Blue-White: Locker Room Report

CHAPEL HILL -- <i>Inside Carolina</i> spoke with Will Johnson, Melvin Scott, Jawad Williams and Jackie Manuel after tonight's Blue-White exhibition.

WILL JOHNSON

We've got some things to work on. Defensively, we could step that up a bit. But we've got a great group of guys that all get along. I enjoy playing with them.

How's it different for you now with Raymond Felton running the floor …

We were just talking in the locker room about how quick the ball gets up the court. It's ridiculous. If you're getting back on defense, basically there's no three-quarter run. It's a sprint – a dead sprint. Because you know if you don't sprint back, Raymond's going to run it right up your back. That's a great guy to have on your team. I'm glad we're playing with him and not against him. It's fun for me – I just spot up and wait for him to find me. That's the way we want to play.

Saw you banging pretty hard down low with Rashad McCants …

He's a big, strong guy – especially for a freshman. He's got a freakish four percent body fat. We make each other better. He had a real good game tonight and is going to help us out a lot. Obviously can shoot the ball, play physical – it's good competition.

What stood out to you about David Noel?

First of all, his athleticism – but everyone knows about that. Really the thing that impressed me was the way he passed the ball. A couple of times he got an offensive rebound and in mid-air passed the ball to an open guy on the wing. One, that's vision and two, that's unselfishness. That's exciting to have a guy who's not even on scholarship this year and he's able to do those things for us. He's fun to play with and plays hard.

Is it sufficient to say the ‘ooh' and ‘ahh' factor from the crowd is going to be higher this year?

Yeah, you could tell that from Midnight Madness. We've got some guys that can do some things. It was like the second play of the game that David did whatever he did on that dunk. That's one of those type of plays that we hopefully will be able to get if we push the ball.

Does the record crowd tonight reflect the added excitement the team has this year?

I hope so. We have an exciting group and fans are anticipating an exciting team. A young team – athletic – but we're going to make some mistakes and the fans realize that. They just want to see us play hard and play Carolina Basketball. And I think this group can do that.

Now three weeks into practice, have you seen significant improvement with the team?

Yeah, from day one. The first few weeks of practice since I've been here have been the best first three weeks since I've been here. A lot of that is that you don't know how freshmen are going to react to college practices. You think they're just going to try to tread water, but they were swimming. We've just got to keep that up – it's a long season. A lot of that is trying to learn not to sprint, because the season is a marathon.

MELVIN SCOTT

How do you feel this team is progressing after playing in a game situation in front of the fans?

We're progressing well. You see we have some scorers. The real test is to see if we can defend because we gave up a lot of points tonight. I think that's what we have to prove at the next exhibition--that we can play defense.

What have practices been like with this group?

They have been tough and competitive because we are going at each other and making each other better. I think it helps us as a team.

David Noel is a guy people don't know that much about. What have you seen from him? It looks like he will contribute.

Absolutely. He brings energy to the team, and that's what we need. Sometimes we lacked that last year. With David playing that slot, we are going to be better.

Everyone talks about how David Noel is such a great athlete, but it's obvious from tonight that he's also a good basketball player. What do you think?

They sleep on David because they say he's just athletic. He's a player. He's smart, he can shoot, he can drive, he's strong, and he's an all-around player. I like him because he knows the game. A lot of cats are going to sleep on him, and that's going to help him even more. He's going to explode on guys every night.

Were there shots out there that you didn't have before, because of the way Raymond can find people?

Oh yeah. Last year, I played the one, and when I played the two I had to create more. But with Raymond pushing it, he draws a lot of attention. Of course it's easier. I just spot up and I'm ready when he penetrates.

Have you been playing the point guard position in practice?

Every now and then, but mainly Jon and Raymond take over.

How much easier will it be with Raymond out there after struggling to get good shots last year?

It will be really easy. He's so quick, and he can feed the big fellas down low or hit us on the wing. And he can create for himself. That's the wonderful thing--this year we are quicker.

It looks like you will be smaller in the post this year, but you can also create mismatches on offense.

Yeah, we're smaller, but we're quick. We have to get after it defensively. I think that will be a key for us.

What did you see tonight that you liked?

The way we went at each other--our competitive spirits. That was good. We have a lot of scorers on the team.

Will said that he liked what he saw on the court tonight, but that last year there weren't a whole lot of games where he could say that. How refreshing is that?

It's great. I like our swagger. We have swagger and the new guys coming in are [also] confident. That's what I like about them. They pick us up, just seeing that they can come in an be so confident as freshmen.

Do you you have any trouble keeping the freshmen in line?

At times. You have to say "Hey! Listen up," because they might buck on you or say something like they forget who we are. But I love it, man. You need that in the ACC because teams will come at you every night, and we want them to come out and play. I love that swagger.

JAWAD WILLIAMS

As a sophomore now, do you feel you are able to just go out and play and not think too much?

I think that's the case with everyone. We still have structure, but our structure is more so about finding the open man. It's fun playing like that. We've got the athletes to do it – so why not?

Do you feel more comfortable in the post this year?

I feel a lot more comfortable down there this year than last year. Last year I didn't have the weight that I've gained.

Talk about having Raymond on the floor –

He's a scoring point guard. He's extremely quick with the ball and is going to cause a lot of matchup problems. All I have to do now is run and put my hands up.

Have you been impressed by David Noel's play?

Ever since I met David I knew he could go anywhere and get a scholarship, but we didn't have one for him this year. But he proved he's going to be a great player.

The team showed more offensive weapons tonight than we saw last year …

We've got threats all over the floor. We've got Melvin spotting up or driving … there are going to a lot of problems for other teams. This year when somebody will have an off night I think we'll find someone who is on and get him the ball.

Did you notice the bigger crowd tonight?

This crowd was a lot better than it was last year. I think we put a lot of excitement into the Dome. We're starting over brand new and are ready to get after it

JACKIE MANUEL

We've talked about how confidence was an issue for you last year – how'd you feel tonight?

At first it felt weird because the season is already here, but basically I'm relaxed and confident – and ready to do whatever it takes to help the team win.

To what do you attribute the record attendance tonight?

Yeah, they're ready to see what the freshmen can do and ready to see how the older guys and the freshmen can get together and get some wins. I think we're going to have a great season.


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