Q&A with Will Johnson

There will be only two upperclassmen on the court for Carolina this year -- and one of them is senior forward Will Johnson, who passed up a summer trip to Europe in order to spend the months with his teammates and working on his game, as he explained at the Smith Center on Monday.

Talk a little about what you've done this summer to prepare for the coming season?

I stayed here all summer and worked our camps. Lifted weights all summer. The older guys were here first session and parts of the second sessions. The new guys came in second session. We all just lifted together, played pickup together. It was a real good summer for all of us.

Wasn't this to be the summer or your Morehead trip?

One of the things we do is travel study and I deferred that because I wanted to be here and be with the team and have a chance to be in the gym all summer. I definitely think it was the right decision.

Where were you supposed to go?

It's up to me. You design the study program and then carry that out wherever it may be. I was probably going to go to Europe, but I really never gave it much thought because I knew probably beginning of last year that I wanted to stay here this summer.

What have you seen from the freshmen?

They are talented guys. I played with them this summer. They are going to make freshmen mistakes, but I definitely have confidence in them. They are highly-rated, and they are extremely talented, and I like playing with them. They are fun to play with and fun to compete against in pick-up games. I'm impressed with their willingness to compete, their willingness to work, and their love for playing. They love to come in here and play, and that is important, especially when you are trying to get the program back on track.

If you are successful, they will get a lot of the credit. Is that good or bad?

That's who we are. That's our team. We have young guys, but they came here to succeed. If they succeed, great. That's exactly what they are supposed to do.

The team will get the credit, if we have a good season and are successful, but certain guys are going to shine at certain times. That's the way every team is, but it's not about all the freshmen getting all the credit, or all the sophomores getting all the credit. The bottom line is that everybody on this team wants to win, and that's the most important thing a team needs. Who gets the credit doesn't matter.

David Noel is supposed to be the athletic freak of the bunch …

Yeah, I knew he was athletic, but he can do some neat things on the court. He's a good player and is going to help us. You're right, he's extremely athletic – our team's most athletic guy. And that's going to help us, especially on the defensive end and he can knock down some jump shots, too. … He took off from the free throw line and dunked, not during a game, and has dunked on some people. I can see how he could be such a good [wide] receiver. …

Everybody on this team, from top to bottom, can help us and can do different things for us. Each freshman has different things he can bring to the table. David, for example, is extremely athletic. I think he can be a really good defender. He can shoot the ball. All those guys will help us. Whether or not they are a McDonald's All-American or walking on or less heralded, all of them are going to help. That' exciting for me because you want a team where everybody contributes.

Tell us about David's free-throw line dunk.

Yeah, he can dunk from the free-throw line. The rumor is true. I gave him some pointers. I showed him how to do the one-handed lay-up, and he showed me how to do the free-throw line dunk.

Can you talk about the team chemistry, balancing two seniors, three sophomores and six freshmen?

It's working out well so far. The guys coming in, they listen and are easy to get along with. They're good guys and it's gone smoothly so far.

With only two upperclassmen on the roster, you take on a leadership role this season, right?

Yeah, I think I do. I'm comfortable with that and have looked forward to that for a long time now. Seniors here have always taken on that leadership role and I'm excited about it.

Have you and Jonathan [Holmes] specifically talked about that role? Have you talked to Doherty about it?

We both individually met with Coach. And we've talked informally amongst ourselves about what kind of role we need to take with this team. We both know that we're not superstar-type athletes who score 30 points a game. But we also know that we can come to practice every day and do the things we've done for three years and try to set a good example for these guys. And also during the season when guys have trouble dealing with certain situations we can be there to help them with that. The team is getting along real well so far. Jon and I can be there to help smooth the transition. …

We have to do the same things we've done for three years. We aren't going to change who we are. We have to relay some things we've learned. We've been through a lot – a Final Four, a number one ranking, and Carolina's worst season. We have learned a lot.

Jon and I are guys who come to work every day, give what we have, and are team guys. I think that will be important on this team. Any questions that come up along the way, we'll be there for them. At this point, we are just getting to know each other. We know the three sophomores, and we know the freshmen from the summer, but relationships are in the process [of being formed], right now and it's exciting.

You won't be mistaken for Vince Carter, but you are a guy who understands the game of basketball. You will have other players around you who are really athletic. How can you be the "glue" on the team?

Yeah, I try to do stuff like that, and I take pride in it. I know I have more athletic guys around me. If there is someone out there who needs to set a pick or make the extra pass, box out, rebound, all those things, that is something I can do. And I think that is something that every winner needs, and I feel fortunate to be in that position. Hopefully, I can produce while I'm out there.

Does it ever get old having people underestimate you?

It's kind of a necessary evil. It keeps me going. Sometimes it makes me angry, but I turn that anger into coming down here and working out. That's how I look at it. People have done that to me since I was in high school, and I've got one more year to keep proving people wrong. Hopefully, I can continue to do that.

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