Operation Basketball Notebook

CHARLOTTE - The ACC kicked off the 2010-11 basketball season with the annual Operation Basketball event at the Renaissance Suites Hotel.

CUTigers was on hand for Wednesday's interviews with two player representatives and head coaches from each school.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS: The defending National Champion Duke Blue Devils have their best player back for one more run with coach legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski.

"Just because we have a lot of guys, I'll end up playing at the four, just because there are so many guys that can play," said senior forward Kyle Singler, last season's NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player. "People might get the minutes they deserve or want to get, because there are that many people."

The ACC preseason Player of the Year enters this season with rather large expectations.

"For any player, you want to achieve as much as possible. This year, I do have lofty goals. I do want to be National Player of the Year. I want to win as many awards as possible," Singler said. "Nothing comes in front of that before winning as a team. Those are my ultimate goals."

Kyle Singler was voted the ACC Preseason Player of the Year Wednesday. (Getty Images)
SIGN OF RESPECT: Iman Shumpert ranks Clemson's Littlejohn Coliseum among the best environments in the ACC.

"It's not as crazy as Duke, but it's close," he said.

Coach Paul Hewitt brings his team back to Clemson on Jan. 11. By then, his team will be nearly a full-year removed from the departures of forwards Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors.

After 10 seasons at Georgia Tech, he's accustomed to early departures to the NBA.

"We lost Chris Bosh after one year. A year later we went to the NCAA Finals," Hewitt said. We lost Javaris [Crittenton] and Thaddeus [Young], we didn't have as much experience at the point guard position, and we ended up playing a tough schedule…I think we're much more equipped to deal with the loss of Derrick and Gani because of the experience factor."

HOOPS WORLD LOOKING AT MIAMI: When LeBron James announced earlier this summer that he would be "taking his talents to South Beach," the spotlight on the Miami basketball program turned up a notch.

Thanks to connections head coach Frank Haith has with James and other NBA superstars like Chris Paul, the Hurricanes played pickup ball against some of the top players in the world, like James, Paul and Bosh.

Sophomore guard Durand Scott thinks it's a good thing for the University of Miami to have that sort of exposure, though the attention isn't necessarily needed.

"Just brining more fans that love basketball, things like that…we just want to go out there and win whether we have one fan in the stands or one million," he said.

For Scott, a native of New York City, running with NBA players is nothing new.

"Playing in street tournaments, there was always a surprise to have someone playing in a game," he said.

Those games against James, Paul and Bosh were different, though.

"That was something that's amazing to me. It's just the fact that how LeBron and his squad approached it," Scott said. "They didn't come out just to play around and get some shots up, get a sweat, get a workout. They came to prepare for their season, like we were preparing for ours."

HEELS ARE FIT: North Carolina coach Roy Williams put his team through a rigorous offseason conditioning program to prepare the Tar Heels for what he told them will be a tough year.

North Carolina coach Roy Williams put his team through a rigorous offseason conditioning program to prepare the Tar Heels for what he told them will be a tough year. (Roy Philpott)
"You've got to be more focused. You've got to be able to push through things," said junior forward Tyler Zeller. "To go through that conditioning program, it showed where coach stood. You've got to work harder. You've got to be in better shape than you've ever been. I think that was coach's way of setting up the season."

A typical workout on the track started with 400-meter, 800-meter or mile runs, before building up to 12 200's—the eventual conditioning test.

"It was a little different [than last year's test]. It was probably one of the more difficult things we've been through," Zeller said.

He expects to improve on last seasons' 20-17 record and appearance in the NIT finals. Summer pickup games against former Tar Heels have Zeller confident that the current Tar Heels will have more success this season.

"We played against a lot of NBA guys or overseas pro players. Every day we'd pretty much play current players versus them," he said. "We hung with them. Some days we beat them. I think that was of those things that showed we could play together and play at a high level."

Some of those former players: Sean May, Jawad Williams, Marvin Williams, Shamond Williams, Jackie Manuel and Melvin Scott.

CHIP ON THE SHOULDER: Just imagine the chip on the shoulder of Malcolm Delaney. The senior guard has been shut out of the NCAA Tournament after three years of life on the NCAA Tournament bubble.

"Even if we had made the tournament, we would have had a chip on our shoulder," Delaney said. "That's just how coach [Seth Greenberg] is. That's how most of the players on the team are.

"Definitely from last year. We worked super hard. This has been probably the hardest we've worked in the offseason since I've been here."

The summer before, Delaney spent time with fellow Baltimore-native and current Denver Nugget Carmelo Anthony.

"He's just one of those guys that I look up to, who I know. In Baltimore, the biggest guys that make it to the league, they don't really act like they don't know you when they make it," Delaney said. "He tried to help me out. He knew that I had a chance to be good. He wanted to do to help me get to the next level."

READY FOR THE NEXT STEP: The theme Sidney Lowe discussed during last year's Operation Basketball was the need to win. A 20-16 record in 2009-10—the second 20-win season under his watch—included a first-round NIT win over South Florida.

"We showed that we can [win]. The good thing is, the guys that are returning, they were able to experience that," Sidney Lowe said. (Getty Images)
N.C. State won a total of three post-season games, including ACC Tournament victories over Clemson and Florida State.

"We showed that we can [win]. The good thing is, the guys that are returning, they were able to experience that," Lowe said.

One of those returning players is senior forward Tracy Smith, a preseason All-ACC selection. Smith will be joined by former Scout.com five-star power forward C.J. Leslie.

Smith insisted that the youngster has yet to get the better of him in practice.

"Me and C.J. have been on the same team, most of the time," he said. "He's blocked my shot a couple of times in pickup ball. It was weak-side help."

FROM THE GROUND UP: First-year Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik takes over a team that finished 20-11 a season ago, but returns only one starter.

Three senior starts—Ishmael Smith, L.D. Williams, Chas McFarland and David Weaver, plus junior Al-Farouq Aminu, combined for 4,070 points, 2,363 rebounds, 948 assists and 361 starts.

The former Colorado head coach started by signing five in the 2010 class, which Scout.com ranked as 13th in the country.

"They call themselves the fab-five," Bzdelik said.

As good as that group may be there's a process the group has to go through.

"I don't think they really understand how physical the game is, how fast the game is, how important each possession is," Bzdelik said.

NEVER MIND THAT: Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton has no problem being under-rated by the preseason polls and projections. The Seminoles were picked to finish fifth this season.

"I don't ever get offended when people overlook us and people have us lower than what we think we are," Leonard Hamilton said Wednesday. (AP)
"I don't ever get offended when people overlook us and people have us lower than what we think we are," he said. "They don't have any information to gauge it by. Where we are located, we're not in the ‘ACC basketball area'. We're kind of out of that footprint, a little bit. There's some positive to that."

Florida State qualified for the NCAA Tournament for a second-straight year and tied for third in the ACC with a 10-6 conference record.

"We should have earned a certain level of respect," Hamilton said. "But if that's all you want to do—earn respect, then you're not very ambitious."

After eight seasons in Tallahassee, the goal is to become one of the top programs in the ACC.

"We have to prove that. We can't wish that. You have to go out and accomplish that on the court," he said.

TAKING THE RIGHT STEPS: Jordan Williams exploded onto the ACC scene last season, averaging 10.1 points and 8.6 rebounds as a freshman.

"I know what to expect. This year, I know I can take on a leadership role," he said.

Williams started all but two games for the Terrapins last year. Coach Gary Williams will count on Williams and Dino Gregory for leadership.

"Between [Gregory] and [Williams], we have two pretty good sized people that have experience playing in this league," Williams said. "I think they understand that they have to step up, given the loss of the perimeter people from last year."

INSTANT CREDIBILITY: Senior forward Joe Trapani was excited to hear that Steve Donahue was hired as the new head coach at Boston College. Trapani knew exactly who his new head coach was—thanks to Cornell's success last season.

B.C. forward Joe Trapani will be a force for the Eagles once again in 2010. (AP)
"I think that's the biggest thing I have going for me, was our success at Cornell," Donahue said. "I don't ever mention Cornell. Having that success has given me credibility with these guys."

But he admitted the ACC is unfamiliar territory.

"I don't know the league, but I do know that we can compete," Donahue said. "I'm very pleased with everything they've done mentally and physically, trying to get ready as they can to get better and do a good job," he said.

"If I start concerning [myself] with who the heck we're going to play and the daunting task that we have ahead, I don't know if I could get out of bed."

MORE 'D' PLEASE: Second-year coach Tony Bennett is renowned for his team's defensive presence, which started when he took over at Washington State in 2003.

"The guys that are returning, they're in a different spot, because of the repetition," Bennett said. "That happens over time. The new guys? Not so much. They'll get it. They have the heart of a lion, in terms of wanting to defend."

Bennett will be without junior point guard Sammy Zeglinski, who's led the team in assists, steals and three-point field goals in each of the last two seasons at Virginia. Zeglinski will miss the first couple of months this season after undergoing knee surgery.

Bennett will turn to a committee of players to help run the point. That includes senior Mustapha Farrakhan.

"That definitely caught everybody off guard," he said of Zeglinski's injury. "When that happened, we just know that other guys have to mature faster and get ready for play."

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