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What Tommy Lloyd, Justin Kier and Oumar Ballo said after Arizona’s Senior Day win over Cal

tommy-lloyd-oumar-ballo-justin-kier-comments-arizona-wildcats-basketball-cal-pac-12 Chris Coduto-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats concluded the regular season Saturday with an 89-61 win over Cal on Senior Day. Our recap of the game can be found here.

After the game, Tommy Lloyd, Justin Kier and Oumar Ballo spoke to the media. Here’s what they said.

Lloyd on his takeaways from the day: “From where we are started to where we are now, I didn’t expect that. Pretty awesome. I’m happy for the guys. I’m happy for the staff. This is what I came down here to try to do. I didn’t have a timeline on it, but why not now?”

Lloyd on celebrating postgame: “I felt obligated. I figured I couldn’t probably duck behind the scenes. Might have been a little awkward. Listen, we celebrate wins behind the scenes. We love winning. We know it’s not easy. You can’t get to the point in coaching where winning doesn’t feel good. To do that it’s just about avoiding losses and it becomes a hard life. So we celebrate winning, and I’m proud of the guys and I just didn’t want to celebrate too early. Tonight was the right time.”

Lloyd on whether the atmosphere at McKale Center improved this season: “Yeah, definitely. It’s gotten better. I’m looking forward to this offseason. One of my goals is how do we make the gameday experience even better in McKale. The place is great as it is, but I think there’s so much more potential, but I want it to be an event every time we play. I don’t want it be about who we’re playing necessarily, I get that a little bit, but I want it to be about Arizona basketball and the University of Arizona and the community.”

Lloyd on the bench contribution: “It says that you’re well rounded and there’s lots of different ways to win. You don’t have to rely necessarily on one guy on a given night.”

Lloyd on limiting starters’ minutes: “I wanted to win the game. That was gonna be the number one thing. I haven’t even had a chance to look at the stats yet. But listen. We’ve got a coach here who’s probably held a young, talented French kid (Adama Bal) back a little bit. He’s really improved. He’s really been coming on. He had a great practice yesterday and really encouraged me to play him early and see what happens and we talked about it as a staff. … It’s little bit like the analogy you have with a talented pitcher. Do you keep him in the minors a little bit until he’s ready? And he was ready. I just thought he got out there. He has a knack for making that first shot and if he did, I thought it would give our team a big lift. And I’m really happy for Adama.”

Lloyd on whether he might need Bal in the rotation: “Not necessarily. I wanted to reward him for having a great year of practice behind the scenes and he’s going to be a big part of the program.”

Lloyd on Bal’s role in the future: “I think he’s gonna be a do everything guard. I think he’s got a really good feel for the game. He’s got a high IQ. He’s getting a little nastier, he’s getting a little more physical and he’s a shot maker. I said a lot of good things right there. His role is going to be hopefully one of our best players down the line.”

Lloyd on Ballo’s improvement: “It’s crazy. Just the force he played with in that game today. What’s really the coolest thing about it is the relationship between he and C-Lo (Christian Koloko). They’re best friends and they beat on each other in practice every day. They do extra workouts together, they probably lift weights together. They hang out together off the court and they just have a way of picking each other up. One’s struggling the other one kind of takes the reins and it’s a great one-two punch.”

Lloyd on Koloko’s influence on Ballo: “I think they’re both a little bit different players. I just think the main thing is their influence on each other. They support each other. You have two guys that are quote unquote competing for minutes against each other and they’re actually each other’s biggest fans, which is pretty special.”

Lloyd on the importance of incorporating fun into coaching: “I like having fun. I think having fun and having a culture with love in the middle of it is the best way to have fun and sustain it for a long time. I think it’s powerful. I’m hard on the guys. You guys see me a little bit. You probably don’t see me as much behind the scenes and really pushing them, but I do have my relationships with them. I love them. I can push them more. I’m just doing things that I feel comfortable with and are natural for me. I’m not doing it because somebody else did it a different way. I’m just doing it the way I’m most comfortable with and trying to be myself.”

Lloyd on the emotions of senior day: “It’s a 40 minute basketball game. There’s ebbs and flows. Cal, they have a good coach and I’m sure he wasn’t happy how things went Thursday, and he’s been on them pretty hard and they were spirited. So that’s what you’re going to have. I tip my hat to them and we were able to hang with it. I think we had a good lead and we kind of lost it at the end of the half a little bit, and they made a little run and then we came out and were steady in the second half. I think we just slowly grew that lead over 20 minutes the second half. I didn’t feel like the margin was what it was, but I’ll give credit to our guys for being mature.”

Lloyd on what it means to win a conference championship: “It’s good to win a regular season championship anytime. That’s one of your first goals when you start off a season is you want to win a regular season championship. It’s a marathon. 20 games over a couple months and for these guys to do it so quick, it was awesome. And at the end of the day, they’re deserving and they’re a really good team. But when we go play in Vegas or even forward, you don’t get extra points. You don’t set up a game 8-0 because you won a conference championship. It’s 0-0. That other team’s hungry and they’re fighting for the lives just like we are. Elimination basketball is fun. It’s not easy, and I look forward to taking this team down that journey.”

Lloyd on whether he thinks motivation is a concern with 1 seed likely locked up: “I don’t care what seed you are. Our motivation is to win the next game. To win the next game and the ultimate thing right now would be to win the Pac-12 Tournament championship. In order to do that, we got to win the first game. That’s what I’m locked in on. We play Thursday at noon. I don’t know who we play. I look forward to getting on the court. I’ve got a list of things I’m ready to help try to help these guys clean up and tighten up a little bit and see if we can go and hopefully play some inspired, good basketball.”

Lloyd on rebounding as a priority: “Rebounding is always at the top. It’s one of the three factors. Maybe the last couple games haven’t been our greatest rebounding, but I think our numbers overall are pretty good. Sometimes when you guys isolate stats, sometimes there’s a bigger picture to the stats. Our defensive rebounding percentage probably isn’t great, but can you swat shots? … Sometimes we’re not the greatest rebounding position, but sometimes what’s better than rebounding is creating turnovers. Those are factors because anytime a rebound stops a possession. A turnover stops a possession. So there’s lots of ways to stop possession and those are the two main ones. We’ll just focus on being well rounded and try to get better and rebound this week.”

Lloyd on facing either ASU or Stanford in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals: “ASU, they’ve been on fire. Much improved. I tip my hat to Bobby (Hurley). They have some players. That Jalen Graham kid, I’m not sure I’ve seen a kid improve as much from the start of the season to where he is now. The stars have really settled in. They’re feisty defensively. Offensively, they’re sharing the ball. They look good. Stanford came in here and gave us a battle. They got some talent. They got size across the board. They have some defensive versatility that they showed here that I wasn’t expected. It’s gonna be a tough game no matter what. There’s no guarantees you’re going to come out on top. We’re not going to take them lightly and I look forward to the challenge of preparing for those teams.”

Kier on having to ask for curtain call or if coaches decided: “I think that’s something coach Lloyd did. Just make sure I showed the fans I love them and all that kind of stuff. Get a chance to play the young guys as well and just. do one thing for McKale one last time, so it’s pretty special”.

Kier on how the postgame celebration felt: “It’s amazing. It’s like a family. They’ve been with us all year long, and they’ve only gotten better. So being able to do that in front of our fans was truly a blessing. And then for me personally, being able to do that in front of my grandmother. She’s seen me want this so bad. At my first two schools do everything I can, she was there when I was a kid grinding in the street dreaming of this moment. So just for her to be here and witness it with all my brothers, I couldn’t ask for a better moment.”

Kier on his grandmother’s emotions: “I could tell she was getting a little sad just because she feels emotions a little bit. But I think she’s just so happy. She knows how hard I’ve worked for this and how hard of, I’ve always done this for her and my mother. So to finally be able to do this for them, and we’re not done, I won’t sit here and say I’m satisfied, but just to be able to experience this and have her out here on the west coast, first time flying, first time being in Arizona being on the west coast was pretty special.”

Ballo on his friendship with Koloko: “Christian is a good guy. I met him before I even know when I was coming. Before I went through portal, I met Christian last season. They went to Spokane, they were playing Wazzu. Because I knew Benn (Mathurin) before, I went to see Benn and I met Christian. He’s a great guy. When I came here he really welcomed me with open arms. I learned so much from him. We just have that bond in practice. Off the court we are just really good friends. We do everything together.”

Ballo on what things he and Koloko do off the court: “We go to get food. We play FIFA on the road. We have a lot of things in common.”

Ballo on how he’s improved this season: “I’ve improved a lot. My body and my conditioning and my flexibility. I can say I’ve improved a lot in those areas. Coach Ricky (Riccardo Fois), he really helped me. He helps everyone out. But Christian and me, he helped me so much. We work hard every day after practice. Hours in the gym and I felt it. It’s coming along. I trust him. I trust the coaching staff. I put effort in my time, and it’s just getting along.”

Ballo on how this championship felt compared to his titles at Gonzaga: “This is definitely more special. Winning a championship where I’m basically one of the main guys and also (Lloyd) focused on me his first year and doing all of that in the first year is something you don’t see that often. I’m really glad and happy for him he was able to do this for Tucson, for his family and all of us.”

Ballo on advice for teammates as a postseason veteran: “I think those guys are mature. We have a lot of mature guys on the team. We know what this means to us. There’s a lot of guys on the team who have never been to NCAA Tournament, so it’s special for them. There’s no way we’re going to take this for granted. This is the opportunity we get in both hands and we’re excited about it.”

Ballo on what the postseason mindset was like under Lloyd at Gonzaga: “Basically it’s the same thing. Just keep working and do team stuff, because the postseason is all about team. For us I think it’s important. We all know that. We’re not going to change anything. We’ll stick to our plan and trust our work and we will see.”

Ballo on how this team compares to his two teams at Gonzaga: “Gonzaga plays big and this team plays big too. We have a lot in common. But at the end of the day we just are different. We have a lot of players, I was at Gonzaga for two years and I never seen them. So I feel like we have our own stuff.”

Kier on Bal’s potential: “That kid is gonna be really good. Learning every day. Even today, you guys saw, he’s getting more comfortable. He comes and he makes the older guys work hard. That’s something we’ve tried to tell him is don’t come in and coast and just kind of get along. Make us better. And that’s gonna make you better for the future. And that kid’s gonna be special. I truly think he’s gonna be an NBA player. I truly do. He’s got the talent. He’s he learns, he listens. That’s the best thing you can do is listen and then the coaching staff do a great job with him. And these guys, they’re really close to him as well. (Oumar), Benn, Christian, they kind of take him under their wing and just keep his head on strong. So those guys do a great job. The coaching staff does a great job. I do what I can to just give him lessons he’ll know for the future, while I’m moving on he’ll have, so he can add that to his game and continue to get better.”

Kier on whether playing so many games close together is good preparation for March: “Yeah, I think so. I think just the way we approach practice and the way we do things is gonna prepare us for the postseason. Like I said, we haven’t been satisfied all year. We weren’t ranked at the beginning of the year and we were picked to be whatever place in the Pac-12. That put a chip on our shoulder. But once we got to where we knew we could be, we wanted more. We were still hungry, and we’re still hungry now. So we’re gonna continue to be hungry until we get what we want. So we’re going to continue to get better and keep going.”

Kier on how much fun he’s had at Arizona: “It’s been amazing. I’m just grateful. The guys, this family, we do a lot of stuff off the court that makes this team special. We go to dinner a lot on the road. We’re always together. And I think that’s why this group is so special. And that’s why we don’t want to stop playing right now is because we’re just really close, all of us. And it’s pretty special. Because this is the first time I’ve ever been on a team with this many international guys. And we’re closer than ever. I learn from them. They learn from me. It’s just it’s a great spot to be in right now.”

Kier on how he’s viewed his role at Arizona this season: “I’ve obviously been in the transfer portal twice now, so my approach was a little different because I’ve had my years where I’ve scored a lot at George Mason, and I’ve had my years where I’ve been on a high level team at Georgia. SEC is a great conference. My goal I told as soon as I talked to Coach Lloyd and TJ (Benson) on the Zooms was I want to win. It doesn’t matter. I don’t need to start. I want to come in and contribute to the team and I want to win. This is something that I wanted to do since I got here was to win a Pac-12 championship, go to the NCAA tournament, be a team that everybody looks at as, ‘Oh, when we play them, we’re gonna have to bring our A game’ and that’s exactly what has happened. So that was my approach. I couldn’t make a selfish choice at the time. It wasn’t the time to do that. I just wanted to come in and win. That’s what we talked about as soon as I got on those Zooms.”