Was this a bounce-back game for you, [individually]?
Yeah, really for the whole team, just because of the way Wednesday went. We played some really good basketball for a lot of that game and weren’t able to come out on top. But today showed that we have been getting better; we had a good week, minus one or two possessions in Cameron (Indoor Stadium). I think that game kind of spring-boarded to this game. We started out well and never looked back today.
How did Coach Williams explain the Four Corners to you guys?
When we got done reviewing film for Georgia Tech he drew up on the white board the four people in the corners and the guy in the middle. And so this was going to be he last way we were going to honor Coach Smith, and I think he is looking down on us and will appreciate just a small tribute. All the basketball heads out there can understand. We were hoping the crowd would get it a little bit more and get into it, but I’m sure Coach already talked about that. He told us he was going to, but it meant a lot to him and the fact we were able to do it correctly—man, I don’t think I’ve ever been that nervous to execute a play [as] that because it just meant to the moment, the crowd, to Coach Williams, so I’m glad it worked.
Was it the first possession? How many possessions did you do it?
It was our first possession; we did it one time. We wanted to get the tip. We were going to back-tap and then do it, but they got the tip. Our first offensive possession—man or zone—we were going to go Four Corners and all four players hold up the four [fingers] just to let everybody know and pay tribute to Coach Smith for being such a great innovator, of that in particular. Brice (Johnson) went back door and caught the pass, and I was very happy. I’m sure Coach was too.
You had to ball fake a couple of times too. People were kind of denying when--
That’s what Coach told us to do, you know. He said, ‘We want you to get the ball in the middle, pivot a couple of times, ball fake, because that will draw the defenders in to deny, and then hopefully we can get somebody back door. If not, pass it out and do it again.’ So, it worked on the first try. I was pretty happy.
Talk about the emotion over the last couple of weeks for you guys, specifically, but I know it has been a lot worse for Coach Williams.
Yeah, it’s been tough with the loss of Coach Smith and also us losing a couple tough games, going up to Pitt and not really performing the way we wanted to, and then losing a heart-breaker, honestly, at Duke. That was tough, and this was a great way to bounce back. We really needed this one for our confidence and everything, just to get a positive thing going here. Like I said, the past two games we have played some pretty good basketball, but it feels a lot better when you win and today was big for that.
Were you that familiar with the history of all the Four Corners stuff?
I mean I just know that Coach Smith was the one that implemented it, how big of a factor it was in introducing the shot clock to the game, how unstoppable Phil Ford was as the ball-handler in the middle, but that’s pretty much the extent of my Four Corners knowledge. Oh, and apparently Coach Williams ran it when he was a high school coach.
You had some struggles there for awhile; you had some success the other night and were able to connect it with today playing well.
It’s just making good plays. I took open shots today, and so did my teammates. Everything was falling for us. We worked together, and when we do that we are a pretty good team. Piggy-backing on the Duke game, we did a lot of great things; we wanted to continue that and we did so today.
How about you individually? When the team was struggling you were too, but you worked that out the other night, stuffing the stat sheet, and you sort of played like that again today.
Well, I mean for the Duke game I was on Cloud Nine, just ready to get out there and play. We went into the game, three out of four we dropped, and I wanted to get that win to kind of get us rolling again toward the end of the season, and it was the same thing today. We came in, lost four out of five, then we need to make a change. I just wanted to bring energy and anything I could to the team. Everybody fell in (line) and played great today.
Did starting again matter, or was it just coincidence?
No. We’re not caught up in who starts and who plays more. It’s just whoever is out there on the floor, give it their all and contribute the best you can to the team and we are going to be just fine, and that’s what we did.
What went through your mind on that coast-to-coast dunk? It looked like they were really physical with you on the rebound, knocked the ball loose, it looked like a switch flipped, in your eyes, and you just--
About two of their defensive players had their heads turned when I hit halfcourt, and by the time I hit halfcourt I was full stride. I felt the guy, my defender, behind me so I kind of bumped him a little bit, he gave me an extra boost, and I just made a finishing play.
Was there a sense of urgency today, losing four out of five?
Definitely. You don’t want to lose a fifth, especially at home, against anybody, not just Georgia Tech. Even if it was Duke, we would have come out with the same energy. But we have to take this and keep moving forward. We can’t get caught up like, OK, we are out of a drought now. We could very easily drop the next game if we don’t come out to play.
Can you speak to Brice’s play? He was playing sick and put in a great effort out there.
No doubt. He’s a tough player. We have a lot of tough players and guys who can make plays. Brice wasn’t feeling good, but we were in the locker room and telling him that he’s got to fight through it. We told him if he plays a good game he’s going to feel that much better if we get the win, and he’s feeling a little bit better now. He’s doing just fine. He’ll be all right.
How big was this game to bounce back?
It was huge. Obviously, the Duke game we gave our all. Obviously offensive-wise, me included, we could have done a lot better as far as scoring and producing a little more. But we put everything on the line against them. It just came down to one or two plays, so to be able to bounce back against a team like that—Georgia Tech is a really good team—to be able to bounce back was really key.
When you have this many lettermen around as are here this weekend, what kind of additional sense does that give somebody like you of just kind of what you are a part of?
It shows me how blessed I am—to see the people that came through here before me. It’s amazing. It’s a huge honor, and that makes me just want to play even better to continue that legacy that they have left, for us to play. So to see some of them back is great.
Tell me about Four Corners, how Coach introduced that and brought that play about.
You know, we didn’t really practice it much. He told us if we got the ball—on our first offensive possession we would go into it, and we were trying to score off of it. So Marcus came down, the guy overplayed, and I think it was Brice that went back door and it worked. That is exactly what Coach Wanted to do—a perfect tribute to what Coach Smith has left behind.
A lot of kids grown up in the state of North Carolina living Carolina basketball. And even though you didn’t grow up in this state I know you sort of followed Carolina basketball from afar. What did you know about Dean Smith before his passing?
I didn’t really know him personally. Obviously, by the time I got around he was not in a great state (of health). But I knew he was one of the best to ever coach. And really over the past two weeks or so I just learned how great of a person he was. Just like Coach Williams tries to be like a father figure to all his players and staff off the court, paying attention to his players and taking care of them is more important than on the court. And for me, that’s why I’m here. That’s what made him a great coach.
You guys really had a balanced game today offensively—shooting over 60 percent from the field each half, six guys in double figures. What brought that about?
Unselfishness and moving, being active. I think a lot of times we kind of get stagnant. We would enter the ball into the post, move. The big guys were doing a good job, if they got doubled, of kicking it back out. Just being unselfish. Obviously, everybody on the team is good. I think sometime we make one pass and that person tries to go. Next possession one pass and that person tries to go. When we play unselfishly and move the ball it is hard to really stop us on offense.
How did you like the throwback jerseys as a tribute to Dean Smith?
I love them. If we could play in them for the rest of the year I would love that. But I think it was really big, Four Corners, and then also the jersey that they used to wear. It was really big.
Did you take it upon yourself the past two weeks to educate yourself more about Dean Smith?
I did a little bit. I have talked to Coach a few times and looked him up as far as the type of things that he did in his career. And he was a great man—definitely left a legacy behind that, people always say, will never be forgotten by anybody around the country.