Listen to Audio (22:29)
What does it add to the rivalry when they're relevant?
"I think they've been relevant to me all of the time. People throw me under the bus enough, you're not going to throw me under that one… They've played some very good basketball games against us and they've struggled some against us. We lost four straight times to Georgia Tech. I told Paul [Hewitt] the only reason he didn't leave a couple of years ago to go to St. John's is because North Carolina wasn't on the schedule at St. John's. So I can't answer that kind of question, but I just know that they're 4-1, they're tied for first in the league and to take part of your question there, I think it does add more to it if they were 1-4 and we were 19-0.
"But I think it's a very legitimate thing. They've played well. Now, they had one game that Mark [Gottfried] would like to have back and that would be the Georgia Tech game at home. But they've got two road wins. They've played well. But you're not going to get me to use that word or that thought process. It might add more to other people, but it doesn't add more to me. I like the way that I look at the game more than other people think."
What does this rivalry mean to you personally?
"It's always meant a great deal to me. I've gone on record as saying that I struggled with them. I was a freshman in college and some old high school buddies that I had played baseball and basketball with were over at State and they gave me enough crap for the rest of my life. I didn't appreciate it and I didn't like it. So I've always had the feeling that this is an important game. It's North Carolina against North Carolina State. You know, every kid grows up and Mom and Dad plants seeds about who they're going to cheer for and they have an influence. I didn't have that influence.
"I had my high school coach who thought North Carolina was great and then some other people put us down anyway they could to me and I took offense to that. It's a childish way to react but it's stuck with me and I've always thought that it was a fantastic rivalry. I was in school here finishing up my time when they won nine in a row, I think that's right, when David Thompson was over there. I think they beat us nine times in a row and that bothered me. So again, during my formative years, they were beating us up too much to make me happy."
You mentioned John Henson playing the point in practice, but besides Marshall and Stilman White, who is your third-best ball handler?
"We worked John a possession there yesterday, we worked Harrison a possession there yesterday, I did not work ‘Z.' Justin Watts… We worked a couple of things without any point guard. And that's the big change that we have is that we're just trying to give them some ideas. What we have to do is understand that we lost Dexter. He's not coming back. They'll say he's not walking in the door. Everybody's got to raise their level of play. Everybody's got to raise their consistency of play and be able to make some changes to make up for those things that we lose from Dexter."
Listen to Audio (7:33)
Are you feeling any type of nervousness about what you're stepping into tomorrow night?
"I'm going into it just as a basic game in the season. I know that my level of play has to step up. I just have to perform for [Strickland] while he's out. I know the things that he did when he was out there helped our team a lot, so playing defense and getting to the boards and playing my game. I'll be ready to play tomorrow."
You're from this state. What does it mean to you to be in the starting lineup for this game?
"It means a lot. I grew up knowing about the Carolina and Duke rivalry and the N.C. State and Carolina rivalry. Just being able to start the game… There's a lot of State fans in Kinston. Everybody loves State in Kinston. So just playing against a State team knowing it's a big rivalry, I'll enjoy playing in it and getting to start."
Listen to Audio (11:01)
How do you think the intensity of the NCSU-UNC rivalry compares to what you have with Duke?
"Umm, how can I put this… State's a great basketball team. It's a team in our state, so with the proximity, it's actually going to be a more hyped-up game for them. It's another opponent in our league. We want to perform well in our league, so for us, any game is a big game. We're definitely looking forward to playing against State and we know they're always looking forward to playing us."
What do you think it adds that N.C. State is 4-1 in the league for the first time in a long time?
"Well, right now, it seems like we're the underdogs because they're tied for first in the ACC and we're not."