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“I’m not trying to downplay what we’ve accomplished so far. In the first season, we’ve done very well. I’m pleased with what we’ve done so far. We haven’t really started playing the meat of our schedule.
On this week’s practices:
“Some have been refreshed by the whole thing. Monday was one of the best practices we’ve had all year. We had a very good practice yesterday. We’ve gotten some things accomplished, and the good news is, we’ve got two more days.
How is it to go into this game having played so well
“I don’t think it’s ever bad to win. Our players understand the level of competition is different than what we’ve played. I have no problems with that. We had a false start, a balk – at Virginia Tech. Now 15 conference games and UConn at UConn… competition is at the best it can be.
What has been better this year?
“The biggest part is that they are more familiar with what we wanted to do. That familiarity helps give them confidence. In some cases they’ve really worked hard in the off season. Sean May’s conditioning has been healthy for him, and Raymond improving his shooting.
On Jawad Williams’ improvement versus last year after his injury:
“He was shooting 57 percent before he got hurt. After he got hurt he shot 41 percent. You have to be healthy to play the game. He’s the most consistent player we have had in the preseason and the first five weeks of practice. The difference between winning or losing is so small and you can’t have those things in the game. He’s making shots at a higher rate than he was last year, but I think that’s confidence and working on your game.
Can you play defense well and play at a high rate of speed?
“I don’t think we’re playing very well on the defensive end. A good team can turn people over and hold them to a low shooting percentage. I don’t think we’ve done that very well yet.
On Raymond Felton’s injury:
“I haven’t had to hold him out. I have no idea. When he walks out there one day without that thing on, I’ll say, ‘You have a wrist.’
Has Jesse Holley practiced?
Jesse Holley and Brooks Foster came out and practiced [Wednesday].”
On better shooting:
“We’re taking better shots. The ball is definitely going inside more, and then coming out for the three-point shot. Raymond worked on his shot a lot this summer. Jawad has increased his depth on his shot. It’s the work we put in during the summer.
Why have you been able to play better this year?
“I just have a free mind. Just go out there and have fun. Last year, I can’t say I was having as much fun as I was last year. I’m just going out and doing what I can do best.
Do you think about the last game?
“We do it going into every game – forget about the last game. We are going in thinking about the things that happened starting off in conference last year. The way the games went last year…they were tough to deal with. We don’t want that memory.
How is the feel of the team?
“The feel is great. We’ve been with Coach Williams for two years now, and we understand what he wants from us. We’re more comfortable with what we’re supposed to do. Last year we would come into practices not knowing what to expect.
On Jawad Williams play this year?
“He’s the leader. Jawad has done everything imaginable that we could ask him to do as a senior leader. He’s doing all the necessary things to help this team and put his name out there for the next level.
What kind of leader is he?
“He’s just says little things on the court. He’ll help you through all the little bitty problems you have on the court. He doesn’t yell. It’s all the subtle things he does that really help this team.
Why is Maryland overlooked this year?
“I don’t know why they would be overlooked; they won the ACC championship last season. As far as us, we’re not overlooking them.”
How much faster can this team get?
“We are probably about as fast as we can get. More consistent – we can be. I hope it doesn’t get too much faster. He wants us to get teams out of the habit of playing us in half-court offense.
On the schedule:
“Besides the Virginia Tech game, all of our non-conference games are behind us. For me, the season is definitely in three parts. Kentucky could survive in this league, but a lot of our non-conference opponents couldn’t. We will go a lot harder. We’ve done a great job of doing the things that [Coach Williams] wants.
What’s better about this team than last year?
“The thing with this team is everyone is so much more unselfish. We throw the ball back out and everybody’s field goal percentage is up from last year. It’s another year under Coach and more confidence.
“The camaraderie on the team is so much better than last year. Last year we didn’t have 10 guys hanging out at Jawad and Melvin’s house playing video games. Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison told us how that reflects on how we play on the court.
Thoughts on Maryland and the ACC season:
“They have a big guy – a big banger, Travis Garrison is very good, Nik Caner-Medley is hard to match-up against. I learned a lot from my mistakes last year in the league at Maryland. I remember everything about last year at Maryland. I didn’t play bad offensively, but Jamar Smith was just getting everything that he wanted. It was just a headache playing up there. I learned a lot and I try to remember and reflect and hopefully the outcome will be different this time.
“We’re the same ball club with the addition of Marvin [Williams] and ‘Q’ [Quentin Thomas)], but last year we didn’t play well on the road, and teams like Wake coming into our building and spoiling our Christmas…we remember those things.
What type of leader is Jawad Williams?
“He let’s his actions speak for himself. He doesn’t say too much, but when he does, you better listen. He got on me at Maryland last year and said there is no way Jamar should be able to do that to a player like me.”