Joel James Q&A

Joel James Q&A

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Following North Carolina's season-opening win over Gardner-Webb on Friday night, freshman Joel James conducted his first interview as a Tar Heel ...

Listen to Interview (4:34)

Your first taste of regular season basketball, what was it like?

"It was a great learning experience. Coach has been preaching that this is it - it counts now - so I'd say it was a good opening game. A nice game to get our feet wet, but obviously there are a lot of improvements for me to make."

What'd you think when you found out you'd start the second half?

"You never want to get too excited, or you might burn out in five seconds. But you try to keep a level head and focus on the task at hand that Coach gives you. But it was definitely exciting, I'm not going to lie. I just tried to go out and play basketball."

There was the play early where you got a basket and then a steal on the other end and the crowd recognized it. What were those first cheers like?

"That was great. I thought that was what I needed to get going, but then I picked up a foul and once you get into foul trouble it's hard to get a rhythm. But it was good for the team and sparked them a little bit."

What did you learn from your first game?

"What did I learn? Don't jump at everything. Coach pulled me aside and told me I'm a big player so when I jump up and swipe down it'll look like a foul. So I've got to play to the refs and be smart."

Do you think you're more of a target for the refs because you are so big?

"Yes and no. I try to be nice and butter them up as much as I can. But because I'm so big and strong, a lot of things that aren't really fouls tend to be fouls because I push people around."

What has the Carolina experience been like for you so far? This is the first chance we've gotten to interview you since you enrolled ...

"It's nice. ... It's a bit overwhelming. Obviously, I'm sweating, I'm nervous because there are all these cameras and people crowding around me. I feel like I'm the President right now."

How many of your four fouls were actually fouls?

"Fouls? You want to know the honest truth? None."

Moving forward, what do you need to do to cut down on those fouls?

"Coach is always talking about position. You have to be early, slide over early - get in position to stop the guy outside the lane. So that's what I plan to do coming into practice tomorrow, focusing on stopping the guy outside the lane before the guy makes it to the rim."

You worked really hard your senior year of high school to get your body ready for college. Can you see the benefits of all that work here now?

"Definitely. ... I don't ever want to get complacent and say 'I'm here.' No, I'm not there. I know there is tons of room for improvement and basketball is a game of constantly improving. I feel like that was one small step and there is so much more to my game I need to do."

What's the next step?

"Stay out of foul trouble. Play to my strengths and be able to dominate the game mentally and physically."

Collectively as a freshman class, how nervous were you all?

"We joke around, but obviously there is nothing you can do until you hit your first bucket to calm you down. As a class I'd say we're pretty settled, I guess you could say. Marcus has a good demeanor about himself and carries himself well. J.P. is always a jokester. Brice is just Brice - we call him 'Easy B.' He plays a slow pace but he finds a way to get easy buckets and that's his game. And I'm just a big bruiser inside. We complement each other. "

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