"We talked about things last spring to work on and we needed him to get to the free throw line more. Great players get fouled and get to the free throw line. That's a huge advantage when you can do that. And I'm going to miss this, but last year we played 37 games or whatever it was and he shot 124 free throws. Now we've played 27 games and before the game on Saturday, he had shot 139, so his free throws are up. I think that's important for him to take the ball to the basket.
"Last year, I think 39 percent of his shots were 3's and this year it's 20 percent. I'm not so sure I wouldn't mind it to be a little in from both ends and get in the middle of that. But he's doing a better job of making decisions on when to take it to the basket. He's gotten some charging fouls this year when he shouldn't take it in there, but he's also gotten some fouls and gotten to the free throw line. He is a shooter. The boy can shoot the basketball, but even better than that is that he can score because he can take it to the basket as well."
Do you prepare any differently for the final regular season stretch?
"Not really. It's the old saying, ‘You've got to play them when you get them, one game at a time.' So we've got to focus on North Carolina State. I told our guys, ‘Let's take care of our own business and not worry or be concerned with what everybody else is doing.' After these two weeks are over with, then we start playing in some tournaments that you do focus more like that.
"I don't want our guys looking ahead and then all of a sudden you skip somebody and it comes back to bite you. [On Monday], we talked strictly about North Carolina State. Between now and the game on Saturday, we'll talk strictly about the University of Virginia. I think that's the best way for us to go about it. I'm more comfortable that way and I think our team is more comfortable."
Have you been able to pinpoint a reason for P.J. Hairston's slump?
"There's nothing mechanically wrong with his shot. Today in practice, he made three big ones that were just the way they're supposed to look when he shoots it. But mentally, freshmen go through a lot of troubles. Right now, he just needs to see the basketball go in the basket, and if he sees one go in, then maybe a second one. If he makes a second one, then he might make a third one. So it's a difficult time for him and his family and it's a difficult time for him and his teammates, but the youngster is trying extremely hard. He's had some of his better practices over the last week since he came back from us holding him out for about a week with that foot."
More on Hairston:
"In my opinion, he has the potential to be one of the best shooters I have ever coached because his stroke is so good. He has power, he has range and he can really shoot the basketball. But – you ‘ve heard me say it before – a lot of guys can shoot it. I'm partial to those guys that make them, so he needs to start making more of them."
Do you ever feel pressure during the game?
"No, I don't, but I never have during the course of a game. I'm too busy. Before the game you're stressed, after the game you can't sleep and all of that kind of stuff, but during the games, I really never have. You're busy, you're involved and you've got too many things to be doing or thinking about as opposed to what's somebody's expectations or what somebody else might say or feel about it. Before the game you feel stress. The worst time is a 9:00 game when you've got to think about it all day long. After the game, it's the same with a big win or a big loss. With a big win, you're so fired up you can't sleep and after a tough loss, you can't do anything."
What would you like to improve on heading into postseason play?
"There's no question we'd like to shoot it better from the outside and get better balance. I think that would be good for us. But the biggest thing is that we've got to get healthy and stay healthy because you never make a good run at the end of the year unless you're healthy. For us, we're shortening our practices up, trying to get the guys more fresh-legged and maybe do it for them mentally as well. But we would like to have better balance."
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