Media Day: Player Interviews

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- The 2011-12 edition of the North Carolina Tar Heels met with reporters for the first time this year at Thursday's Basketball Media Day at the Smith Center.

Listen to Audio (5:19)

On his offensive improvement from last year to this year:
"For me, I think last year was more about getting adapted to the offense and figure out a way to get shots. Now it will be a matter of going against defensive schemes as teams started to stop me or stop penetration or outside shooting or denying touches. It will be different in that regard and how I progress through that."

On his overall evolution last season:
"It's funny because there was so much attention paid to my offensive side of the basketball, but my defense needed a lot of work. I felt like that was the first thing to get better as I started to fully progress to understand the college game."

Was it an easy decision to return to school or not?
"It was pretty tough. I definitely had to weigh all of my options and examine a lot of things, but ultimately coming back was the best decision."

Listen to Audio (5:10)

How has Dexter Strickland progressed as your backup?
"His decision-making has become phenomenal over the summer. I think at the end of last year we started to see it as well. He's not trying to be me, but he's still being the aggressive player he is, as well as making smart decisions. So he's going to surprise people. He's not going to be a liability by any means. He can really shoot the ball and I know he can do enough to keep us in games."

You appeared to be a different player at the Chris Paul camp this summer. What's been the key to that growth?
"The difference in going to that camp last year and this year is that last year I was kind of in awe of the players that were there. You had Kemba Walker and Nolan Smith, guys that I grew up watching that were a little bit older than me. This year I went in wanting to prove that I was one of the top point guards, so I was definitely a lot more aggressive. I was trying to attack these players -- my peers -- and I think that's the main thing. I don't feel like my shot is a liability. I think that when I shoot it with confidence then I'm a pretty good shooter."

Listen to Audio (5:53)

A lot of expectations on this team. Will that take some getting used to?
"Yes and no. Everybody did a great job of staying focused on the team last year. We all knew what we needed to accomplish and didn't really pay attention to what other people were saying, so hopefully we can keep that up this year. A lot of people are saying that we can be a very good basketball team, but we've got our own expectations also."

Having played on the '09 team, is it a little taxing to have so much expected from the get-go?
"A little bit, yes. But at the same time, we have our own expectations. We know how good we can be and I think everyone is striving to be that good. It's something where I think we're going to try to improve over the course of the season and we'll see how good we can be at the end of the year."

Do you see any similarities between this team and '09?
"Yes and no. We both have a lot of very, very talented players and we're very deep. A lot of people can come off the bench and change the game. I think that's what makes us different from most teams."

Listen to Audio (3:19)

How much have you worked on your jump hook this summer?
"I worked on it a lot. I worked on the face-up jumper as well. I've just worked on a lot of things and hopefully I can show you guys something over the next couple of months."

Does this team have confidence this year that you had to build over the course of last year?
"Yes. You get confidence with working hard. We've been together all summer and all of us have been working hard in the weight room and on the court, and that's also where confidence comes from. I think as a team our confidence is at an all-time high. I think that bodes well for the future."

Do you like having a dominant presence in the post?
"Yeah, I love it. Any time a guy questions whether he should go to the basket or not because somebody is down there, that's what you want as a team and that can help us a lot defensively. I think that's a good weapon we have."

Listen to Audio (4:52)

How much has the Kentucky loss in the Elite Eight lingered with you?
"It's lingered a little bit. The way I played and the way my team played... With all of the mistakes we made, we could have easily done a better job and made better decisions. But it didn't linger that much. We've got to learn from our mistakes and hopefully this year we'll get them."

Coach Williams has stressed several times how well you played defensively in that loss --
"It just shows our team's potential for defense. If we execute like that in a better way, it's going to be hard for the other team. I think that's the main thing we have to focus on this year is defense."

Listen to Audio (4:58)

How critical is it for you to be able to provide perimeter shooting for this team?
"Coming into the season, before I knew Leslie went down, I just knew it would be a big year for me. I knew with Leslie going down, my game would have to step up a whole lot. P.J. [Hairston] and me are going to have to spread the floor with knocking down shots. I just knew my role would be a lot bigger this year and I'm ready to step up to the challenge."

What impresses you the most about P.J.?
"His shooting ability and rebounding."

Coach mentioned you may play more of the two this year. How is that different from what you did last year?
"It's a lot different because last year I was more like a slasher guy. I'm still able to knock down a shot and be defensive, but I'm just going to take what I did at the three to the two position and just be able to knock down the shot better."

Listen to Audio (5:26)

How are you feeling?
"Feeling pretty good. For right now, I'm just going through rehab, the everyday life of doing rehab. Just trying to get this knee stronger. I've been in the weight room with Jonas and just really trying to recover from this knee injury."

What does it mean for Coach Williams to say that he's not even going to talk to you about your recovery until December?
"Yes, it definitely takes the pressure off for me right now. My main focus is to get this knee back stronger than I've ever had before without a time frame and without having to rush things."

On the time frame of his potential return:
"If I was to come back, it would be around ACC Tournament play."

Inside Carolina Top Stories