Hey, Dennis, it's not often you get freshmen down here for this thing, but you seem like you're made for this, your personality and what people are expecting from your game. Is there any part of you that doesn't think you're ready for what we're going to see from you this year?
There are no parts of me that thinks I'm not ready for anything, anything that comes at me in life. I've been through enough to face adversity, so I'm prepared for anything.
What were the key areas, maybe a couple things that happened, the injury, may be one of them, but what are the things you think prepared you for this stage and the limelight that you're going to have?
Like you said, the injury. So that prepares me from a mental standpoint as far as basketball goes. I had a tough upbringing, not coming up with everything, so that also prepared me mentally for life. Like I said, I never run from a challenge. I never back down from adversity.
Growing up in North Carolina, you obviously know about these rivalries with Duke and North Carolina, what do you think it's going to feel like when you step out on the floor for the first time against those teams?
It's going to be exciting. It's something I look forward to. I'm very anxious to play in those games. Like you said, in the Triangle area, you've got UNC, Duke, N.C. State, and N.C. State more often than not is viewed as the underdog.
So we just want to come in there and compete as hard as we can and look forward to walking away with a victory against anybody.
You spoke on adversity, and having things that happened that have obviously built you for this moment. How did the team respond to having you first step into N.C. State? And what can you say about the leadership that you can command even as a freshman?
From day one they were accepting of the type of person that I was on and off the court. So that made it pretty easy for me to be a leader. Coach Gottfried came in, when I came in, coach Gottfried insisted that I be the leader of the team and kind of gave me the keys. He trusted in the fact that I can maximize every guy's potential on this team, because we have some great players. So he believes in me to do this. So I feel like it's my job to fulfill that role.
Coach Gottfried gave you the keys. There is a lot of optimism surrounding the team, in part because of you. Do you feel any pressure at all? Not oblivious to it, but are you just kind of above it?
I don't feel any pressure at all. I've been playing basketball for a very long time. I had challenges back then coming up. I lost a lot of games that was my fault. I've won games that were my fault, so I don't feel pressure. I just want to go out and compete with my guys and plan on coming out with a victory.
Your coach said you're the best guard in the country. Are you surprised to hear him say things like that? I'm sure you have that mentality yourself, but it's very rare for a coach to come out and say something that bald-faced before the season starts?
Not so much surprised. I'm thankful that he believes it. It shows he has a lot of confidence in my abilities. I work hard, he sees it, and I have a lot of confidence in myself. My team has a lot of confidence in me and vice versa. So I'm just thankful for the recognition from my coach.
Off stage your teammate Malik was answering that question silently for you. What type of teammate is he? What type of rapport and bond do you guys have?
We're really close. I don't even want to tell you how long we stayed up yesterday just talking about different things on the court or in reality. Just we're really close. He's like a big brother. We were close before I even committed. We were building a relationship then and it just carried on and progressed from there. So the Malik that you all see here on the podium is the same Malik that's in the locker room and on the court. He's a great guy, and a team-first type player.
Sometimes big brothers tell little brothers what to do. Are you okay with that?
Definitely. I'm all the way okay with it. You learn something new every day, and sometimes little brothers tell big brothers what to do. That's just a part of the game. So we're going to help each other, and like I said, we're going to maximize potential with each player on this team.