WILMINGTON – Former North Carolina Tar Heel Brendan Haywood officially began his professional career Tuesday at Trask Coliseum on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington as a member of the NBA's Washington Wizards.
Haywood, who helped lead the Tar Heels to a share of the regular season ACC championship last year as a senior, was one of the few players new Wizards head coach Doug Collins singled out for his positive play on both practice sessions today.
Here is a brief interview with UNC's all-time leader in blocked shots. The interview took place after the Tuesday evening session.
On playing with other former Tar Heels Hubert Davis and Michael Jordan.
"I am glad they are out there with me because they give me a great support system and they really help me out and show me the ropes. And us, Carolina we are all a big family so they take me under their wings."
On how he feels stacked up against a bunch of NBA players after one day of practice.
"I feel I am holding my own out there and feel I am doing very well. I'm happy with my play today and I hope I continue to develop."
What to expect from the Wizards.
"I'm looking to try to make the playoffs. We have Michael Jordan on the team and I am hoping things can jell and we can make the playoffs. I am here to win some games."
After a summer where he was traded twice and finally ended up with the Wizards.
"It really didn't matter to me. I just wanted a chance to play NBA basketball. Once I was a first-rounder, I knew I was guaranteed to play somewhere."
About when he knew Jordan was coming back.
"I knew basically a day before everybody else."
About how having him back will help the team.
"I really think it will help give us a better chance to win. Just some of the stuff he sees out there on the court really helps out the young players. He's always a step or two ahead."
About how Jordan just being around helps the team and did so at UNC.
"It rubs off on us a lot. We just learned so much from Mike with him being at Carolina and him being here. We just learn from him all the time."
About a possible friendly wager amongst former Heels in Chapel Hill this past summer on whether he would be back or not.
"There wasn't any wager. Everybody kept asking me. I think I got more MJ questions than he did (laughter). The fact of the matter was like everybody kept saying ‘is he coming back, is he coming back?' And I really hadn't seen him since like two years ago."
Andrew Jones is in his sixth year covering football and basketball for Inside Carolina. He also in his fourth year as a copy editor and staff writer for the Wilmington Star-News and hosts a nightly radio show on WAAV-AM980 in Wilmington. He has also written for ACCNews and once published The College Game and the former Total Sports. He can be reached via e-mail at: AJWAAV@aol.com.