Q&A with Jawad Williams

The Tar Heels' top returning scorer, sophomore forward Jawad Williams, spoke with the media on Monday afternoon at the Smith Center.

After what happened in the spring, some people think ‘maybe it's not over, maybe things will explode when practice starts.' Are you guys and Doherty really getting along?

Yeah, we're getting along. We came together and realized what we needed to do. The communication lines are open and we've just got to continue to talk. It's like on the court, if you don't talk on help defense, somebody is going to get dunked on. We've just got to continue to talk and move forward. ...

The changes have been made, and I think everything has worked out the best for this team. I think everything will go fine. We just have to work hard now, work hard during the season and go out and play hard.

You said lines of communication are now open. What have you noticed differently from the coaching staff? What has Coach Doherty done that you've noticed?

People are not scared to speak up now. I think everyone should have a voice in what happens on this team, but the bottom line is that the coaches make the final decision. That's fine with everyone now.

What have you told the freshmen to help them?

Just trying to help them understand that they're going to hit bumps in the road as a freshman – we all did. Everyone does in a league like the ACC, but you've got to play through it.

We've taken them under our wing. Jason Capel did it for us. I remember the last game when we played Duke, he came out of the game and gave me a hug and told me he had looked over me and now it was my time to watch over somebody. So, we've taken them under our wing and realize they're going to be a big part of this program and it's going to take a lot to get back to the top. We'll have to work together.

Is there any pressure or responsibility in that?

That's responsibility. There's no pressure in that. That's something that needs to be done and will be done.

What kind of things have you done with them?

The little things help. Are the freshmen hungry? Buy them food. Little things like that help. It shows that you care for them, you've got their back in tough times and will have their back on the court, too.

The freshmen are going to get a lot of attention. Are you comfortable with the amount of attention they will get and the expectations people have of them?

Yeah. They have to be able to take it, keep a level head about it, and go out and play. Just because people have expectations of them doesn't mean they will win games. You have to go out and understand that there are bumps in the road as a freshman and keep playing.

Because this team is so young, you are going to have to be one of the leaders on this team What can you add to this team in a leadership role?

The only thing I can do is lead by example. Not much needs to be said. You just have to go out and play hard.

Considering that there are two upperclassmen to lead the way, what example does Jon Holmes set as a senior on this team?

Jon's one of the hardest working people I've ever met in my life. He knows he might not play every game but he brings it every day in practice. When you see someone do that, it gives you something to push for. … On one situation, Jon got elbowed in the throat, walked to the sideline and threw up, then walked back onto the court and finished playing. Not many guys will do that.

Rashad McCants has said that he wants to be a leader on this team. He doesn't have the experience that you have. How does that fit into the equation, and will this cause problems with you? Can he be a leader as a freshman?

Yeah. Anybody can be a leader. If we have a bunch of leaders, that's fine. You can learn something from everyone. I like that in Rashad and the rest of the freshmen. They are not scared, and they don't hold back. If they feel something is wrong, they speak up, and we'll need that this year. That was one of the problems last year -- lack of communication.

How often does Rashad tell you how good he is?

Not too much. Rashad came in cocky, but he's starting to become a lot more humble.

Everyone knows about Felton, McCants, and May. Of the other three freshmen, who might surprise people?

David Noel. I think he can have a scholarship at any other college in the country. He's athletic, a great defender, and his jump shot is improving daily. Damion, Byron, and David will suprise everybody.

Why do you think David came in under the radar?

He was a football player, at first, that made an adjustment to playing basketball, and I think he'll be a great player.

He could have had a free ride as a football player, but he chose to pay his own way and walk on. What does that say about him?

It shows his dedication. He's willing to come here and help us out. He didn't have to. He could have taken [the scholarship] and played football, but he came here. That shows a lot about David.

As a football player, has he been able to give any pointers in the weight room?

Yeah, he's a beast in the weight room as a freshmen. I think he was one of those kids who started lifting at seven years old or something.

What's a realistic goal for the team this season?

Get better every day.

Is that your personal goal or the goal the coach has given the team?

That's everybody's goal. One quote that stands out to me is ‘If what you did yesterday seems big, then you didn't do much today.' That's true. If you go out and give the same effort every day, then something's wrong. You've got to try and give a little bit more every day.

Do you have a desire to prove anything on the court this year?

Yeah, that we are still Carolina. I don't think anybody is going to come in here licking their chops thinking they're going to get us this year. We're going to try to prove to people that we are still Carolina basketball.

When you look back at last season, what about your game do you think you can [improve upon]?

I think I had spurts where I asserted myself last year. Some games I watched I realized that I could have done it in a lot of other games. A couple of games I had 20 points and I realized maybe I could have done that every game. Or I got 10 rebounds and I thought maybe I could have done that every game. I have to work on asserting myself every game, rather than picking and choosing my moments.

What do you know right now that you thought you knew at this time last year but you were completely wrong about?

Work ethic. I thought I had the great work ethic coming in, but I realized that it takes a little more to be on top.

Do you think you misjudged what it took to make the jump from high school to college?

Yeah. It's more mental here than in high school, and it took me a little while during the season. I think I adjusted after the Georgia Tech game. That was the game that really stood out and showed me I needed to work harder.

What about you, physically as a player, will surprise people that they didn't see last year?

Outside shooting and my ability to go to the basket stronger. I can finish shots around the basket that maybe I couldn't finish last year. I can take the contact and still finish now.

There is a chance that you will be the first scoring option. Are you comfortable with that?

Yeah, I'm fine with it, but I think this team is so versatile and athletic that I don't have to be. Anybody can. Whoever gets it can go for it. I don't care, as long as we win.

How much did you weigh at the end of last season, and what do you weigh now?

I was 198 pounds. Now, I'm 210-215.

What improvements have you seen from the other two sophomores?

Jackie was always a good player, but there were times last year when he felt like he didn't know what he wanted to do. Now, he is more confident. So is Melvin, and he's also gotten stronger. Melvin has become one of those power guards. Everybody worked on the things they needed [to improve]. We knew what we needed to do, and we did it.

You always seem so mellow [in interviews], is there ever a time when you're assertive off the court?

They always say the quiet guy is the one you need to watch. So I figure if I keep my mouth shut, then people won't know what to expect from me.

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