Media Day Interviews

The Syracuse Orange enter the 2005-06 season as a consensus top 25 basketball team. Senior Gerry McNamara and four talented Juniors are looking to erase a bitter ending to last season with a fresh start in an expanded Big East conference. OrangeNation got a chance to talk with some key members of this years team at the annual media day at Manley Field House....

Josh Wright:

On his approach to this season:

"I'm coming into this season optimistic as ever. Just looking to help my team anyway that I can, knowing that we have a tough schedule ahead of us. Every game is going to be a dogfight even before the Big East. I'm just looking forward to getting my guys going.

On being the player with purest PG skills and chances to gain more playing time:

"I'm 19 years old now, I'm a year older and that year of maturity always helps. It's all up to (Coach) Boeheim, so whatever I think or whatever anyone else thinks doesn't matter. You know, it's all about the performance I put out in practice and the hard work I put in off the court and on the court."

Was last year a learning experience for you and how do you take what happened last year to motivate you:

"I haven't really thought about last year because I can't move forward looking backward. That's what I'm going by right now."

How is team approaching this year after losing to Vermont last year:

"Like I said, we can't really move forward by looking backward at any specific game we lost last season. We're starting fresh, looking to start a new personality for our team. We don't have the three seniors that we had last season so everyone else is trying to come into their own this year."

Eric Devendorf

On the transition to college:

"Well, it's been good. I'm trying to get used to the classes and the work. I'm getting used to it and my teammates are helping me feel more comfortable. I think as the season progresses, I'll feel more comfortable."

On the transition on the court:

"I've been playing against people of this caliber for a long time. But just being out here in this atmosphere and playing with a college team is a little bit different. I like it, I'm starting to feel comfortable – throughout the summer I was playing with these guys and also in the 8 weeks in preseason conditioning.

On the significance of wearing #23:

"It was my number at Oak Hill and my AAU, so I thought I'd carry it over to Syracuse."

On team expectations:

"I think we can do big things this year. I'm expecting big things from all of us and hoping to make a deep run in the tournament this year.

Arinze Onuaku (pronounced OH nu AH koh) On college life:

"It's been different for me. I'm seeing and learning new things everyday, but I expected that coming into college. My mother and my father were telling me how it was going to be. On the basketball court, me and Eric (Devendorf) came in this summer and it first it was hard. I mean playing with these guys (current team members), it was like "wow, where am I at right now". But today its like, we're playing with them. I think over time, we'll learn from watching and playing against them."

On who has been the most helpful in his transition:

"Coaches? Coach Murphy and Coach Fine work with the big men and they've been helping me, you know, with right hand, left hand and all that. I play against Mookie every day and he's athletic and strong and that's helping me with my game because that's what I'm gonna see in the season.

On what he needs to improve to win playing time:

"My all around game. They (coaches) been talking about replacing Hakim Warrick and all, he can step out and hit the 15 footer and he can go to the basket and he can jump high. So I think I need to become more athletic, to be able to score around the basket and play defense and since we're playing the 2-3 we need to rebound. I can face up and go to the basket, everything I did in high school was going to the basket. I can put the ball on the floor a little bit, but everything I was doing in high school was facing up going to the basket."

Daryl Watkins

On his approach to the season:

"I think I'm going to have a bigger role this year and I'm ready for it."

On his off season:

"This year I stayed up here the whole year, worked out whenever I could".

On his approach to practice this year:

"Every day I come to practice this year I'm thinking "gotta keep your starting spot", something I wasn't thinking about the last two years."

Are you more relaxed knowing you're going to start, or is there more pressure?

"Kinda both. I'm feeling relaxed that I finally got what I've been working for, but you have to stay up on your toes because someone can easily just take that spot from you."

Gerry McNamara

On entering his senior year:

"I'm just trying to be successful. Just trying to finish my career in the right way and go out on a good note. It's important for me and to me to go out the right way".

On losing to Vermont least year:

"You never like ending the season on a loss, especially in a game you think you should have won. But the past is the past, you've got to put it behind you at some point, this is a new season and a new start and I've put that behind me but it's a constant reminder that any team can beat anyone and that's what makes college basketball such a great sport."

On being the lone senior:

"I'm just going to try to step in and lead the way Hakim, Josh and Craig did last year with class and dignity and by being honorable people. If I lead by example and set a tone it should carry over and that's what I'm looking to do."

On not having a Notre Dame home game this season:

"We've (Scranton) always brought in a good crowd for the Notre Dame game, Scranton loves that game. It's a little disappointing but there's going to be plenty of others. There's going to be senior night and that's going to be pretty hectic. But I'm not worried about who we're playing, but I'm sure some people in Scranton are going to be a little disappointed about that one."

On Senior night:

"It's going to be mixed emotions. I'm going to be excited to play but sad to leave. Obviously it's going to be pretty emotional for me. I'm sure the fans will give me some kind of ovation and that's what's going to make it so tough to leave. They've been so good to me and I don't really want to leave, but you've gotta go at some point."

Anything different in the off season?

"I just worked as hard as I ever have. I tried to get in the best shape as I could and try to be the best player I could be. I think I'm at that point, I think I'm ready to go and I feel better than I ever have. I hope we have a great year and if we come together, you never know what could happen.

On how much the international experience helped him:

"A little bit yeah. That was more for me to be able to represent my country. Not many people can say they did that. That was important to me and also to try and win a gold medal. But the most important thing for me was to be ready for this season.

On his expectations from this year's team:

"We just need to play as hard as we can, if we do the important things, play defense, rebound we can be successful. That's all I can expect right now and that's the one thing you always expect, and that's to play hard."

Terrence Roberts:

On his expectations for this season:

"I just want to prove everyone wrong. All the critics- everybody-they've been down on us and have us graded low. I mean, we like being rated low, flying under the radar so it really doesn't bother us. It's just the fact that everybody is looking at us like "they're not going to be a good team, this is going to be a rebuilding year". I've worked too hard for that, for this to be just a rebuilding year. We've got a lot to prove this year."

On taking over for Hakim at the power forward spot:

"Its exciting for me because I've been looking forward to this, I've been looking forward to being a main guy for a long time. I always wanted to be a main guy and being a leader and being one of the emotional leaders of the big men down low. But I can't do it by myself and I'm definitely a team player. I'm going to help my team get there and I hope they help me get us to a championship or as far as we can go."

Do you see yourself as the emotional leader of the team?

"I see myself as a leader of this team in every aspect that you can write down on a piece of paper. I've always seen myself as an emotional leader since I was a freshman and wasn't playing. I liked being a cheerleader on the side. No matter what, I was always a guy that was going to be there supporting my teammates no matter what and I'm going to continue that this year." More tomorrow with in-depth talk with Assistant Head Coach Mike Hopkins

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