WKU hoops: Steffphon Pettigrew, Ken McDonald talk Senior Night

22 02 2011

Western Kentucky senior forward Steffphon Pettigrew and coach Ken McDonald met with the media this afternoon to discuss Thursday’s home tilt against FIU.

The game’s not only noteworthy due to its Sun Belt Tournament implications, but also because it’s the final home game of the season – meaning it’s the final time seniors Pettigrew, Sergio Kerusch and Juan Pattillo will play at E.A. Diddle Arena.

As WKU’s lone four-year senior, Pettigrew discussed the moment:

On the moment of Senior Night in general:

“It feels like I just got here. I was talking with Jim McDaniels (recently) and he was saying how he couldn’t believe how quick my four years went by. Me and Sergio talk all the time about how this will be our last home game, and we’ve just got to go out one more time and leave it all on the court.”

“I think it’ll all hit me right after the game, knowing you’ll never play in Diddle again. … It’s just like high school in my last game, the emotions hit you right after that last buzzer. I remember my senior year in high school I broke down with tears – hopefully I won’t cry again, but it’ll be an emotional night.”

On what playing in E.A. Diddle Arena for four years has meant to him:

“It’s meant a lot, I’ve played with some great players here – Courtney Lee, Tyrone (Brazelton), A.J. (Slaughter) and Jeremy (Evans) – to be a part of this program means a lot to me. To be able to walk around campus and walk around on the street and know you can wear WKU on your chest means a lot.

“For future recruits that come here – there’s nothing like WKU. I remember coming here on my visit, surrounded by great players like Courtney and those guys who brought me into the program. This place means a lot and I’m going to miss it a lot.”

On still having a chance to get back to the NCAA Tournament:

“Me, Sergio and Juan keep talking about trying to get this two seed, playing three games instead of four. We’ll go out there and still play every one of those games like they’re our last – and hopefully get back to the NCAA Tournament.

“With everything that’s gone on this season, for us to have been playing the way we have means a lot. We’ve been playing good team ball over the past couple weeks, even though we didn’t win at Lafayette – that second half showed that we can still play with the best of them. We just have to keep being more consistent.”

Earlier in the season, Pettigrew said he wanted to leave the floor at Diddle the final time with no regrets about his senior season or his entire career – Pettigrew on whether or not he feels he’s accomplished that:

“Most definitely. I try to give everything I have in practice and in games and I believe WKU fans see that. That’s one thing I want to leave behind once I’m gone.

“Hopefully the fans see how hard I worked on how I didn’t give up – and hopefully I’ll be remembered by that.”

 

Coach Ken McDonald

On Senior Night:

“The more you know guys and the more time you invest and get to spend more years with players you truly value the time you had with guys. We’re in this business to teach and help guys get better. In each instance, with each guy, I’m proud of how they’ve matured and developed individually. We’ve gone through ups and downs but at the end of the day they’re finishing strong and I’m proud about that. We’ll miss these guys and they’ve done a lot.

“This front line is one of the most feared in our conference and sometimes they probably miss out because they’re fighting with each other (for points or rebounds). You’ve got a guy that’s been here four years, one three and one that’s played just one – and I’m really happy with how they’re finishing out.”

On Steffphon Pettigrew, the team’s lone four-year senior:

“When you have a chance to run your own program, you want a certain thing to be the reflection of how your program is. You cannot find a better example of what you want in your product – everything about us, all the positives and work ethic – and everything you want your fans walking away talking about – Pett is that person.

“He’s been like that from day one. The more guys we can get like him (the better), and with our incoming class we feel like we’re getting that type of guy. It says a lot about Steff and it says a lot about his family, his upbringing and what he’s willing to do for our program. He plays out of position and works on his game every single year. He’s had a terrific career.

“He does everything you ask. He’s never a problem. He’s two feet in. He’s been like that since day one. He’s competitive, he’s hungry for improvement and coaching. He’s a joy to coach. I’ll talk about other players sometimes and say ‘he’s the guard version of Steffphon Pettigrew’ or he’s the ‘wing version of Steffphon Pettigrew.’ And that’s a true compliment, because that’s a kid that has the toughness and understands the team concept and the work ethic you need to be successful.”

On the three seniors overall:

“I’m most proud that they’re still in position to finish this season out the way they wanted to – winning a conference title and going to the NCAA Tournament. That wasn’t the outlook two and a half months ago.

“It shows a lot about them character-wise, they’ve all improved in different ways. A lot of times being a college athlete isn’t easy and we assume it is. We all see the 40 minutes under the bright lights, but that’s the fun part.

“They’ve all improved. Pett, we know his story. Sergio started off not as good as we’d hoped, but has turned the corner. He’s averaging about 18 and 10 in conference play and I don’t know when the last time that’s happened with a Western Kentucky player. I bet there’s not a lot of them.

“Juan has come a long way, he really has. On and off the court he’s matured. There’s a willingness on his part to accept what we’re doing. He’s got a different past and a different upbringing. Those challenges he’s faced in his life – who knows if I’d be here if I had to deal with some of the things he’s dealt with. It says a lot about him that he’s been able to come in and adjust to what we’re doing.

“I’m proud of all of them. There’s a lot of production and a lot of memories with these guys that will be leaving.”

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