Coach Williams has talked about how much he's pushed you over the four years. Has it been tough at times?
"Definitely. ... And it's worked to my benefit. I appreciate everything Coach Williams has done to get me to this point. "
Did you ever think he was picking on you or did you understand his intentions?
"When you're young, you definitely feel like that could be the case, but as you get older and mature, you see the bigger picture of what he was doing. I definitely realize it wasn't to pick on me; it was to push me to be the best player I can be."
Any thoughts on playing the opening rounds in your hometown of Winston-Salem?
"It's good to be able to play at home, but we've got to go there with a focused mindset on what we have to do."
How's the tendonitis in your knee? Have you been feeling better the last few games?
"Yeah, a little bit. I've been taking my medication for it, which has helped me a good deal. But I'm just excited for this NCAA run we're about to make."
What are you expecting for your first NCAA Tournament?
"I'm just going to be ready to play as soon as they tip the ball off - do the best I can and get ready to try and make a deep run in the Tournament."
Your ability to handle the physical play of the ACC was a question mark entering the season, but you've appeared to have gotten better and better with it as the season has progressed ...
"It starts in preseason, working out hard, getting yourself in the best shape possible to be ready for a league like this. You'll never as a freshman be ready for a league like this until you actually get out there and experience it. The more games you get under your belt, the more comfortable you get."
What are the key areas you feel you need to improve on in order to be ready for that next level?
"There's a host of things - everything. Shooting, consistency, rebounding, running the floor, getting better post position, better defensive position. Everything you can think of."
What are your emotions like going into Thursday?
"I feel ready. I'm relaxed, but ready to get it started. Ready to tip it off against Eastern Kentucky. Just ready to get it started."
What do you remember the most about sitting in that locker room after the loss to George Mason?
"Just everybody's head in a towel, nobody talking, everybody just shocked and disappointed that that was the end - that was it. It was tough to swallow. It was something you never want to go through again."
Is that fuel for this week?
"Absolutely, for the people that have been through it and it could just as easily be a caution for the guys who haven't been through it. This is what can happen when you don't go in focused ..."
What has changed on this team from the loss at Georgia Tech to where you are now?
"We had a little shift in our mindset. I really feel like everybody got to the point where they understood that this is the point where it comes down to who is going to be the strongest team, the strongest unit, who is held together the tightest. I really feel this team has embraced that idea and understood that we've got to be the strongest unit in March and that'll be the team that wins."
When you think back to the celebration on the court after the ACC title win, can you relive your emotions and thoughts at the time?
"It was a great feeling to be wearing that hat and T-shirt ... just to be in that position and cut down the net and see everybody laughing and smiling ... it was a great sense of achievement. But at the same time, it didn't feel as good as I thought it would because I think everybody still understood that this wasn't it. If we didn't think we could win the national championship, it would have felt better, but this team believes in the fact that we've got a higher goal set, it almost felt unfulfilling knowing there's more work to be done."
How is the NCAA Tournament's intensity level different from the ACC season and the ACC Tournament?
"It is an increase. You see it. Every game is like [our games against] Duke from here on out - that passion, that intensity, that emotion. Every game is prime time now."
What did you personally and the team take away from the early NCAA exit last year?
"You can see how quickly it ends. We were excited that Michigan State lost and thought we were playing a lower seeded team, then we saw Tennessee lost and we were looking ahead ... you can't look ahead. If you do, your season could be over."
What has the season been like for you with the ongoing foot injury, now the back injury last week?
"I've never experienced something quite like this. I've never had these sort of road blocks. It's been frustrating, but I'm glad I'm healthy now for the most important part of the season and hopefully can make the best of it."