Summer Q&A: Tyler Zeller

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina senior Tyler Zeller answered questions on Tuesday as a part of UNC's summer press conference ...

How close, if at all, did you come to leaving for the NBA?

I think it was up in the air both ways. I knew I wanted to look into it and kind of see what was going on, but at the same time, I wanted to come back. So I took about a week, thought it over, talked with Coach. Then at the end of it, I just felt like it was the right decision to come back.

What led you to come back? Can this team be special?

Yeah. And I think it was that John and Harrison both decided they wanted to come back also. Talking with them, it made it a lot easier to come back just because I knew they would be here to play with. I think we have a chance to be special. But at the same time, we have a lot of work that we need to do. We have a lot of areas we still need to improve.

What are some of those particular areas that need improving?

I think we've just got to continue to build on what we had last year, continue to score better and play defense better. That would be the two big categories, but I think this team has got great opportunity, especially with the freshmen coming in.

How will this team deal with being the favorite this season?

I think these guys will do a great job of that. Last year, it was kind of the opposite. We were pushing to get farther than people thought we could, but I think everybody in here is very level-headed. I don't think they'll let all of the expectations get to them. I think we'll stay within the team and we'll make our own expectations.

You were a freshman, but you saw the 2009 team go through this same situation. What did you learn that can help this team?

Just that it's not easy. They made it look easy. But over the course of the season, they had their problems, they had their challenges. You've just got to make sure that you keep pushing through them and keep improving over the course of the season. You can't ever get satisfied.

What are some of the things that make this team different from that team, in terms of how you guys will handle the challenges that go along with that?

I think this team is very unique just because I think we're very close. Our team chemistry is great. So I think any challenges that come at us we'll try to handle as a team, rather than trying to handle them individually.

In what ways can you tell that the chemistry is so good?

I think just the way everybody supports each other and the way we all kind of look out for each other, both on and off the court. I think this team, just being in the locker room, everybody gets along with everybody. There's not really any fights. If there are any fights, it's more kind of messing around. We have a good time with each other.

You and Justin Watts have a chance to become the first UNC players to win two NCAA championship rings. Does that thought cross your mind at all?

A little bit. But we've got a lot of work to do, and we definitely can't do it alone. Hopefully my teammates can help me out and we'll be able to pull it off.

The first game of the year will be played on a battleship, and Osama bin Laden's body was pushed off that thing. How strange is that? Will that add to the weirdness of the game to be playing on something like that?

Yeah. I think it's a very interesting thing, anyway, because it's going to be played outside and we've always played inside. So I think it's going to be interesting to see how it's all set up. I'm very excited about it. But at the same time, it's kind of got that mystery about it that will be very interesting to figure out.

Can you dive for loose balls, or will you be worried about going into the ocean?

I hope it's not that close. But I think Coach would get on us if we didn't [dive for loose balls], and I think everybody will do a great job.

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