Thad Interviews Ed Cota

Ed Cota didn't play the most minutes, score the most points, or even hand out the most assists Wednesday afternoon in Boston as he suited up for the Indiana Pacers summer league squad in their game against the New Jersey Nets. But he might have given out the most autographs and received the most unsolicited handshakes from fans.

Prior to Wednesday's game, Cota graciously spoke about his efforts to make it into the NBA while doing his best to accommodate the autograph requests of a half-dozen young kids gathered around Carolina's all-time assist leader.

TW: So what's been going on with you in the last year since you left Chapel Hill?

EC: I was in Gary, Indiana, playing in the CBA. Then when it folded, I played in the IBL with the same team, it got merged into the IBL.

TW: What was it like to play for Gary?

EC: It was a tough situation, to tell you the truth. It was a rookie organization. We had a rough year, we struggled the whole year, we didn't win too many games. But it was a great experience.

TW: Was the level of play there higher than the ACC?

EC: Yeah, it was definitely higher than the ACC, just because you've got more talent at every position. Just being able to be in the league that's right beneath the NBA, you know what I'm saying, and having the opportunity to get a call up and stuff like that was a good experience, even though we struggled.

TW: What was your reaction when you heard that the CBA was going to collapse?

EC: I didn't have that much reaction, it was just like, hey, what's next? I'd been through so much already, I just wanted to know where I was going to be playing after that.

TW: Do you feel like you have gotten a fair shake to make the NBA?

EC: Well, I don't know. I really haven't got my foot in the door yet, so I just try to make the best out of every opportunity I get. I feel that the situation I'm in right now with the Pacers might be a good opportunity, so I'm going to try to make the best of it.

TW: Have they told you you have a chance to make the Pacers, or are they just using you this week?

EC: Well, I didn't hear nothing. I've got to wait until the camp is over. Like I said, I've just got to play my game and do what I can do with the chances I get.

TW: Is it frustrating to be in a situation where it's not totally in your hands what's going to happen to you?

EC: Well, before it was a little frustrating but now it's like I know so much now that I can just put everything behind me. There's not much I can do, I can't control everything but just the way I perform. That's what I look forward to doing -- just playing -- and hopefully somebody will like what I do.

TW: Has your game improved in the last year?

EC: Well, I've definitely improved in a lot of areas, but I still play the same game, I'm the point guard, I get everybody involved, and do the same things I did in college, but I might be stronger and just in better shape.

TW: Ademola and some other guys have had a lot of success in Europe, is that on your horizon, are you thinking about that?

EC: Well, I'm just taking one step at a time. I know where I want to be, and that's playing in the NBA. After I finish here I've got to see in what direction I go in, I don't know if it's going to be playing in the States or going overseas or what. Hopefully, it'll be staying here.

TW: Have you gotten a chance to talk to [Indiana coach] Isiah Thomas at all, he's someone you're similar to as a player...

EC: I spoke to him a little but, but not really about how he felt about my game or anything. I just got to meet him, he invited me to the camp and I was just happy to be invited.

TW: What's the most important thing you've learned in the last year since leaving school?

EC: How to overcome obstacles, that's probably it, knowing how to deal with them, that's about it.

TW: Have you been talking to the coaches in Chapel Hill much?

EC: Yeah, I talk to Coach Guthridge all the time. As a matter of fact he was here the last two days, he just left last night. I always keep in touch with him, and I got a chance to talk to Coach Hanners, he's out here with Philadelphia. They just tell me to keep my head up, keep playing hard, and good things will happen.

TW: Did you get to watch the Tar Heels much last season?

EC: Yeah, I watched them a little bit. I didn't get to watch too many games, but I watched some.

TW: Did it make you feel good to see the way team seemed to carry over from the Final Four run?

EC: Oh definitely, definitely.. I think they played hard, Doherty did a great job with them. He got the guys really mentally prepared and they played great overall. It was a tough loss at the end of the year . . . but that was just one of them games.

TW: What did it feel like to be on two teams at Carolina, your freshman year and your senior year, that people had just completely given up on, and then be able to turn it around and make the Final Four?

EC: It felt great. I love it when people count me out, and I love being under pressure. It couldn't have happened any better than the four years I had at Carolina . . . although I wish I had a championship.

TW: Is that something you think about much?

EC: Oh I always think about that. People always say yeah, people are always in awe about being in three Final Fours, and yeah that's a great accomplishment, but I still have a missing piece that I can never go back and get. So you know it's tough, it's kind of tough to get to three Final Fours and never win it all.

TW: Was that the hardest thing you went through at Carolina, those losses, or was it something else?

EC: Definitely, definitely not being able to win a championship. I've always wanted to consider myself as a winner and not being able to win it all is really something that will always hurt.

TW: What was the best part about Chapel Hill, thinking back about your career, what stands out?

EC: Just the people -- the people themselves, how much love everybody has for everybody there; the appreciation that the fans give, they were always behind us; and just the pressure too. There was a lot of pressure playing for Carolina -- you've got to win. That's probably the thing I'm going to miss the most.

TW: More pressure than playing for the Gary Steelheads?

EC: Definitely. Like I said it was a new organization -- a lot of things weren't done right at both ends, the players and the organization. It just took a little bit of time so they could get everything together. This year I know there's going to be a much better situation over there, but hopefully I won't be there.

Note: Cota went on to score two points on a nice cut to the basket and record two assists (against five turnovers – they weren't all his fault) in ten minutes of playing time in the Pacers' come-from-behind-win over Kerry Kittles and a Mike O'Koren-coached Nets team on Wednesday. Cota's hoop came in a halfcourt set on a sweet give and go with Adrian Griffin, resulting in a lob pass to Cota for an alley-oop layup.

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