRESE HUNTER: I mean, I remember when a lot of people came in and said that I always looked at the guys like that’s motivation. I’m pretty sure everybody had us last in everything that we would have played in this year, but it just showed the work we put in, and it showed we stayed true to ourself and we just kept achieving our goals that we wanted.

Q. Izaiah, talking to George yesterday — and he seems like a guy that just really loves Iowa State. Do you guys see that day in and day out, and could you comment on maybe the role that he’s kind of carved out for himself this year?

IZAIAH BROCKINGTON: Yeah. I could tell that immediately when I met him, just obviously seeing film on him before meeting him and everything else, he played with a lot of fire, a lot of passion. But we joke around and we call him Mr. Cyclone because, like, you can just see, like, in everything that he does — you know, when he’s on the court, when he’s off the court, when we were at football games or events, like, you could just see the love that he has for the university. It’s just been — it rubs off on us, just his passion for this place.

Q. Gabe, what have you seen from the LSU defense and what — the way they try to make you guys turn the ball over? What opportunities are there if you’re able to beat their pressure?

GABE KALSCHEUR: Yeah, they do a lot of press. They try to speed us up in the press and turn us over in the backcourt, so we’ve just got to be strong and come to the ball a lot. And if we do that, we have a lot of opportunities on the back side for layups and 3s.

Q. Tyrese, what is your relationship like with Jerodd Blount, and how has he helped with your development so far this year?

TYRESE HUNTER: Jerodd’s like a mentor of mine, always making sure my head’s on straight, always telling me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear. That’s a big thing. We built a relationship as soon as he got into the program. He just let me know where I can improve at, where I’m good at, and how I can fit into the program. So it’s just been clicking ever since. He’s like a big brother to me.

Q. Tyrese, you said last week that you’ve kind of taken on, like, a leadership role, keeping the guys loose, always keeping their heads up. How has that process kind of evolved throughout this season, and how is it maybe different or magnified in, like, a tournament win-or-go-home-type setting?

TYRESE HUNTER: I just tell them whoever wants it more will come out with the W. And I’m pretty sure we’ve got a lot of veteran guys around the team. So I’m just glad that I’ve got a voice here being a freshman myself and you guys trust me. So I know if I do my job, they got my back to do their job, too.

Q. Has T.J. been talking much about being back in Milwaukee?

IZAIAH BROCKINGTON: I mean, no, he hasn’t. He just got here, and he’s been ready to go. I mean, he definitely, like, knew some people around here and everything, so, you know, he has, you know, a lot of family, a lot of loved ones around. He’s focused on this game.

GABE KALSCHEUR: Definitely straight to business, straight to business right now.

Q. If maybe all of you can address this, and we’ll start with Gabe and just go down the line, just how gratifying has this season been and what are your goals as you enter this tournament?

GABE KALSCHEUR: Me personally, I’m definitely grateful for this season, to even have one, and be back here at the NCAA Tournament with this team to just definitely turn the program around as we did. The sky’s the limit for us. We’re just going to take one game at a time and just focus on LSU coming up.

TYRESE HUNTER: For me, I’m beyond grateful. Like he said, it was a lot, the pandemic and all, that we got a season this year. So, you know, a freshman here and coming in with a lot of veteran guys, they showed me the way, what it take as soon as I got into the program. And everybody know what the goal was, to come to March Madness at the end of the day. But it’s your habits, the habits you build, the daily habits, and, you know, that can lead up to here. So we stayed true to ourself through the ups and downs, and, you know, we’re here, so we’re going to keep striving and continuing to do that.

IZAIAH BROCKINGTON: I’m just extremely grateful, extremely blessed to have been part of this team and just grateful for all the opportunities here. You know, having been to two schools before this and, you know, coming here, you know, not certain of what was going to happen, you know, this school, these guys, the coaching staff, the fans, you know, they’ve really, really changed my life. So, you know, I’ll forever be a cyclone, so it’s been amazing. It’s been even better than I thought coming here.

Q. What’s do the guys feel about LSU’s defense?

TYRESE HUNTER: Really, I feel like, from us, it’s like something — it’s like we seen so much. We play in the Big 12 a lot of defensive teams, you know, so, I mean, it’s just another thing that we see on a daily, really. Just going there, like Gabe said, be strong with the ball, play for each other, and opportunities will present itself.

MODERATOR: Go ahead, Izaiah and Gabe, talking about your opponent, please.

IZAIAH BROCKINGTON: They’re definitely athletic, extremely athletic. They play with a lot of swagger, a lot of confidence, for sure. I feel like they draw confidence from their ability to intimidate other teams or, you know, their ability to get fast break, easy buckets. I feel like that gets them going, gives them a lot of momentum. So just not letting them have those, we’ll see how that works.

GABE KALSCHEUR: Yeah. They definitely remind us of Memphis a little bit and we played them in the Barclays Center in New York. We just got to be strong and just continue to be us and not fold under their pressure as well.

Q. Izaiah, when Tyrese was talking about J.R., you kind of nodded. What is your relationship with him, and what kind of role did he play in you even coming to Iowa State?

IZAIAH BROCKINGTON: The entire coaching staff would contact me, but he was constantly calling, you know, and hitting my parents up and things like that. He’s been — like Tyrese said, he’s just always there to, you know, tell you what you need to hear. He’s always looking for things that can be done better. Even if you had a great game, like you going to come in to film the next day and — he’s going to find three or four things that you could have did better. He’ll acknowledge a good game, but you could do this, this, and this, and we’re going to need that in the postseason and things like that. He’s really great with that, holding us accountable.

Q. I’m just wondering: Obviously, LSU’s been through a lot in the last several days with the coaching change and stuff. I know y’all are focused on yourselves right now, but how much do you pay attention to what’s going on there and wondering how that might impact him one way or another?

GABE KALSCHEUR: We knew that coming into the game — into this upcoming game. We know that. But like we said, we’re just focused on ourselves. They can come out with a lot of effort, not much effort, but we know we going to get the best bullet, so we’ve just got to prepare for what we can control.

TYRESE HUNTER: Me, honestly, I just found out. I didn’t really pay attention to it like that. But at the end of the day, it’s not the players that got changed around. It’s the coach. The players are going to come out, and pretty sure they’re going to play hard. It’s March. Everybody got to go. We going to come out and play hard and just going to compete.

IZAIAH BROCKINGTON: Having been through something similar last year, it definitely does affect guys. It kind of has a different impact on, you know, whoever it happens to. Whether it’s a positive or a negative impact, even when you don’t really want to acknowledge it, like there is some effect that it has on you. But, I mean, we can’t really worry about that. That’s for them to figure out. We just have to go out there and stick to what we do.

Q. This is for Gabe and Izaiah. As guys who have played in a lot of different arenas, is there anything different you guys do when you get out onto a floor for the first time in a building you haven’t played in to kind of get used to the bearings and surroundings at all?

GABE KALSCHEUR: I really just embrace the moment, just embrace, like, what I’m around because, I mean, like you said, it’s a new venue. But, I mean, a lot of people don’t get to have this chance, so I luckily had it my freshman year. But being back a year, it’s just embracing it all and just letting it all come to me. It’s something you need to embrace.

IZAIAH BROCKINGTON: I shoot a lot of midranges. I just shoot a lot of shots that I shoot in the game and try to just go hard and simulate what it’s like and what it will feel like. Every arena has different things about it, every basketball, but you just get used to it, go game speed to get that feel.

Q. This is for Gabe and Izaiah. What was it that drew you to this program, because, obviously, they won two games last year, new coaching staff? You’ve got one year left, so it’s not exactly stability that you’re walking into. So what kind of sold you on coming here?

GABE KALSCHEUR: Definitely just the relationship with the coaches and knowing that coaches had the pieces and the right players for this team. Just him — T.J. trusting me and my family and just knowing that he had a plan really just sold me, knowing that we were just going to be a family and a community through all the ups and downs. We definitely did that throughout this season.

IZAIAH BROCKINGTON: Definitely the coaching staff, T.J., the way that he presented the school, the way he presented his plan, his vision for the season. And he showed me the guys that were already there, how I could fit in with them within his offensive and defensive scheme. He sold me on the opportunity, the opportunity to come here and be a part of something big, turning around a program that had had a couple down years and just sold me on what I could do to help bring this place back to national recognition.

Q. Tyrese, what will it be like when you get to have some family here tomorrow that hasn’t seen you play in person for a long time?

TYRESE HUNTER: For me, like I said, it’s another push, get my motivation, reason why I do it. So just looking into the crowd, seeing them, just know I can’t take a play off, I’ve got to go hard because they took their time out of their day to come watch me I can give back and return it, just play hard and get a win for them.

MODERATOR: We’re joined now by Iowa State head coach and coming home, T.J. Otzelberger, from Thomas Moore High School. Questions for Coach, please.

Q. T.J., I’m curious, how much are you telling the guys to maybe even play with a chip on their shoulder, I’m curious, this weekend? It was made clear on Sunday when we talked to you guys that there was a lot of outside noise coming into this year about what you guys were and weren’t going to accomplish. I’m curious: Are you talking to them about using that as fuel?

COACH T.J. OTZELBERGER: Our guys have done a terrific job embracing the work habits and standards that we set forth each day. They took a lot of pride as the season started on what type of season folks thought we might be able to have and played with that tremendous chip on their shoulder. This — for us, we know every game is challenging. We know tomorrow’s game is going to be really tough, but our guys relish being the underdog. Our guys relish coming into an opportunity where we have that chip on our shoulder and we have something to prove. We know that, a year ago, the place that our program was at, they take a lot of pride in what we’ve done to this point, to have the turnaround of 18 games and be playing in this tournament. So I expect them to play with relentless energy and that chip on their shoulder.

Q. T.J., a couple of the guys were saying — when I asked them about why did they want to come to a program with one year left that was totally in rebuild mode, they said you talked to them about the vision for the program and then how they fit within the program. I guess, can you elaborate just on sort of the plan and how you sold some fifth-year guys that this was the right place for them?

COACH T.J. OTZELBERGER: When we evaluated players on film, we looked for guys that were low ego, high effort, guys that did winning things. Maybe their stats didn’t jump off the page in one category or another, but we wanted guys that — when we watched them on film, that you could see their character, their work habits, the integrity they played with.

As we continued those conversations on the phone, a lot of times when guys are transferring, especially as older players, they talk about wanting to have more opportunity, more shots, be a focal point, potentially a go-to guy. And my question right back at them is, How hard are you willing to work for it? What do you do extra? What’s your leadership ability? What do you do when things are hard? How do you embrace work?

And what I’ll say with a tremendous sense of pride is guys like

Izaiah Brockington and Gabe Kalscheur, who have led us throughout the course of the season, those are guys that immediately talked about how hard they will work, how important it is to them to win games and play for pride for Iowa State. That meant a lot to me, and those guys have shown that throughout the course of our season.

Q. How much does this mean to you, to be on this stage here in Milwaukee as a Milwaukee native?

COACH T.J. OTZELBERGER: I mean, it’s pretty cool. Anytime you’re playing in the NCAA Tournament, it’s a special honor. To be doing that at Iowa State, a place I love, my family loves, and that has treated me so well, so many great friends, means a lot. And then to be coming back home where I played a state championship game a few blocks from here — I grew up playing on the playgrounds in the city — it all kind of comes together.

Right now, all attention and focus is on winning this basketball game, but I’m sure, at some point looking back on it, I’ll realize how cool it really all is.

Q. In that regard, how many friends, family members do you expect to have in the stands tomorrow?

COACH T.J. OTZELBERGER: Hopefully, a lot come, and then, hopefully, there are some that we convert throughout the course of the game because I know, in these type of atmospheres, environments, when your team plays really hard and competitively, it’s easy for people to get behind them.

So I don’t know an exact number. My focus has been on doing everything we can to prepare for this game. But, hopefully, it’s a lot. Hopefully, they cheer loud. And we want to make them proud with how we play.

Q. What’s the message for Tyrese to play on this stage tomorrow?

COACH T.J. OTZELBERGER: Tyrese has stepped up all year long. He has tremendous confidence. He’s a dynamic playmaker, a guy who has a very short-term memory whether things go well or maybe not. He has to stay aggressive. He has to continue to be who he’s been for us all year, our leader, our quarterback. And we’re confident in his ability to do that job. For him, it’s exciting as well to be playing not far from home, also where he has so many people here to support him. So we expect for him to play with a tremendous sense of pride and passion.

Q. Pretty simple question here, but how do you beat a team like LSU coming in tomorrow?

COACH T.J. OTZELBERGER: Yeah. Well, first, we have to focus on playing the best that we can play, doing the things that we do well. We’ve been — when we’ve been the team defensively that sets a tone with our ball pressure and toughness, games have gone our way. So we need to control what we can and be that team.

As far as LSU, they’re certainly a team with a lot of athleticism, length, defensively. They do a great job protecting the rim, turning people over. Their press has given people trouble throughout the course of the year. They’ve got versatile frontline scorers with Eason and Days, who can really drive the basketball and finish around the rim. Got a lot of respect for their team and players in their program. We’ll need to make sure that we’re the best version of ourselves to be successful tomorrow.

Q. I wasn’t sure if you knew Kevin Nickelberry at all, LSU’s interim coach. How do you expect them to respond with all they’ve been dealing with the last several days with the coaching change and everything while preparing for this?

COACH T.J. OTZELBERGER: Yeah. We placed all our attention on things we can control, and that’s how we prepare, how we practice, how we do things. So for us, that’s not in our equation of how we’re going to win this game. We’re going to do what we can do and come out and play the way we can play.

Q. T.J., who have you heard from, either verbally or textually, if that’s a word, that after — you know, in the last couple weeks that you said, oh, wow, this person’s responded to me. Anybody in particular stick out at you?

COACH T.J. OTZELBERGER: Well, for me, I realize that being in the position that I’m in is due to a lot of folks that have given me opportunity, believed in me, spent extra time and invested in me through the years. It’s really neat to have conversation with my high school coach, Coach Ross.

Coach Vander Meulen, my college coach at Whitewater, he will be at the game tomorrow. He and I had a really great conversation here lately.

One of my other high school coaches has passed, but those guys mean a lot to me; the investment they made, the time they’ve taken to spend.

Been a lot of former players as well that have reached out. I’d rather not probably share who and who not. I don’t want to play favorites. But let’s just say there’s a lot of guys that are really excited about the direction of the program and to watch the Cyclones play tomorrow night.

Q. I asked you about George yesterday, the role he’s carved out. But talking to Jaz yesterday and the guys today talking about how they call George “Mr. Cyclone,” do you call him that, or what have you seen out of his love, I guess, for Iowa State?

COACH T.J. OTZELBERGER: Yeah. I call him George. And what I think — he’s done such a terrific job helping us facilitate offense, having the experiences he’s had being here. His freshman year, he played in an NCAA Tournament, so that’s impactful. You want guys that have had that experience. When it comes this time of the year, you know it takes a little bit more and just a little extra effort.

So we’re excited to see George play with that relentless passion, enthusiasm defensively, blocking shots, and being that rim protector and being that energy guy we know he can be on that end and then offensively helping us facilitate offense.

MODERATOR: Coach, thank you. Good luck tomorrow night.

Jared Stansbury


Jared a native of Clarinda, Iowa, started as the Cyclone Fanatic intern in August 2013, primarily working as a videographer until starting on the women’s basketball beat prior to the 2014-15 season. Upon earning his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Iowa State in May 2016, Jared was hired as the site’s full-time staff writer, taking over as the primary day-to-day reporter on football and men’s basketball. He was elevated to the position of managing editor in January 2020. He is a regular contributor on 1460 KXNO in Des Moines and makes regular guest appearances on radio stations across the Midwest. Jared resides in Ankeny with his four-year-old puggle, Lolo.