How would you characterize practice so far?
We've picked up the intensity here in the last couple of days. We are playing harder right now and us experienced guys have to lead the younger guys. I think the older guys have to pick it up a little bit, including myself, because our first game is on Friday and it's going to start really quick. We have six games in 12 days. The young guys are doing fine, it's just that this is college, not high school, so there's an adjustment that everyone has to make.
What are you excited about?
I'm really excited about the guys on the team. They're really unselfish. I think we're going to have really good chemistry this year. We are willing to listen and willing to get better. It's just a matter of time of how quickly we're going to get to where we're supposed to be and hopefully this year that can happen a lot faster than previous years.
What are you concerned about?
I haven't thought about that yet, I don't have any concerns so far. Probably because we haven't played any real games yet. Obviously when you play teams that are less talented, that take a lot of pride in playing hard – that's what Mount Olive did. We're going to play teams that are bigger and more physical than Mount Olive, so it's something we definitely have to work on and we did so in practice this week.
How is the team doing picking up the nuances of the style?
First of all, I think Engin is doing a great job of pushing the ball in transition and I think this year, more than any other year, we're going to have more transition baskets and more of an up-and-down game. We should be a better rebounding team than we've been in previous years, because we can play a much bigger lineup than we've had. When you have guys like Engin and Tony now coming back from injury, pushing the ball and making advanced passes, it's just a lot of fun playing. We want to be known for our defense, we want to get steals and we want to move in transition – something that we've emphasized so far and I think we've been doing a much better job of it this year than any other year at this point.
Are you more freed up on the perimeter because of the team's size?
Yeah, I mean Andrew and Ced, they like to call them super sophomores, they went through the whole season and they know what it's like to play in the ACC Tournament and what it's like to play in the NCAA Tournament. Those guys have some experience. Andrew was a very significant part of our offense last year and he was a major contributor and that's going to carry on. This year we have Ced, who's got much better, much stronger. Gavin is playing the one, two and three and showing his ball handling and passing skills more than he has last year, because he has a better opportunity. Those sophomores are very experienced sophomores. Tony, Cam and Engin are all older players, fifth year player in Tony's case, so we're going to be very good at handling the ball and handling pressure. I fit right in between. I can help a little bit with the handling when guys are pressing us, like Maryland tries to press us. Or I can play some inside, depending on the lineup you want to go with that day.
How's Tony looking in practice?
He's looking really good. There's a big difference between having him there and not having him there. I'm very excited about having him back at practice and going through some of the drills, the five-on-fives and so far I've been nothing but impressed by him.
Starting with three games in three days:
I think it's very exciting to start the season in this matter. It's gonna get us ready for the ACC Tournament eventually, with three or four games in three or four days. That's just how the ACC does it, and this is a good test for us. To play and get ready for the next game the next day – new preparation, new team and a quick turnaround. So I think it's gonna be a great test for us.
How will this team be different than the teams that have the midseason slump?
We have a bunch of guys who have had that happen to them on consecutive years, with Cam, me and Engin. So we've been there and we know what works, we know the recipe that we need to follow to be successful. So we're going to try to follow that recipe earlier in the year rather than later in the year and not have to do it the hard way with our backs to the wall. We're going to try to be as good as possible from the beginning.
What is in that recipe?
It's everybody understanding their roles for one. Two is to be very unselfish and that's why I am very confident that we can accomplish this a lot sooner than we have. Because the chemistry on this team is just great. We all love each other and everyone jokes around with everybody, on and off the court. They're ready to listen to Coach Sendek, they're ready to buy into it right away, we don't have to waste a few games.
Is that different from previous seasons?
Yeah but we've always found it the hard way. I also think that the schedule this year is improved since previous years. We have some very tough teams that we have to play in the next couple of weeks. I think that's going to be very helpful for our team to develop earlier rather than later. We'll find out more about each other sooner.
Is it a good thing to have a team without a true star?
I would think it's a good thing. We don't have to depend on one person, we can depend on each other. If somebody is having a bad day, we can pick him up. In the long run that can be a very positive thing for us. Not that last year wasn't good with Julius being the star, I mean he brought a lot of attention to him and everybody else fed off of that. So it's just a different team and a different way of playing. Now people are going to have to be more vigilant about all the players on the court. It's going to be a different way of guarding us than it was last year.
How are you guys a better team with Tony Bethel on the court?
First of all, he's a very good rebounder and he will help a lot with his rebounds. Sometimes he'll get the long rebounds or just getting inside position on the big men and helping out on the block out and he's very good at that. The other thing he's really good at is penetration and finishing. He's a guy that can make a really smart play, he can either pass from the penetration or go all the way and finish on the big men and that's his versatility. Add to that his shooting ability and he's a very good point guard. In my mind, probably the best in the ACC. Him and Engin are very good and complimentary and the best in the league this year.