How has your role changed from the end of last year to this year, or has it?
I don't really think it has changed. I'm more confident this year. I've been working on my game more. At the end of last year, I was required to hit shots. This year, I'm required to hit shots, run, handle the ball, defend, various roles. I have bigger responsibility this year, but I'm a bigger man this year. Ya dig?
Do you have a little more swagger this year?
Hey man, I get it from these big-timers, man like Rashad McCants, Raymond Felton, Jawad Williams, Sean May. When you are among those big-timers, you've got to. Ya know what I'm sayin'? If you are with the crew and everybody is like this, you can't be the weak link. See what I'm tryin' to say?
Think back to the home game against Wake Forest two years ago that ended in a 22-point defeat. Where have you made the most progress from then until now?
Just my savvy, thinking the game, my ball-handling. I was forced to work on all these things. I think a situation like that makes the man.
Do you feel more comfortable handling the ball and running the offense?
I definitely feel comfortable because I've been in the gym working on what I need to work on to help this team become a better team.
Is Jawad as quiet around you guys as he is around us, and what did you see from his play tonight?
On the court he's humble. You'll see him jump up after a big play, but he wants his play to talk for him. He's quiet, but his game is loud. Ya feel me?
Tonight, I saw everything. He stepped out and started hitting treys, he was inside banging--get off me! (swinging his elbow) UH! He hit him (swinging the other elbow). He hit him! It was crazy.
You were supposed to save that for Saturday weren't you?
I just went out and played basketball. I'm not worrying where I'm playing or who I'm playing against.
What have you learned about this team in two regular-season games?
I learned that we can be a pretty good team if we concentrate every possession and do what Coach tells us to. Until then, we have to continue to get better from here.
This summer when we talked you told me that you are pretty quiet and you like to let your play speak for itself. Was this one of those games?
Something like that. I was just going with the flow of the game. I didn't want to rush anything and put my teammates in bad spots. I just took my time.
You have told me the past two years that you really didn't expect to have all the losses that you've had as a player at Carolina. Does this finally feel like you expected it to?
It feels good, but we started off 5-0 last year; 2-0 is not much. We still need to get better. I'll feel better when we make it to the Final Four. Then I can put those years behind me. Right now, I think we all need to go out and play with a chip on our shoulders.
Do you feel like it's easier to score in transition?
It's easier for anyone to score when you're running. In the half-court sets, our main goal is to get the ball inside and let the big guys create. When [the defense] doubles down, they kick it out and we try to knock down the shot.
Where did that spin move come from?
I don't know. It just happened.
I haven't seen that before. Is that something new you've been working on?
Nah, it's just there. I have a lot of things I don't bring out, and that is one of them.
You made a great play, saving the ball diving out of bounds, right before the spinning lay-up. When you came out of the game Coach Williams had a big grin on his face. What did he say?
He didn't say anything, just 'Good job.'
Did that grin say it all?
Jawad has told me how quiet he is and that he doesn't say much, but his game spoke volumes tonight, didn't it?
Definitely. 'Wad doesn't say much. If he says something, you better listen because he's either really mad or something is going wrong. Tonight, you could just see what he can do. He can shoot the ball really well, for a guy 6-9 to step out like that and make threes. Then he goes over guys and dunks on them. He's big. He's the heart and soul of this team, just like Raymond. I think those two and Rashad are the best three players on this team.
Jackie seems more comfortable this year, maybe with a little more bounce in his step. What do you see from him?
I just see a guy who just wants to play and listens to what Coach wants. Not enough people give Jackie credit for what he does. He turned it around out there, got two steals, couple of lay-ups. He's struggling on his free throws right now, but Jackie is a heck of a player. Every team needs a guy like that who is not selfish, doesn't want points, and just wants to be out there helping his team win.
How is Jawad a better player now than he was last year?
I think Jawad lets things come to him. You could see that in the game against ODU, not scoring in the first half, having 12 at the end of the game. Tonight, he just let everything flow to him. He wasn't taking bad shots. When that happens, it makes him better and the whole team better.