Our guys are trying to learn how to cut down nets and hopefully we get to do that a few times this year. I said this the other day, how proud I am of the guys.
Jawad Williams, the guy who doesn't get a trophy for All-Tournament or anything like that but his defense in the last two days has been terrific.
And his leadership and selflessness, it's just what Carolina basketball is all about. To be here in Madison Square Garden in New York City, winning the Preseason NIT. For a kid to grow up in Long Island is pretty damn special. So I am just proud of our team. Very fortunate and hopefully we can continue to grow. We played well and I think Stanford didn't make a lot of shots but I still think we could even play better, knock on wood.
On if he's surprised at how quickly UNC has come together
I don't know. I have been asked that question and I don't know if "surprised" is a good word. Happy? I don't want to say surprised because that's -- that's something most people didn't think we were going to beat -- David Cason (UNC Director of Basketball Operations) and most people didn't think we were going to win this tournament. I am proud of our guys. They can really play basketball. It's just a good team because Sean May didn't have his best game. Rashad, although he scored 18 points, got in some foul trouble. Jackie Manuel scored some points but his defense has really been special and guys coming off the bench are doing their thing. It's just been fun.
On the difference from last year
I think we can guard people a little bit better. Our team speed and quickness is pretty good. I think as a result every night you can count on good defense, you hope. Offensively you may turn the ball over, you may miss some shots, but the team may try to slow you down, throw in a zone, do whatever. But defense, you hope you can bring every night. Knock on wood, we have been pretty good defensively most of the games we played.
On how this team has chemistry in many areas
I think we have good kids. You try to not only recruit talented players but kids with high character. Raymond Felton was highly touted as a recruit. He's a ‘Yes sir, no sir' kind of kid. Raymond is all about winning. When I talked with him in my preseason meetings I said, ‘What are your goals for this season?' Some kids would rattle off ‘I want to be all-ACC.' He says, ‘Coach, I just want to win.' That's pretty cool when a kid like Raymond tells you that. Sean May tells you the same thing. They just want to win. They are a competitive group.
It was a really good chance to bond over the summer. I think they played more pick up games this fall so they have a good feel for each other. They understand the game. They are smart players. They listen. They believe and those are basics in any relationship. Listening, my wife doesn't think I listen real well, but I hope, I trust and believe. But these kids listen. They trust us as coaches, and they believe in what we're trying to do with them.
On why they are so unafraid of playing so many minutes for such a storied program
I think that these kids are pretty special. They are not in awe. This is a stage against big teams and I think they enjoyed being in this situation.
On this being a mature team
I think they have certainly a maturity and a basketball maturity. Seam May knows how to play the game. Growing up his dad Scott May, he grew up around the game and has a great, great feel. Rashad has a great, great feel. Raymond has a great, great feel. The others – the sophomores and seniors, I think the sophomores have really grown. Jackie's defense has been fantastic. (Stanford's) Matt Lottich was 1-8, you know, and that was his (Manuel's) primary responsibility. He's had some tough players and Jackie is a guy that I wouldn't want guarding me.
Senior writer Andrew Jones is in his seventh year with Inside Carolina. He hosts a late afternoon radio show on ESPN Radio, WMFD AM630 in Wilmington and can be reached via e-mail at: AndrewJones@AM630.net.