Listen to Audio (5:43)
Can you talk about John (Henson’s) passing the last couple of games and his development in that regard and what it means to this team for him to do that kind of thing?
You know it’s strange, when I saw John in high school I thought, ‘Boy, he’s going to be really a good passer.’ He has a feel for it, he has a knack for it, he has a flair for it. He didn’t show that the first two years, but he has—he’d have moments he’d have a big-time pass, but nothing like what he’s doing now. So, I just think he’s getting more settled, more experience, more comfortable. Needless to say, if he’d mad a dadgum bounce pass to (Tyler) Z(eller) the last time, he’d have had seven assists instead of just six—that’s what I told him. He had some great passes last game. I think he was 3 (assists), 0 (turnovers)—he might have been 3-1. That helps us.
What did you say at halftime about defense, and what did you think about the second half?
I chewed their rear ends out because I didn’t think we were very good defensively guarding the ball in the first half. It’s pretty simple—if you are not going to deny the pass, that means that you are off the guy. If you are off the guy, he shouldn’t drive you straight to the dadgum basket. I got after them a little bit. It’s an easy game. You’ve got to guard your man so everybody doesn’t have to spend all day helping you. If you do that, you have a chance to be really good.
I used Coach Haase, he said something to them, I used him as an example. I think I’m right on this—you can look it up and tell me if I’m wrong but I think I’m right—we didn’t have to help anybody. Jarrod guarded the ball, Jacque (Vaughan) guarded the ball and we led the entire nation in defensive field goal percentage at 37 percent per game. This team has got to do a better job guarding the basketball. If we do—we have shot-blockers back there—it will be hard for the other team to shoot an effective percentage against us. That was basically the whole thing.
We were silly at the last play. We always say we do a great job of execution the last play. Kendall (Marshall) goes in and gets it to Dexter. He shouldn’t have been in there. He should have been out on the wing. We turn it over and give up a layup on the other end, but it was more just about guarding the ball.
How many different ways do you envision this team defending because of what Tyler and John bring—do you want to play in-your-face, half-court defense?
Yeah, that’s what we do. Cory Pavin can’t hit it as far as Tiger Woods so he should try. It’s what we do, and it’s been pretty successful, and the kids can do it. Our abilities fit that. Kendall is not the quickest point guard that ever lived, and so we make some changes and put Dexter on the quickest guy. Kendall’s got to get around screens. Kendall is really smart defensively. If he starts doing that and uses that more—it’s a little bit like Larry Bird. Larry wasn’t the greatest athlete, but he was a really good defender because he saw what the team was trying to do and tried to fit into that.
Listen to Audio (3:32)
How big did the basket feel tonight?
I just had to come out and play my game. I’m a shooter, so I know I just catch and shoot and not think about it. First couple of games I was thinking about my shots too much. I know coming off the bench, I’ve just got to bring something to add to this team. I know my shooting ability will open up the floor for John and Z inside the paint, so I know I just had to bring that tonight.
To get that first big game out of the way, does it ease your mind a little bit or a little bit of a relief?
Yeah, it’s a big relief because I’ve just been thinking about my shot so much. I just need to make shots; that’s what I’m here for, so I just came out tonight and just I’m just not thinking about it anymore. I’m just catching and shooting from now on.
Coach mentioned you hitting four (three’s) against B(oston) C(ollege) and then kind of disappearing after that. What’s the key to keeping this going?
Just being more confident—coming out starting on the defensive end, getting steals, leak-outs, just playing as a team. Once I start getting rolling on the defensive end my offense will come.
The summer before last you looked really confident in the Pro-Am league. And then the injury really seemed to set you back. How have you gained confidence?
Just working out with my trainers here. I’m getting my knee stronger so I can move laterally [well] on the defensive end. Just building up my defense. That’s what I want to bring to the team this year—points off the bench and my defense and intensity when I come in. Those are some of the things I worked out. Jackie (Manuel), he helped me out a lot on defense, telling me things I need to do by staying low, so I just listen to a lot of people around here to help improve my game.
Listen to Audio (3:13)
Did you know how close you were to the triple-double the whole time?
You know, triple-doubles are few and far between so for a triple-double you really have to get ahead of the time on the clock. I didn’t really do that, but it’s always in the back of your mind.
So when you made that pass to Z you knew what you were doing?
Oh yeah, yeah. I wanted to get my assists up. To be honest with you, that’s what I was trying to do in the second half.
All kidding aside, a career high in assists. Have you become a better passer or are you just a more conscious passer?
Umm yeah, you know, I think just hitting the open man is just something that Coach preaches all the time, and it is something that’s very easy to do. You’ve just got to do it, and I think I’ve got a little gift for that as well.
After you threw that pass, Coach looked at you and said, ‘You should throw a bounce pass,’ and you nodded like you knew that. Have you ever done that?
Yeah, I mean, a bounce pass is something we always do, and if I would have had a less flashier, just a bounce pass he would have dunked it, but I think that’s just the culture of things—just whip it in there. I’ve been watching Kendall for so long I thought I could do it myself.
Something Z talked about in the preseason is the chemistry you and he are developing. Talk about that chemistry and how you all understand (each other).
Z knows me, I know him, you know, especially when Z is not getting the touches I try to get him the touches. He does the same for me, and I think it’s a great little combination we have. Hopefully, this last year we are together we can be something special.
Listen to Audio (4:14)
Speaking of which, when this team makes that so-called extra pass for the best possible bucket, how hard does it make you all to be beaten? You could see it tonight, and the score (margin) went up and down. When you all passed that ball for the best shots, your lead just went up, and when people took quick ones it shrank.
Yeah, you know, I think that just takes the backbone out of the other team. They are trying to close out on defense, they think they have closed out on the shot you are going to take, and they are going to get a hand up. You make that extra pass for a wide open jump shot and we knock it down, I think it kills the other team. I think that is something that is going to be great for us, something that is going to work in our favor, how unselfish we are.
Were you impressed by some of those passes John had today?
Actually, I’m not because I see him make those passes a lot. Like I said, John has great vision for a big man, and it doesn’t surprise me to see him make those plays during a game because I see him make them in practice.
The third 15-or-greater assist game. No other player at Carolina has had more than one and you have done that in only 24 starts. What is your feeling about that?
I give all the credit to my teammates. Obviously, they have to make the shots.. I just give them the ball. If I throw it to Reggie (Bullock) on the wing I can’t shoot the ball for him. He’s hitting those shots. If I throw it to Z and John on the block, I can’t make those jump hooks for them. They are making those shots so at the end of the day all I’m doing is giving my the teammates the ball in a position where hopefully they can be successful and they are doing the hard part.
John said he came to you to let you know how many assists you had. What was that exchange like?
He was keeping me updated the whole game. At halftime he came to me and was like, ‘C’mon, Kendall, you’ve got 10 already.’ I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ He was like, ‘Ten, you might as well get 20 assists.’ Then he was like, ‘C’mon, you’ve got 15. I need one more rebound for that double-double.’ So we started having fun with it toward the end of the game and I wanted to get that 18 and chase Ray—have something I could talk trash to him about. But at the end of the day, like I said, when Coach took me out, that’s valuable in-game experience.