How do you think you played for your first time?
I guess I was a little nervous, and I think it showed on the court. But I've got the first one out of the way. Hopefully, I can come back out and do a better job.
With Damion out, it looks like you are going to play more than you would have if he weren't. What have the coaches told you about what your role is on the team?
Basically, you just play hard in practice and earn minutes. You aren't given anything. You earn your right to play, and I've just been working hard in practice.
Is there anything the coaches have told you to do or not to do, in particular?
I guess it's nothing that they wouldn't tell the other players.
What was it like putting that uniform on the first time?
It was great. I put it on for the Blue-White game and all that, but it was a great feeling to finally put on a Carolina uniform.
Did you anticipate getting this much playing time early?
I really didn't. I thought my role would be just to go to practice and make practice intense and help out my teammates.
Do you think your playing time now could create more depth once David and/or Damion come back?
Definitely. This is giving me exposure. It's my first time being out here and it's allowing me to get [experience] for when he comes back.
Do you feel like you've come a long way in a matter of months going from the small high school gyms to the big-time here?
Definitely. The huge crowd, people yelling and screaming--it's a great feeling and obviously a big difference from high school.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
I guess just competing with these guys. They are great players.
Have any of the players become somewhat of a mentor to you, or is there anyone who you feel like you are learning the most from?
Jawad and Sean have been really helpful in practice. They say, 'Get here.' (pointing) 'Get there.' They are my biggest mentors.
What was it like to get a win for Coach Williams in his first game easily, without making him have to sweat it out?
It really wasn't a win for Coach. It was a win for our team. We had one goal and that was to make this team sweat and work as hard as we could to win the game, and that's what we did.
How much fun was this game for you, having a complete game--any different?
Not really. The game is always going to be fun, but right now it's a business and it's just all about winning.
That was a pretty frantic pace you played tonight.
Definitely. That's how we want to play all year is just up and down, fast, and make teams give in really early by how fast we run up and down the court.
Was there a different feeling out there on the court tonight than at the beginning of last season?
I really don't like to compare it to last year. Last year is way in the back of my mind and I don't like to focus on that. This year is totally different. My state of mind coming into the game was very focused on proving one thing--trying to be the best player in the country playing for the best team in the country.
I know everyone is finished talking about all the controversy from last year--that's not what I mean. With a year of experience, did you feel more confident or more secure out there?
Definitely. I feel more confident every day that I wake up, and that's the way the guys on our team have to be. They have to be confident about playing every night we come in to practice. I definitely feel an improvement from last year and more focused and more mature.
Have you noticed a difference in Rashad's defense--is he concentrating on it more?
Definitely. The first thing me and 'Wad said to him when he came out of the game is 'That's the first time we've seen you play defense since you've been here.' He smiled. It's the truth. He got out and really played defense. He made a turnover and beat everybody down the court to block the guy's shot, and I've never seen that out of Rashad. Last year, that wouldn't have happened. He would have hung his head and been at the other end waiting for us to come back on offense. He's starting to turn into the player that I think he can be and that he knows he can be. He's just got to do it. Tonight he took some footsteps in the right direction.
Why do you think there has been a change? Is it Coach Williams, have you guys talked to him?
I think it's a little bit of everything. He wants to win. Last year was tough on him mentally, physically, everything. He just wasn't in a good situation. This year, I think Coach has been tough on him, which has helped him, and we are tough on him. He's one of our best players. He's got amazing talent. I mean, he can score unbelievably, and for him to do the things he wants, he has to be more of a complete player, and I think he's starting to do that now.
Tonight was a very special night in that it was the first real game for Roy Williams. What are your thoughts about being a part of that?
Last night, I was thinking about that and how special it was to be the team to give him his first win at Carolina, back home where it all started. The first thing I said to him after the game was, 'Congratulations, that's your first win.' Hopefully, we'll bring him many more. It's a great feeling to be a part of his first win at Carolina.
How do you feel about the pace of the game and what you have to do on this team as the most important post player?
I feel fine with the pace of the game. When my teammates come in and see me dragging a little bit they have to keep pushing me. When someone says something to me, that's when I really kick it in gear. I've talked Raymond and Rashad, especially Rashad. I've told them when they see me doing what I'm not supposed to be doing, you have to be the one to tell me. We have that kind of chemistry and that kind of connection, and I think we just have to stay on each other to run for 40 minutes because just 35 minutes won't cut it.
Melvin seems to have come a long way since you guys got here. What do you see different?
Confidence, a lot of confidence, especially handling the point guard position. Coming out of high school, he didn't play the point that much, so he's come a long way with that.
How about your confidence? You seem more confident. Coach Williams said that he came to you and asked you if you are happy here, how did you feel, that he didn't want you to shoot a lot but you are important to the team and that you have taken that all in stride and accepted that. What was that conversation like and how do you feel about it?
At first, I really didn't know how to take it, being a young person. You're like, how do I take that? But I sat back to myself and thought about it: 'OK, what's best for the team? How can I help this team?' So whatever he asks me to do, I'm going to do it.
He said that you are one of the two players he was most impressed with in the pre-season. Has he expressed that to you individually?
Yeah, he has told me how he likes the way I've been playing and to just keep it up.
Did he really tell you he would kiss you if you were prettier?
Yeah. (Laughing) He did. He told me that. I was laughing hard.