When you were all watching the selection show together last night and UNC didn't come up, what was the reaction?
We were all a little disappointed. We had a meeting, gathered up and made plans for the NIT.
Did you really think you had a chance to make the NCAAs?
I thought we had a chance because of the big wins we had. We were hoping, you always want to wish for the best.
Do you feel there's a letdown at all or is the NIT something you're all really excited about?
A little disappointment not to get in the tournament, but we have postseason play and we're a very young team – we've got an opportunity to work on our chemistry and prepare for next year.
How important is it to get a chance to readjust to playing with Sean May now instead of next year?
It's important to start early so we can get that chemistry back with him, get him flowing back into the game, back playing with us, just getting used to playing together like before at the beginning of the season. It just feels good to have him back apart of the team because we missed him most of the year. Just to have him back is a big plus.
Talk about adjusting to having to play without Sean this year?
It's something you have to do, like an animal has to adapt to its environment. I think everyone on the team just adapted because it was something we had to do. Just like an animal needs to do it to survive. That's what we did. Guys that didn't think they'd play a lot of minutes started starting and we just needed the whole team to step up. Many times this year guys stepped up.
What kind of environment do you expect tomorrow night?
I think we'll have great support from the fans. We were disappointed not being in the tournament, but we've just got to look on the bright side. Postseason play is better for the team because we're so young.
If it's a smaller crowd do you think it'll take something out of you guys?
We have to be mature about this. Coach talked to us about it and we talked as a team. Just have to be mature about it and take something positive from it.
Was there any discussion of not playing in the NIT?
Coach asked how we felt and the leaders, Jon and Will, they won't be here next year and even they said we should just focus on getting better. I respected them for that because they could have been selfish about it – like they don't care because they won't be here next year – but they made it clear that we need something like this to get better as a team and build our chemistry.
How do you get motivated for being in this tournament?
A lot of teams are not even playing postseason basketball. Just the opportunity to play and be around each other – we're great friends and it'll build a stronger bond between us. I just think you can get something positive out of this.
The team played so well against Maryland and turned around the next day and looked flat. What happened Saturday, in your mind, when you look back on it?
I don't want to use it as an excuse but I think we exerted a lot of energy in the Maryland game. After they beat us by 40 at Maryland, we didn't want that to happen again. So everybody gave up their emotions in that game and coming into the Duke game we were just overzealous having Sean back and we lost some focus – and I didn't think we played with the energy we played with in the Maryland game. They made big runs and we didn't answer them. I just didn't think we had the energy out there against Duke.
We're young and we're going to make mistakes. I think this postseason play is something that can help us in that direction by maturing and playing energetic each and every game.
Players talked of being emotionally and physically drained several weeks ago and since then have played some big games and the ACC Tournament, with the NIT on the horizon ..
It's been a roller coaster season. Ups and downs, highs and lows. I think a lot of guys were emotionally drained. Being so young and this being the first time going through some of this for the freshman, a lot of guys were emotionally drained. But like I said, this postseason can help us mature in those areas and get better in those areas.
How has this season been different from last year for you three sophomores?
Personally for me it's been different. I've been asked to be more patient this year as far as playing time and I've tried to make the best decision for the team and I've tried to be humble, but I think it's been very difficult for me to sacrifice minutes for the best of the team. But Jawad and Jackie, it's been tough for those guys also because of what we went through last year - we thought we were going to be going to the tournament our hopes were all up, but that's basketball – you win some, you lose some.
When you were being recruiting by UNC, did the NIT ever enter your mind?
Once Carolina stepped in the picture recruiting me, I told all the other schools, like, ‘Get out of here – I'm going to Carolina.' There was never a doubt in my mind that we would never make the NCAAs, especially my first year I never thought we'd lose 20 games. It was a nightmare. But, Carolina has long tradition and I'm confident we'll get back to the old ways and the old days.
For you this season, there was a point when your minutes decreased and your shots weren't falling. What turned it around the last few games?
Just my confidence. People thought I was in a drought when my minutes were dwindling because I was missing shots, but I thought it was just because I didn't play as much. Shooters need to be out there shooting, playing – not sitting. It's tough to hit shots from the bench. But I spoke to Coach and told him why I wasn't shooting well and he worked on getting me more time and I hit shots. One hand feeds the other I guess – if I make shots I'll be out there – but we just kind of clashed a couple of times and needed to come to an understanding about what we wanted from each other.
Talk about your improvement from your freshman season-
I learned from my freshman year and was eager to get better. Just my confidence. I love the game of basketball. Without that, life would be hard. That's the place where I go to relax and get away from life's struggles.
Being from Baltimore, had did it feel for you personally to beat Maryland?
It was a great feeling. Silence my critics back home, thinking whether I should have gone to Maryland or came here. My freshman year they tore us up and my friends were saying ‘You should have gone to Maryland, you would have had a ring by now.' And when they beat us by 40 my friends were laughing. But when we beat them Friday, I silenced some of my critics and showed a lot of people that I can play … at the University of North Carolina.
What were some of the things you guys did differently to beat Duke and Maryland?
The key to those wins was we played unselfishly and we played together. We knew we weren't going to beat teams like Maryland or Duke if we played one-on-one.
Is this NIT Tournament something you guys really want to do or is it something you guys just want to get over and done with?
Some guys are feeling they don't want to settle for the NIT, but the mature guys are trying to tell the young guys that this is something we have to do. This is the position we're in. Nobody should back out on this because we brought it upon ourselves as a team. I just think it'll help us in the long run. It's best for the team. We don't want to settle for this, but it's the hand we've been dealt so we've got to play this hand.
How far away do you think the program is, and what steps do you think need to be taken, to get it back to the top tier?
In this postseason play we just need to play hard, together and during the offseason we just need to work extremely hard and just focus on what we need to do … and learn from this year and put all the mistakes behind us. We're a great team – we showed we can beat anybody. It's just a matter of chemistry. This team has a bright future – we deal our own hand next year because we're so good.