Nov. 8, 2007
On the team looking ahead to the season opener vs. Chattanooga
"An assistant coach is responsible for scouting that game. He is solely working on that, but the team itself won't look at anything on Chattanooga until Sunday. We spent most of this week working on us. Just trying to get better and get as many reps as you can."
"Sunday will be a long day for our coaching staff because we have to come in and grade the UNC Pembroke game. We do our plus-minus sheet where all of our kids have a grade. We stat deflections, tips, offensive rebounds, how many times you keep the ball alive, loose balls, all of those things. You have pluses and minuses. Minuses are turnovers, missed free throws, missed shots, fouls and all those things. Pluses are made baskets, offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, made free throws, deflections, loose balls, all those things. We have a system in which you come up with a number and you can tell whether a kid is doing a lot of little things to help you. We had a lot of guys that graded out really high in the North Alabama game. If all you are doing is make baskets, you're not doing enough to help us win the game. It's the little things that we try to reinforce and encourage."
How did the exhibition game vs. UNC Pembroke come about
What about the quick turnaround of having to play Saturday night before beginning the regular season on Monday
"I called them. I have a lot of fond memories of that university. My wife and I both graduated from there, my mother and father graduated from there. My one sister graduated there, my other sisters graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. That university is an anchor in our community. It feels good to be able to help, and that's what we are doing. The kids on that team, the opportunity to play at a historic venue like Assembly Hall, being able to play in front of a great crowd like we will have Saturday night, those are things that those kids will remember a lifetime. For us it's still a basketball game, but it's nice to be in a position where you can help."
"It's a basketball game. We'll play the one on Saturday, we'll get ready to play the one on Monday, nothing more."
Is there an area you concentrated while watching tape of the North Alabama game?
"Yeah, defense. Freshman can't get enough of it. Because you beat a team by a certain number of points doesn't mean you're real good, I don't get carried away with scores. We just need to keep getting better. We are nowhere near as good as I think we are going to be.
"The encouraging thing about the other night (the UNA game) is how we passed the ball. This team is unselfish. Those areas need to continue to be good and those other areas you need to keep improving in. Every team in America has got to improve this time of year."
How does Eric Gordon stay so down to earth with all of the national hype?
"Credit for that goes to his mother and father. He is very modest, very humble. He works at the same pace everyday. He doesn't have a lot of highs and lows. He is pretty steady in everything he does. He comes in early, he works late. When you have a person of his ability level and his attitude, that is when you start getting into the `special' stratosphere. The sky is the limit for that young man because of his attitude, his humbleness."
Asked about the play of freshman Eli Holman
"There are a lot of raw areas in Eli (Holman). His strength is rebounding. I liked that he had four offensive rebounds, regardless of who it was against. He could have zero. If you don't go to the boards, there is a good chance you are going to get no rebounds. He was active. A couple of his fouls are because he was in the wrong place at the right time. He is going to be up and down, that's just how it with kids like that. We told him that: `you are going to be up and down." The thing we want to be consistent is his effort. As long as his effort is consistent I can live with the other stuff."
Will you hold out Mike White for these next two games as well?
"Probably. We haven't made a definitive decision on that yet. It looks like it is heading that direction, but it could change later today, you just don't know. Six people for two positions, somebody's not going to play."
Any memories from your playing days at UNC Pembroke?
"I sat on the bench a lot, so there aren't a lot of memories there. I started a lot as a freshman though and the guard that started beside me was Barry O'Brien, and his brother was the assistant coach, Jimmy O'Brien, who happens to now be the head coach for the (Indiana) Pacers."
"My mom was the school nurse and my dad was the high school basketball coach and athletic director. Small town in America, it's (Pembroke) a good place to be from."
What position did you play in baseball at Pembroke?
"Outfield. I was a catcher in high school. My position was to hit, I liked to hit. You know how you say he wasn't great at anything, but pretty good at everything. I was great at nothing, pretty good at nothing, but a good guy, good teammate. I could hit.
Benefits of playing another exhibition game on Saturday
"When we played North Alabama they played 40 minutes of man-to-man defense. Playing Pembroke is going to be good because they are going to come in here and play hard and throw different types of defenses at us, including zones. I haven't really looked at Chattanooga, Longwood or UNC Wilmington, but in those first three games, those teams are liable to do some of that stuff too. So it's good that we are able to see our man-to-man stuff, make corrections. See some zone stuff, whether it be 2-3 or 1-3-1, and try to attack that."
"This year's team, we've got a lot of expectations from the fans and everybody. They know we're going to have a really talented team this year, and I think we really do have a good team this year, just from playing with them for the first game and from practices. We have practiced real hard, and it has been tough everyday. I'm just having fun playing with the guys this year, and hopefully we'll have a lot of success throughout the whole season.
On getting the first game under his belt:
"It was good. Just an exhibition but I wish it were a game where it counts, where we start, where we're just more determined in playing each game."
On his chipped tooth:
"He was driving, and he got around me, and he just had his elbow out and hit me right my mouth and chipped my tooth. It was chipped bad. It was chipped half way, but I got it fixed right away after the game."
On his impression of college basketball after a month:
"As I was getting recruited, different teams had different practices, but I knew this was a lot more intense than high school, just by people's size and strength. Coach is a lot harder on you individually, on and off the court. I kind of expected a lot of it in my college experience. In the class room, and just don't get in trouble, that is what he looks for."
On defending opponents at the college level:
"I thought I was a pretty good defender in high school. Everybody used to look at my offensive ability throughout my high school career because it overshadowed my defense. I was always able to play defense. It is a little harder, but I would say my strength is what has taken me over. I can guard on the ball, screens, any type of offense. I was comfortable with it. It is always good to have the ball in your hands, but defense makes the game easier if you work hard at it."
On his biggest weakness:
"I like to learn a little more and play a little more as a point guard. This past game I played a little bit after I hurt my tooth, but I've just got to feel more comfortable with that and probably off the ball defense, a little bit on that. Chasing people around because coach expects me to guard a majority of the best players on these teams."
On how people treat him on campus:
"I would say the first two to three weeks of school, everybody was talking, pointing, when I arrived on campus. You could just hear people, when I walked by, just talk about me. Now, it has pretty much calmed down. Since we started basketball season, they were already familiar in seeing me all the time, so everything is just comfortable."
On how he handles all the attention:
"Really, I just don't worry about it because you'll see a lot of professionals in the NBA that might act ignorant or just anything like that. People just do bad things to other people. I've just been taught to treat people with respect because they might down the line help you in the future. They would just say he is a better person than just playing basketball."
On his parents:
"They've been hard on me on attitude. With my parents, attitude makes a big difference with everybody. For me, that has helped my character a lot on just to work hard at playing basketball and other stuff."
On t-shirts bearing his name:
"It is kind of strange because they did make shirts for me in high school, but this is a different level here in college. I'm just glad to see that because people represent this school and represent me too."
On how he stays focused with all of the distractions:
"I really just don't worry about it. I let my play handle where it is. If I was worried about that, you would probably see a little difference in my game confidence-wise. If I just play hard every night, I'll probably bring what people expect."
On D.J. White:
"I would pretty much say it is D.J.'s team. He has been here for four years, and from all the publicity that he has been getting. He is the captain, and he leads us in practice and in games. He is our biggest factor."
On Eric Gordon:
"He brings a lot to the team. Of course he brings his offensive talents, but also his defensive ball pressure and athleticism being in the passing lanes. He brings a lot to us offensively and defensively."
On how he handles being a leader on a team with six new players:
"I think all the guys look up to me for that leadership spot, somebody that has been through the Big Ten season, so some of the guys are curious about what is it like playing at this place, playing at that place. As the season goes go, playing against tougher opponents, things like that. Anything they want to know I try to fill them in."
On how he deals with being recognized in public:
"I still face it today, whenever you're out in the public. This whole town loves basketball. You've just got to be a good person. Even though it might bother you sometimes, you can't show that it bothers you. Just speak, be nice, and continue what you were doing. That is just how I was brought up, just nice to everyone. That comes along with it if you want to be successful, just being a nice person about it."
On working with Dan Dakich:
"It has been fun. He is very energetic. It is like he has been there the whole time. He is good with us. We're good with him. We're getting more and more comfortable with him. He is teaching us a lot of things and just getting us ready to play."
On the upsets that are happening throughout the country:
"I didn't really watch the games. I saw the highlights. It happens. We lost early in the season to Butler, but we bounced back and we still made a tournament appearance. It is early for a lot of teams. I think good teams will bounce back."
On whether the upsets provide motivation for the team:
"I think so. At the same time, guys can look at that and see for themselves that anybody can beat anybody on a given night, so just come to the games prepared, practice to prepare, and focus."