We don't really listen to what everyone else says. Our job this year is to make the [NCAA] Tournament, win as many games as possible, and try to do exactly what we did last year. Just because we don't have the depth or the talent that we had last year - anything can happen in the game of basketball. There are ebbs and flows to the game. You have to go out and play hard, and anything can happen on any given day. We'll play every game and see how it turns out.
Sean May told me that he has really seen a lot out of you in terms of leadership and taking charge - getting guys together to work out, play pick-up games, and things like that. When did that start, what made you feel that way, and was it a conscious effort, or did it just come about?
It was both. From the day I knew everyone was leaving, a lot of responsibility was falling into our hands. Last year, we really didn't have a set leader of the team. Was it Ray? Was it Sean, with the way he was playing? Is it Coach Williams? This year it is definitely me, no if's, and's, or but's about that. I knew it was me, and I've known since everyone made their decisions [ to go to the NBA Draft]. It was up to me to get guys together, get them familiar with each other, and get us playing.
What tangible things have you done that lets people know you are the leader?
Being in the weight room, being out here playing pick-up every chance we get, when we have enough players. Even when we don't, we play four on four, we run 33's to get into shape for the practices we've had. I'm just trying to let everyone know that this is serious. This is not going to be an 8-20 year like everyone thinks. We are going to go out and play Carolina basketball like we have always done and try to hold onto this legacy.
After losing so many player, maybe nine or 10, and bringing in five, you have fewer players on the team. That means by default that some of those freshmen are going to have to play. What are you telling them?
I'm telling them to just take one game at a time. You are going to hit a wall where you feel like 'Man, I'm having the worst day of my life. I don't really feel like playing basketball today.' You are going to hit those walls - that happens in life, period. You have to be willing to overcome that and be the player you know you can be. If you feel like you are having a bad day, do something about it. Get in the gym and work on the things that you need to work on to help the team. It will be something big that we have to do the entire year.
I understand that Marcus Ginyard plays pretty good defense.
Yeah, but he's hurt right now. He broke his wrist so he is out right now and won't be playing with us [in the Bahamas]. But he will be an asset to this team [when he gets healthy].
Is he the only one who is not playing?
For all the ones who are playing, how important is this trip as far as just getting to play together?
It's very important. It's definitely going to get us familiar with each other in a real game setting. It's going to help with team chemistry, just being around each other this early in the season. Most of the time you aren't around each other this much in the early part of the year.
What is the difference between practicing together and playing together in a game?
There is more intensity [in the games], you are doing things the right way instead of falling into bad habits like you do in pick-up games. It's definitely a situation where we are going to help [the freshmen] help us.
Michael Copeland was a late comer. What has been your impression of him so far?
He is definitely an extra body - a big body on top of that. He has played in some big-time games, and he is a big-time player, so we are definitely going to need him with us, and he will add to the team.
When did Marcus get hurt?
I think he got hurt second session of summer school. He went home, and they are just now being able to look at it and find out it was broken.
Was it during pick-up games?
It may have been. I wasn't here when it happened. They said he fell off the rim and caught himself. He landed a little wrong.
Have you ever been to the Bahamas before?
No. It's going to be a fun trip, and we're going to try to enjoy it as much as we can.
Will you all get some free time?
Yeah, we'll get a little bit of free time down there because Coach is not really stressing as much as he will be in October. It's definitely a situation where we are going to go out there and be able to get familiar with each other. It will be a head start for the freshmen, and that is basically what this trip is for.
Tyler Hansbrough is the most highly touted of the freshmen. What have you seen from him so far?
He's a beast. That boy gets it done. He's a rebounder, he goes hard every play, he runs the floor, he does it all. He is definitely a key ingredient for this team this year.
Jesse Holley told me on the football field last week that Tyler dunked on Jerry Stackhouse this summer, but Jerry Stackhouse denied it. Did you see that, or did you hear about it?
I wasn't there, and I didn't even hear about it. Jesse might be lying - you know how Jesse is. He'll shoot you one every once in a while.
You mentioned that Tyler Hansbrough is a beast. Can you break down the other freshmen?
Bobby [Frasor] is your basic point guard. He definitely gets it done. He's a head fake type guy with a one dribble pull up, the crafty guy who gets the ball down the court and into the post to run the offense. He's something like a John Stockton.
You've got Danny [Green] who is a shooter that can go right or left. He's ambidextrous, he can do it all.
Then you've got Marcus who is almost like Jackie Manuel in a sense with his defense. He can also put the ball on the floor and put it in the hoop.
Are you ready for your expanded role on the floor?
Yeah, definitely. I worked 10 times as hard as I have in the past, this summer. I definitely think this is a good opportunity for me to show everyone what I can do. I'm just going to go out and do the best I can.
You've talked about leadership. What have you added?
A lot. I've taken trips, listened to people, some of my old teammates are in the league now. They have given me some tools to use, and I've talked to some of the older guys like Antawn [Jamison], [Jerry] Stackhouse and those guys to learn what I need to do to be able to lead this team. I'm taking that serious.
How does that work, getting information from the older guys?
You ask and you receive. If you are serious about what you want to do, you'll do everything you can in your power to get the knowledge and the skills to do that. I was asking Sean - I know I'm going to play in the post a lot this year since our depth is gone - about some of the moves that he made that got him open the most. I've been working on that, my jumper, and my ball-handling with Raymond [Felton] and Wes [Miller].
Have you decided what you are going to do in the Bahamas?
I just want to win those games. Secondly, I want to spend all my time in casinos. If they've got poker, I'm definitely on that, blackjack, craps, whatever they have, I'm there.
Are you guys allowed to gamble?
What about NCAA rules?
I don't know. As long as you aren't betting on the games.
When did you find out about the trip?
I was in Oakland in early summer, so it was probably right after the first session of summer school. We found out about it because I was actually in Oakland with Quentin [Thomas]. We were out there working out and tripping out with him. They gave us a call and we knew it would definitely be something good for us.
What was your reaction?
I was like 'Oh, yeah!' I've never been to the Bahamas. I was ready to get it on.
We saw the videos of you snorkeling in Hawaii last year. Are you going to try that again?
Maybe this year, because we don't have some of the silly guys on our team throwing bread in the water, trying to get people ate up. I may try it one more time, but if that happens again, I will never go into the water again.
What don't people know about your game that you will show them over the next five or six months?
I don't know - I've added a lot. My hustle will always be there. I've got my legs back so a lot of people will probably get dunked on this year. It's going to be a different role for me as far as being here. I'm going to adapt to the role I had in high school.
Does the addition of Michael Copeland allow you to move back out to the perimeter some?
With the addition of him, I'll probably be able to come out of the post more, but right now I'm definitely in the post.
We are doing some [other] things to change up our offense a little bit, like we are going to try a four-around-one deal, keeping the four-man out of there, keeping me on the wing a little bit more. Power forwards are definitely going to have a little bit of trouble guarding me, so we are going to try to exploit that match-up.
So basically, you are going to play some four out, one in? Who will be the "one," the post player in that offense?
Byron [Sanders], Damion Grant, Tyler, those guys. We'll get it into them and screen away for each other to get each other open. Hopefully, we can make some good cuts and get some easy lay-ups. That is what we have to rely on this year.
Quentin said that last year he was doing what he had to do, and this year he is doing what he needs to do. In your opinion, what does he need to do?
He's definitely going to have to help us score. He's going to have to control the tempo of the game. He's definitely going to have to lock down on defense. And those are all things that he does well, anyway. He just has to do those things even better. Quentin is a great point guard. He is going to help carry the team this year, and he is going to be one of the key ingredients for our success this year.
What have you seen out of him in practice the last few day that maybe we didn't see last year?
A lot! It's sort of hard to say - I know when games start, that's when it counts. You have so much pressure in those situations. You can play freely in pick-up and those games, but when you have to play differently in games, it takes away from what you can do.
But this year he has been able to do a lot of things that he's accustomed to doing. He's been able to dribble. He's been able to get out on the break and go. He's scoring a lot more - something you never would have seen out of him last year. He was pass first, pass second, pass third. This year, he is pass first, and I'm going to shoot the ball second, and that is something we need him to do.
How important is it to have a healthy Damion Grant?
It's going to be big for us. He's been hurt for the last couple of years. Injuries have nagged him. He just has to do whatever he can to stay healthy for us because we need him this year, inside blocking shots, dunking on people, and getting rebounds. Hopefully, he can stay in shape and stay healthy, and he'll be a force to be reckoned with.
Can he play the pace Coach Williams wants to play?
Last year, he did a great job of getting in shape. He was ready to go, but then he got the foot injury. I think, by October, he will do the necessary things to do to be able to play at that pace, at least for 20 minutes.
Are the freshmen even close to being ready to run like last year?
Aah - It's - You can never be ready to run like that. That is tough to do. Last year we were able to do it a lot because of our depth. This year we are going to run as much as we can. We may have to slow it down every once in a while. But at the same time, we want to push the ball to get some easy buckets. As far as the freshmen, they are doing a good job of it right now, and they are not anywhere near the shape they will be in in October. I think they will be ready.
Out of all the positions, is point guard any harder to fill?
I think so because he is the floor general, he is the guy that the offense runs through, he is the guy that makes most of the decisions on the floor. That is a position that has to be filled by someone who is capable of doing all those things at the same time, and I think Quentin is definitely capable of doing it.