Media Day: Player Quotables

<B>RALEIGH, N.C. -- </b>The 2004-05 Wolfpack basketball team met with the media today and here's a sampler of what they had to say.

Forward Ilian Evtimov
Injury situation:

I just had some swelling problems and they had to check some stuff. It will be about a two or three week rehab process before I'm ready to play on the court.

Timeframe for return:
I should be on the court by next week or the following week.

Can you compare where you are now as compared to where you were last year coming off the ACL injury?
It's not even comparable. I was practicing for over a month, and they just had to go in there and clean something up. It's not like they did anything to my knee. It's not like I didn't play basketball for a whole year. It's a huge difference, and I'm just doing some rehab.

Describe the play of Tony Bethel and what will he be able to do?
Last year he was a great player for us in practice. He kept pushing Julius and Engin. We were just waiting on him to get in uniform. He's a great player with great vision on the court. He's going to be a great player for our system.

How will a true point guard fit into your system?
As long as you can shoot, dribble, and pass you can play in our system. Tony can do all three things really well. Whether he's a true point guard or not it doesn't matter. As long as he can shoot, pass, and dribble he'll fit in well into our system.

Guard Julius Hodge
Improvement of Atsur and Bennerman:

Engin and Cam [Bennerman] are going to be there working for us. Cam has really improved and got a lot better. I'm sure if you all ask him he'll let you know.

How does it feel as a senior to really be the leader of this team?
I think I'm more of a happy person now. Our freshmen are young guys and they are so talented. They are people you can really get along with. Me and Gavin joke around a lot. Even Ced... he's just funny because he thinks he's probably the prettiest guy on the team. When you look at him you wouldn't think he's like that. Andrew, B-Rack from the 'Bu, is what I call him. Those guys crack me up.

It's really a good group of guys this year. I got my point guard, I've got Levi and Jordan for the senior leadership. I got a fourth-year player, Ilian Evtimov, and he's going to be ready to go. It's really been a lot of fun so far.

Do other guys on the team think you are funny?
Yes, they think I'm funny too. We'll be going through practice, and it used to be just me laughing at a comment that coach would say. Now it's the whole team. That's a good feeling for me.

How cohesive is this team?
Guys really love to play basketball this year. Everyone's going to be ready to play, and practice is so competitive. We have fun because everyone's playing for spots. Gavin's a freshman, but if I don't come to play he can take my spot.

I have to stay on my toes, and I'm always going to keep Tony on his toes. Cameron and Engin are going to battle in practice, and guys are really together because we like each other and we really want to win big. This year it may be an inch of hard work from being in that Elite Eight game or losing in the Sweet 16.

We're real focused and I'm not going to let anyone lose their focus because this is my last year.

Point Guard Tony Bethel
Early thoughts:
I want to be a leader, and I want to create more shots for people. Overall, I want to be a leader on the court, along with Julius.

Where did your talent come from?
My big brother. He played at Mount St. Mary's when they went to the NCAA Tournament. I think I get most of my talent from him.

Guard Engin Atsur
Thoughts on playing for the Turkey National Team:
It was a great experience. They are strong and really know how to play. I wish I could have stayed more, but I had to come back to school. Even those twenty days, I want to use it all for my whole game.

Did any of those guys take you under their wing and watch over you?
They were all great guys. All of them were really nice to me. The NBA players like Mehmet Okur and Hedo Turkoglu were really nice, and we had a great time.

How will you fit into the backcourt rotation this year?
We have great guys like Tony Bethel, Julius Hodge, Cameron Bennerman, and Gavin Grant. Everyone is going to contribute, and it doesn't matter who is on the court. I think everyone is going to do great this year because we've started practice and the team looks really good. Our goal is to do our best and help the team.

Center Jordan Collins
How have you grown as a player?
As a player I've improved all-around since my freshman year. They've slimmed me down a lot, and I think I can do it all. I can shoot, dribble, and pass.

With Marcus Melvin gone, there are some open minutes in the frontcourt. How will you fit into the equation?
I'm going to do some scoring and defend the post like Marcus did. Sometimes I'll be able to step out and hit the three like Marcus did.

Being a senior, do you have any personal goals?
I just want to win an ACC Championship.

You've been close the last couple of years.
Yes, we've just got to keep working hard everyday and hopefully it will happen for us.

Power Forward/Center Cedric Simmons
Marcus Melvin was a major rebounder last season. Do you think you can fill that role?
Yes, I can fill the role of rebounding. It's one of the strengths in my game. I've got long arms and I jump pretty good so I can rebound.

What do you think of your strength level after banging with these guys in practice?
I think it's good. I've been banging with guys like Jordan and he's around 240, but I haven't banged with anyone 260 yet. I think it's good, but I know it's one thing I have to improve on.

How challenging has it been to pick up on the system?
It's been fun, but it's been frustrating at times. I want to learn so fast, but Coach Sendek just tells me to be patient. The offense, I'm just looking forward to playing it.

Guard Cameron Bennerman
Thoughts on upcoming season:
I'm excited. I think a lot of people are getting caught up with who's going to start or whatever, but that's for the fans. As far as the team goes, we've been helping the young guys with the offense so when they get an opportunity to play they look good.

Role on this year's team:
I think I have a very important role. It's a very important year for me. It's time for me to take on new challenges. As a defender, my role still stands at that, but on the offensive end I need to be more of a threat. My shooting has improved, and I think that's something people will notice.

I just need to keep doing things people have seen in me because of a lack of opportunity. Now with the opportunity I can show what I'm capable of.

Thoughts on the ACC:
Everything's up for grabs. It's always been tough, but with the extra teams it's going to be even better. There's not a weak team in the league at all. It will be interesting.

Is it easier entering the season knowing your role?
It's a lot easier. I don't put any pressure on myself because I think it sets you up for failure. Take things as they come and deal with each game one at a time. I think it's going to be a successful year.

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