Hoops Freshmen Roundtable - Part VI

And now for the final edition of this epic interview with Chris, Rob and Josh. These discussions had more of an eye on the future, including how Josh and Rob will respond to filling the gaps left by Casey and Curtis; the incoming class this fall; and the value of starting early in the summer before freshman year.

The Bootleg:  Josh, I know that your brothers read and relay on to you some of the things that get said on the message board on The Bootleg.  What are some of the things you heard about the team that were just plain wrong?
Josh Childress:  Mainly just that a lot of people called us soft.  That we need to get tougher and play better defense.  All that stuff.  What gets me - if posters haven't been in this environment, if they haven't been a high-level athlete, then I don't think it's their place to say that someone else isn't doing something right.  Who knows what's going on behind the scenes?  Who knows if he's not hurt, or he isn't feeling well?  It's not their place to say that this guy isn't good.  'He shouldn't be here,' or 'He doesn't deserve this.'  I think that's one of the worst things about fans today - they expect you do be this super athlete.  That kind of gets on my nerves sometimes.  Team-wise, people saying we're soft and need to get tougher.  It's not like we go out there trying to fail.  That may be our mindset - not to be an overall brute, strong team.  Our mindset may be to beat teams with our talent, beat people with our shooting, our dribbling and our offense.  Not to beat everybody up.  To say we're soft is just not right.
Rob Little:  I agree with Josh.  Everyone has something to say about you.  That's the nature of being a human being, of being a spectator.  People are going to make judgments and they're going to criticize.  I do it; we all do it.  It's nothing that isn't inhuman.  But if you're going to be a fan, which comes from the word fanatic, you're going to have to support that person.  If I had the ideal fan, I would want them to be in my corner when I'm losing as well as winning.  But especially when I'm losing.  It's easy to say 'You're not good,' and be negative, but it's even harder to be positive during those times when you're losing.  I think a great example of that is North Carolina fans.  They had a tough time this year - a really tough time.  But they still had people coming to games and Coach Dougherty still had people in his corner.  They didn't fire him, and I think that was a great, positive affirmation by the administration to keep him in his spot.  One thing that really made me mad was someone who wrote a column in the newspaper that was really derogatory and degrading of the team, calling us losers and that he didn't want to watch the game with these people playing.  I thought about that for a long time.  And this is just some random student saying these things.
Josh Childress:  Also my older brother was telling me about some poster who said something to the effect that I didn't deserve to have a Division I scholarship.  When I first heard it, it didn't really bother me.  Just because of the fact that I work hard, and my teammates will tell you I'm not out there trying to fail.  I may not make the shots, but I'm out there trying to do what I've done for many years.  To have that said about me was not only disrespectful to me, but also to the entire coaching staff and my teammates.  I did not like that at all.  I don't know who that was...

The Bootleg:  Now maybe we should get back to some more positive stuff...
Josh Childress:  Yeah. (Josh laughs)  We're getting a little fired up here!

The Bootleg:  Josh and Rob, you two are in the unique situation where if Casey and Curtis do both leave, that drops a load on your shoulders next year.  You could have to take a big step up in responsibility to succeed at those positions.  If you have to become a starter and make a big transition, how will you try to handle that position?
Rob Little:  I think before either of us answers that question, I think it's important to say that whoever takes that spot, it doesn't have to be a huge load, per se.  They don't have to see it as a big burden and responsibility placed on them.  We're a team, and we're going to get through whoever leaves early or whoever stays.  That has to be understood.  Me personally, Curtis took a great responsibility and showed great courage, as I said before, picking up a lot of the load offensively and defensively from Jason and Jarron.  I think I learned a lot from him.  I have a lot of work to do.  I may not be as good my sophomore year as he was his junior year - he really, really was skilled.  Some reporter made the comment to me that if he leaves, I'll be the man.  And I was like 'wow.'  I really didn't even occur to me, especially going into my sophomore year.  I wasn't prepared for that until Curtis left.  As a freshman, I saw him being here for two years, and myself learning from him for two years.  Having the burden of being the center for a Division I basketball program isn't something I envisioned for myself until my junior year.  If he decides to leave, I'll be trying to talk to him every day, trying to get helpful hints from him.  But if he stays, that's even better for me because I get to learn from a future first-round draft pick.  I think he benefited a lot from playing behind Jason for two years - you can just tell.  He bulked up so much over the summertime and got so much bigger and stronger, that the first game of his junior year, he was just ready to go.
Josh Childress:  It's not so much a burden on us.  We saw when people weren't playing as well as they could have this year, other people stepped into the role and played well.  But if Casey does decide to leave, I'll take it with open arms.  I've kind of been in the spotlight a lot through my career, and coming into college, I like that.  I like being a consistent offensive threat and being a solid part of the offense like he was.  If they do decide to leave, everyone will step into their roles.  It will be more of a collective effort.  This year you could throw it down to Curtis, and you knew what to expect.  You got it to Casey and you knew he'd make a play.  But this next year, everybody is going to have to do it.  And I think everybody will do it.
Rob Little:  You made a good point in your email to us, about the transition from our freshman to sophomore years being the biggest one.  I've been contemplating that, even thinking about my high school years.  The move from my freshman year to my sophomore year is similar to this one.  Our big man left.  Our key wing player left.  Here we are left with a team with a sophomore big man who is highly inexperienced, who had to fill a pretty big role, in a pretty good district - a pretty good league we had.  We had a wing player who had to fill a role, and a new point guard.  My sophomore year was riddled with the responsibility of supposedly being the big man - the big center.  I think I learned a lot from that, in terms of channeling the negativity away from me.  Just focusing on being a good player and contributing, no matter what.  If Curtis leaves or Curtis stays, I still want to get better.  I don't just want to get better because he leaves or not play as hard because he's still

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