Q&A with Jackie Manuel

With his tough freshman campaign behind him, a more confident Jackie Manuel fielded questions from a seat in the Smith Center on Monday.

Were you here all summer?

I went to summer school for the first session and then went back home and worked out. I worked out by myself. My family still lives down there. I went back, visited with my family and worked on my game.

If you had to pick one part of your game from last year, what was it, what did you do over the summer to work on that?

My shooting. I really worked hard on that, being able to shoot of the dribble and being consistent with my shot -- and getting stronger.

Was [bulking up] one of the most important offseason challenges for you?

Yeah, I took that pretty seriously. I wanted to come back stronger and bigger – ready to play.

Have you put on some weight?

I gained like five pounds. I weigh 190. Last year, I weighed 185. I feel a lot stronger than last year. On the court, for instance, last year around this time taking the ball to the basket guys would hit the ball out of my hand while this year it's much harder for them to knock it out of my hand.

With everything that went on last season and last spring, do you feel comfortable with where the program is now?

It was a big shock to me because I expected to come in and keep the 20-game win streak alive and when we lost those first couple of games, I was like – ‘what's going on?' … I think that we're ready to make a change now. Everybody wants to put the last season behind them and we're ready to get back on track and start winning again.

You speak of a change – what sort of change are you referring to?

From last season. We're ready to turn it around. I don't want to go through another 8-20 season and I know the other guys don't want to go through it either. We're hungry. I mean, everybody was hungry last year, but sometimes we thought it would just come to us.

Was too much made of the [postseason fallout] or was that a legitimate process that you all needed to go through?

I think that was a legitimate process. There were a lot of things people had to get off their chest for us to move on and that was the only way we were going to move on.

Once the season ended, what was the range of emotions you went through and when did they translate to wanting to get back out there?

It was a long season, and I was ready for the next season as soon as the season was over, because I wanted to redeem myself. At 8-20, I really didn't want to go out like that. You see guys you played with in the [all-star] games and different guys from high school and you see them playing in the [NCAA] Tournament and you're like, ‘I wish I was there.' I was thinking that I couldn't wait for the next season.

Did you watch the NCAA Tournament?

Yeah, I watched it. It was hard to watch, but I watched it. I wished we were out there playing.

So what's going to be different this year? What'll be the reasons behind the turnaround?

Guys are hungry. They want to win and basically they'll do anything – walk through a brick wall to win. I know that in order to play in the ACC you've got to work hard, you've got to lift weights and work on your game 24/7.

The Jackie Manuel I saw last season clearly wasn't the same Jackie Manuel that was torching the competition on the summer high school circuit at events such as the ABCD Camp. Were last year's struggles a confidence issue?

Yeah, at times when I was on the floor I was pretty nervous – amazed by the crowd and the atmosphere and I wasn't myself. Just being on the floor, playing in the ACC made me nervous. It was a new experience and I wasn't used to playing in front of thousands of people. This year, I've been through that and I want to come in with the confidence that I had back in high school and just play my game. …

I think the [UNC coaching staff] kind of threw us in the fire so that when we got to this year we'd be ready.

And now there's a new class of freshmen that the staff has to do the same thing with …

Basically they have to. We have six freshmen so they have to get thrown in the fire.

What have you seen from the freshmen so far?

I think the young guys are going to come in and make a big impact. They are pretty strong and quick and they can jump and shoot. Those guys can really play.

Having learned from last year, what advice can you give to this year's freshmen?

When you get out there, you have to relax and let the game come to you. As a freshman, you tend to rush and get out of control at times. It's hard not to be anxious and ready to play, but they have to be patient. When the time comes, be ready to play.

When you watched film, did you see that anxiety in yourself?

Yeah. I saw times when I was out of control and everything was just "fast, fast, fast." Now that I've been through that and I have a year under my belt, I know what to expect and I know what it's like. Basically, I know how to approach it now.

There were times last year when you'd showed lots of athleticism and quickness, you'd make a great move and get to the basket or get an open shot. You'd do about everything right but finish the play. What can you do this year to finish those plays?

That comes with getting stronger and being able to concentrate after you make the move.

An incoming class of six freshmen can create an interesting dynamic. How have you all been getting along?

All of us – we're really close. We know what we have to do and we're ready to do it together.

Are you comfortable with the playing time and attention they're going to get?

Yeah, that's cool with me. All I'm trying to do is win and I know they're trying to do the same thing.

Are you comfortable that the minutes will be there for you this year?

As long as I get out there and play – and we win – that's all that counts.

We talked about how you had some anxiety last year and you weren't the most confident at times. Rashad McCants' confidence already seems to be through the roof. He's assertive, he's a talker, he wears his Carolina allegience on his sleeve. What have you seen from him in this regard?

I see a guy who can, basically, do it all, from rebounding, passing, shooting, to taking it to the basket to using his strength to post up.

Is it a good thing that he's so confident?

That's a good thing. I want him to keep that confidence. That's what you need.

He said he wants to be a leader. Can he be a leader as a freshman?

Yeah. Anybody on this team can be a leader. I look at it as us making one another better.

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