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Q&A with UNC Coach Roy Williams, Part V

CHARLOTTE, N.C. --- Roy Williams answered questions for an hour at the ACC's Operation Basketball media event last week. Read everything the Tar Heel head coach said in Inside Carolina's five-part transcription ...

What will this team be able to do better this year than last year because of its experienced talent?

Hopefully everything. Three big issues, as I said, turning the ball over, making too many silly fouls and being a really, really good offensive rebounding team and a very mediocre defensive rebounding team, are the three things that we’re trying to emphasize to the guys and finishing the game better, making the right play down the stretch, I think those are the things that we’re emphasizing more.

What limitations do you think you need to overcome?

How well are we going to shoot the ball from the three-point line? Who did we add to our team that’s a great shooter that’s going to change that? The answer there is no one. So every individual has got to do that better. Who is going to take care of the basketball and have a better assistant/error ratio? It’s everybody on the team that has to do it. Offensive rebounding, J.P. gave us a great offensive rebounder, so now Theo has to be able to do some of that. Justin has got to do it better. If we go small with Joel or Nate with Marcus, you’re smaller so those three or four or five guys have got to really do a great job rebounding. But Marcus and Nate and Joel have got to do a better job of rebounding as guards to erase some of those areas I thought we were not very good last year. What’s going to happen is … we may do all those three or four a lot better and find some other spot that we don’t do as well.

Are you getting a better feel as to whether or not Kenny Williams and Luke Maye can help you this year?

It’s strange with Kenny, because the first time I saw Kenny play I said ‘God, that kid can really shoot the ball.’ I found out that he’s a much better basketball player, which I didn’t give him credit for and a much better defender, which I didn’t give him credit for, than he is just a shooter. But we need him to shoot the ball in the basket for us and I expect him to. Luke is just one of those kind of guys that’s just a plugger. He’s just going to keep plugging along, plugging along, playing, doing things and he’s an extremely intelligent kid that I think will find a way to get in the game and help us. I really like both those kids. None of those guys have the expectations to be in the NBA at the end of this year. There’s not 25 teams trying to tell you that we’re going to draft you at the end of this year. But I think they’re really going to help our team.

Do you have an idea of how Williams and Maye will fit into the rotation?

No, not yet. I’ve always been one that thinks the players determine what that rotation is, not me. If you beat a guy out, then you’re going to play more and if you don’t, you’re not going to play as much. The first two to three weeks I always emphasize half-court offense, half-court basic man-to-man defense and our running game. That’s what we’ve done for 17 practices. We haven’t worked on any presses. We try to work on our foundation the first two and a half to three weeks and then try to get ready to play games after that.

What are your thoughts on more of an emphasis on everyone starting the season on the same day?

I’d like to see that last all year. I’ll use Tony (Bennett) as an example, last year he had a great, great year. His team was the best team in our league. People forget that because somebody else won the ACC Tournament. I always think what you do those two and a half or three months is more important than what you do in three days or four days or five days, now I guess or six, I don’t even remember how long it goes. I wish the regular season meant even more. I wish the regular-season winner always got the automatic bye in every league. I think it would reward better season, better rewards for that. And yet, what’s one of the truly great things about the NCAA tournament? One loss and you’re out. As coaches, I’d like to see the regular season mean a lot more.

Justin and Kennedy said that at some point in their freshman years, they stopped watching and trying to figure out when you were going to yell at the team, and started watching the team and figuring out when they needed to be yelled at. How important is it for a player to make that switch and can you tell when it happens?

I can’t tell when it happens, but I like to put it a different way. They stop listening to how I’m saying it and just listen to what I’m saying. Don’t take the idea that I’m very calm or that I’ve got the veins popping out, listen to what I say. I try to coach every player, on every possession, in every practice. At times that’s overwhelming. I try to tell them that my job is to give you an advantage and then let you be a player. Sometimes it goes overboard, most of the time it doesn’t go quite as close as I want it to. Both of those guys are good basketball players who figured out at some point what was truly the most important thing to making them a better player and that’s what they chose.

Is Marcus in the conversation for the most intelligent player you’ve ever coached?

Marcus is in the conversation, no question about that. Sean May, Kendall Marshall, Bobby Frasor. Marcus, those guys were really intelligent about what the game really meant. How important one play was. How if you don’t do this, you can really hurt your team or if you do this in a different way than we want it can really hurt your team. But Sean is at least the top three of the smartest basketball players as I’ve ever coached and with as good of hands as anybody I’ve ever coached.

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