How is the rivalry with N.C. State changing now that they are being viewed differently?
“I feel like that change is great for the fans that are in state and the Triangle area. Personally, I feel like these are three great programs that definitely have three great coaches and three great teams that are capable of winning games. I feel like N.C. State is having a great year and are going to have a great year.
“North Carolina is still North Carolina basketball. We’re still moving on as well as Duke so I feel like it’s going to be a great season for the fans to experience. Anybody is capable of winning the games, N.C. State, Duke or North Carolina.”
Is there a sense of calmness around the team this year, because the there are not as high of expectations compared to last year?
“I don’t feel like it is calmer at all. I feel like we still have the bull’s-eye on our back. Everybody wants to see how Carolina is going to bounce back from losing four starters to the NBA. I feel like for me and [James Michael McAdoo] it’s going to be a big year for us to step up and be able to lead the young guys. The experience coming back from Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald is going to mean a lot to help lead this team to successful things.”
What is there anything about this season that excites you more than previous season?
“I feel like this year we’re just all together. Nobody has any pressure on them. I feel like everybody has to step up in some type of category. From the freshmen coming in and playing spot minutes just to rebound. I feel like Marcus [Paige] is going to have things that need to be done. I feel like I have things that need to be done. James has things that need to be done. I feel like everybody has got to step up and I feel like there is no pressure on anybody, but I think it’s more of a unique season. Everybody is together just willing to overcome adversity together.”
Have you practiced any scenarios where you play the four position at all?
“We haven’t done or put in anything where I play a little four, but if coach wants me to play that position I would definitely play it, because by me being a true two or three-guard I feel like if you play me at the four, there shouldn’t be a four that can stop me or contain me from getting to the basket. If you put me at the four position I know it will definitely be a challenge for me to defend them, but I would definitely do anything and try to stop them to the best of my abilities.”
What do you tell the freshmen who have to come in and produce immediately to help the team?
“I believe they know that they have to come in and play immediate minutes for us so I’m pretty sure all of them are ready to step up to the challenge. For Marcus, we consider him the leader of this team, because he’s the one that runs the offense as the point guard of the team. I just feel like all of them know what they are capable of and they all have their individual meetings with coach and coach told them exactly what he wants from them so I’m sure they’re ready to step up to the challenge.”
What is the biggest difference for you from last year at this time to right now?
“I just think my head is one straight and I know what to expect. Last year I was just out there like a chicken with his head cut off. This year I just feel like I’m so much more at ease. Practice is so much more enjoyable and I never thought I’d say that. I feel like I am getting better every day and not only me, but I feel like I am helping my teammates, especially the freshmen and we’re actually enjoying this process, because last year we kind of had a backseat role on the team, but this year it is our team. It’s ours for the taking and that’s really just helped me, especially off the court with my confidence in the classroom just trying to do [better].”
How has Marcus Paige looked so far? He arguably has the most important role of any freshman in the ACC.
“You could say that. He’s looked great. He’s got a great head on his shoulders and that’s really helped him. He’s definitely coach Roy [Williams] extension out there on the court with us. We’ve only practiced four days, but he’s grasping the offense and he’s really coming into his own and that’s really something that we’ve been working on this summer. We’re not just throwing him in the fire right now. He’s definitely just been coming along slowly and it’ll be a process the first couple of games, maybe longer than that where he has to really find his niche and find what we know he’s best at doing.”
Do you feel like you have to carry this team?
“I am not going to put that pressure on myself to carry the team, but some games I might have to do a little bit more and some games I might have to do a little bit less. That’s something I’m trying to do and work on every day in practice. I’m not going to put that pressure on myself and the coaches aren’t going to put that on me, but as long as I go out there and do what I know I am capable of doing we’ll be fine.”
Who do you expect to start alongside you in the frontcourt this year?
“I think Joel [James] will start. I think me and Joel and Desmond [Hubert] will all play in the rotation.”
Do you look at NC State differently now that they are predicted to win the ACC?
"No. We never really looked at them before, so we're not looking at them now. We just look at ourselves. We're just worried about UNC basketball and when the time comes for us to play them, we'll go over the scouting report. We're going to play them no matter if they're ranked No. 1 in the nation or not even ranked in the top-25. We're still going to treat them as the same basketball team."
Has the rivalry changed?
"For me personally I don't know. I didn't really necessarily think that we were rivals. I thought Duke was always our rival. I didn't know you could have two rivalries. They're a great team and I think they'll be phenomenal this year. I think it's great for the ACC to have such great talent and it's just going to make the ACC regular
season more competitive and the tournament."
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