Coach Williams said that this week there will be some two-a-days and it will be a real time to focus on improving and getting ready for what will be a difficult schedule from here to the end. What are your thoughts on that and what do you need to accomplish this week?
I think it is an important, especially as far as focus and preparation for the ACC play, but I think the most important thing is taking it day by day and concentrating on details and getting better as a team.
How have you guys improved over the years, as you've matured, gotten better at realizing the importance of practice and working hard there?
I think in practice everyone knows who can do what on the floor. When it is a game situation and it is game time certain players just really sacrifice their abilities for the team and make the team better. I think that is what you don't really see in the game, which you do see in practice--which is a lot of guys just playing together and sharing the ball and things like that. Once we can carry that over, we'll be unstoppable.
Do you feel like you shared the ball today? The stats seem to bare that out with 27 assists on 35 baskets.
I guess so. That sounds like sharing the ball to me.
Did it feel like that out there?
It doesn't matter what it feels like; it looked good.
How have you gotten better over the years at practicing and realizing the importance of that, individually?
Practice is just always going to be practice as far as making sure you don't ever take your opponents for granted and just going in there and having that same grit and that same intensity everyday, every moment. I think if you can carry over what you do in practice to the game that practice will be the game and the games will be practice.
Is that the end of taking teams for granted, with the stretch you have coming up now?
We definitely won't be able to sleep on anybody, especially in ACC play. Our next 15, 16 games are really, really tough. I think as far as focus and concentration, we need to be at the top of our game.
The teams you guys are playing against are going to get a lot tougher now. Did you come in with a certain mind-set today to continue to elevate your game?
Definitely. 'Just get better' was the main focus for this team, defensively, offensively, executing, things like that. So that was our biggest key, and I think we took a large step in getting it done.
What do you have to continue to do to get better. Obviously, things get a lot tougher from here on out.
We are going back to the basics. We have practice Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Like Coach said, it is going to be basically boot camp, going back to defensive stations, going back to all the things that we started off with at the beginning of the year. I think that is going to help us out a lot and get us prepared.
Is that something you look forward to, or would you rather have a game in the middle of the week?
I think players would rather have a game in the middle of the week. But now is a time that we have to look at practice as fun, as well. In doing that, we are going to come to practice and do the best that we can to get better and get prepared for Maryland.
On game day, you've got the band, the fans, the video board--there is a lot of energy. Do you think the team approaches practices with the same energy that they approach games?
I think so. Sometimes, we approach practice with even more energy because in practice, if we mess up, we might get on that line [to run]. We come out sometimes more hyper in practice than we do in games. But, I definitely think this is going to be a week where we are going to have to come out with a lot of energy in practice and want to get better. When you do that, the week will go by so fast that we won't even realize that we had all those days of practice.
What do you think the team needs to work on the most and what do you expect the coaches say needs the most work?
The basics, and that is the same way I feel. We need to work on the basics, going back to boxing out, going back to getting around screens, going back to talking on defense, just all the little things that can help us out a whole lot.
You all are really getting into the meat of your schedule this coming this week. What does it mean to get to that part of the year?
Virginia Tech is a quality basketball club, but they are not what the real ACC is about yet. Their first year, they are going to experience some highs and some lows, but the Marylands, the Dukes, Wake Forests, Georgia Techs, [NC] States are the teams that everybody who grows up as a kid wants to come to the ACC to play those games.
We are looking forward to it. We have a tough next 15 games, so we are going to continue to work at it each and every day, an this next week is going to prepare us for it.
What do you expect this next week in practice?
Just some of the stuff that we did in the beginning, getting back to defensive principles, some of the defensive stations that we go through everyday. I'm sure we will probably have a practice solely on defense. Coach is going to continue to continue to preach that if we are going to win, that is what defense is going to do. Defense is going to get us to that point, so we have to continue to work on that, and I think that is what the next four days is going to be about.
Do you expect any practices with no rims?
I hope not. That was fun in the beginning, but we have to get some shots up. We love seeing the ball go through the hole, but Coach might throw a curve ball at us and do that so we will be ready for it if he does. We know what to expect now.
Were you surprised that this team was able to hang around with you for 15 minutes in the first half?
They are a good ball team. One of the reasons was that we started running our traps at them, and they were getting a lot of open looks, lay-ups, jump shots. As soon as we went strictly man-to-man and put a little pressure on the backcourt, we had an eight-minute stretch where we were just really good. We have to continue to get there. Ray said 'Hey, not traps,' just go bread and butter '22' defense and let's get it done. From then on it was lights out. We took over the game.
How excited are you to begin ACC play?
I'm extremely excited just for the fact that it is another chance for us to show everybody that Carolina Basketball is back when you start playing the good teams. Everybody loves seeing us get 100 points against Williams & Mary, but they want to see us beat good quality ball clubs, and that is what it's about.
With the emergence of 'Q'[uentin Thomas]--he's struggling a little bit--Marvin is playing extremely well, Melvin [Scott] is coming off the bench, we are probably one of the deepest teams in the country. I think I am averaging 21 minutes per game, which is great. I'm fresh getting into ACC play. I think that is how this team feels--we are really fresh and looking forward to getting after it.