What’s your first memory of going to Iowa to recruit Marcus Paige?
“Steve [Kirschner] was surprised when I told him this story, but I was recruiting J.P. [Tokoto] and had been recruiting J.P. for quite a while. And I said ‘J.P., in your class we’re also looking to get a really good point guard, so let me know if you see a point guard you think I’d really like.’ And I think they were playing in some type of a junior Nike event, and I think they were playing in St. Louis. And I’m visiting with J.P. and he says, ‘I think I found a point guard that you may like,’ and that was Marcus Paige. The first time I actually saw him wasn’t in Iowa, it was in Orlando in the national AAU tournament in the Milk House.”
When you got to know him better, what really stood out?
“That he had the total package. He was a wonderful student, a wonderful leader. That was at the end of his sophomore year. They won the state championship that year with a bunch of seniors and him. But I really thought that he was the leader of the team. But it was all about the team, it wasn’t really about him, it was all about how his team was doing. So, the leadership and the savvy, I loved that part of it down in Orlando, but when I got to see him with his high school team it just jumped out even more.”
On his team’s post defense this season:.
“We’ll be tested tomorrow night for sure, because they have a 6-foot-9 guy that’s shooting 59 percent from the floor and 85 percent from the free throw line, so he can really shoot. Our guys have worked hard defensively and tried to bother the shot of people. I think you can really affect somebody’s shot by trying to bother the shot, and not necessarily trying to block it every time and putting them on the free throw line. And then the team defense has been pretty good at times because we’ve gotten them off of the areas that they want to go. But, I would think, I’m drawing a blank, but I think this is the most effective inside scorer we’ve played all season long. So, we’ll see how we do tomorrow night.”
On how the defense has been so far; statistically (Top-10 in the country) versus what you’ve actually seen?
“It’s crazy, because sometimes I think we’ve been really good defensively. And then I watch the tape after the Davidson game, and I say, 'oh my goodness, we weren’t nearly as good defensively as I thought we were.' We are trying to emphasize what the other team does really well, and try to concentrate on trying to have a great effect on what shots they get. We’ve blocked a few shots, not a ton. It’s not like we have John Henson, and Tyler, and Harrison and those guys. But we’ve blocked some shots and protected the rim pretty well. We still have to do a much better job at guarding the basketball. But I think another thing is that the length we’ve been able to put out there on the perimeter has helped us, a six-foot-eight guy closing out instead of a six-foot-two guy closing out.”
Were you pleased with the way your guys responded after getting out rebounded by Butler?
“Not really. You’ll never get me to say I was pleased by any means. The one thing we did was, I think in the Butler game they had 29 offensive rebounds, which is just off of the charts. And I think the next game UCLA had eight offensive rebounds, and we really need to cut that part down. But nobody works on rebounding and emphasizing boxing out as much as we do. We should be better. But Butler made us look like we didn’t know how to spell box out, much less do it.”
It’s early in the season, but how you do feel guys have responded to the different rotations and lineups you’ve gone with so far this season?
“I think they’ve handled it, but it’s not that big a deal because it’s the way we practice. We interchange people all the time in practice, so it’s not an unusual thing for them. We have a 12-minute period to work on something, we’ll sub every three possessions, and so it’s something that they are already used to. And sometimes we’ll go and rotate as many as 11 guys during the course of each part of practice. If we have a 10- or 12-minute period, we’ll put 11 different guys on the first group on the white team.”
After the Butler game when you made some changes, do you think the message was received by your guys? Or do you think you just won two games after that?
“Well we did just happen to win two games. But I thought the way that Brice and Kennedy responded was really positive. Brice was the defensive player of the game against UCLA, and I think that’s the first one he’s won in three years. It was off the charts good. I told him that the bad news was that, 'now you’ve shown me that you can do it, I’m going to expect more of it now.' I think they responded really, really well, and yeah, we ended up winning two games too.”
How much better has Brice Johnson gotten on defense over the course of the last year?
“Just a little bit. Except for that game. His grade that game was 27-6. That’s Tyler Zeller, Tyler Hansbrough, and John Henson kind of numbers there. He’d tell you this, I’ve been pushing him about playing harder and defending better since the first day he walked on campus. But my man was a big-time deal against UCLA and we do need that more often.”
How confident were you that you could get Marcus Paige out of Iowa? And did successfully recruiting Harrison Barnes play any role in that?
“You always think you want to have hope. I don’t think I’ve ever gone into a recruit saying we can get this guy, I don’t think I ever have. You just go in trying to find out as much as you can. We recruited him awfully hard, awfully hard. I don’t think getting Harrison before him was a factor. Just like it wasn’t with Raef LaFrentz, Nick Collison, Kirk Hinrich. We’ve had some pretty good success in Iowa to say the least. But we really needed a point guard in his class, and I thought he was, for me, as a coach, I thought he was the best point guard out there in that class.”
Williams PC Quotes
Inside Carolina Top Stories
Small Lineup Still in PlayThe Tar Heels will play small ball even more in 2016-17.
Inside CarolinaYesterday at 10:49 AM
Pinson Completes SurgeryThe junior wing broke his right foot during practice last Wednesday.
Inside CarolinaWednesday at 11:33 AM
Bradley's Disruptive LengthThe freshman forward's wingspan is posing problems in the paint for his Tar Heel teammates.
Inside CarolinaWednesday at 9:58 AM
Fedora Live: Bonilla Steps UpLarry Fedora noted during his radio show that Ayden Bonilla earned defensive player of the game honors for his performance against Virginia.
Inside CarolinaWednesday at 6:45 AM