Excitement was in the air at the Ritz Carlton in Charlotte, as players and coaches representing their respective schools anticipated the start of a new season at the ACC’s annual Operation Basketball Media, where squads talked about expectations, off-season progress and even a little bit of scandal. Here are some of the day’s best quotes.
Louisville Cardinals’ Damion Lee on how the team focuses on basketball despite ongoing escort scandal:
I mean, all we do is just focus on basketball, just going through our daily schedule. We wake up, Trey and myself, we have online classes. But most of the guys wake up around 8:00, 9:00, go to class, come in, you do your individual workout, you have study hall right after that, you get your lift in. Then we have practice and then we have dinner at the dorm.
So all our days are basically consistent. All we do is just focus on the other 14 — altogether the 15 guys that are here suited up for us, the coaching staff, and we don’t really let any outside distractions get to us.
North Carolina’s Justin Jackson on how he’s changed from his freshman to sophomore year.
The biggest thing for me is confidence. This time last year, I was nowhere near as confident as I am now, on and off the court. And I think that will really help me individually and help the team, as well. And so for that, I think I’m really looking forward to how the season will play out for me and then how the season will play out for the team. We’re really looking forward to it.
North Carolina’s Kennedy Meeks on the Tar Heels having a target on their backs due preseason #1 rating.
I really honestly don’t think so. I think a target is a target. A team is a team. Like Justin said, there’s always going to be teams on the hunt for us, no matter if we’re No. 1, No. 60, whatever we are. They’re always going to try to beat North Carolina. I just think that comes with the respect of coach, the respect of our school. No matter what we’ve been through lately, I think everyone still has the type of respect for us to bring their A game every time.
NC State’s BeeJay Anya on how his off-season weight loss has improved his game.
Yeah, my stamina has definitely improved. I can play harder for a longer period of time, and I’m a much better athlete than I was last year, so I can jump higher, run faster, move quicker overall, and I think it’s going to be — get so a point where I can block more shots this year than I did last year, and that’s a scary sight for most people. I think it’s going to be a good year.
Clemson’s Landy Nnoko on the feeling around campus going into basketball season with the success of the football team.
Everyone is excited. Our football team is really good this year. Like I said, I’m all in for them. I hope they get a spot in the Playoffs. But as far as our team, it carries over. We’ve just got to find ways to like try to be as successful as them, and then we will see like how the year goes.
Georgia Tech’s Charles Mitchell on what motivates him.
Just I’m very passionate about it. I feel like this game changed my life overall, so not to give my all to it would be a dishonor. I’m the type of player I go out and give it my all every night. I feel like if I don’t give it my all, I let a lot of people down. Just the passion and the emotion I get from other people when I go out there and win for them because I just don’t do it for myself. I feel like I’m playing for more than just myself. I’m playing for a community, I’m playing for a city. I’m from the city of Atlanta and Georgia Tech is very special to my heart, so when I go out there, I’m playing for more than just the name on my back.
Marshall Plumlee on how often he rocks his National Championship ring.
I think it’s different with each player, but for me, I put on the ring wherever I wear my Sunday best. It’s something I’m proud of, and every time I look at it, it reminds me of the great year I had and shared with my brothers this past year. It reminds me of how I want that again more than ever. I want to share it with this year’s team.
So it’s different from player to player, but me personally, I only wear it when I dress up nice.
Commissioner John Swofford on Rick Petino not attending and the Louisville allegations.
Well, in terms of Rick, yes, it generally is mandatory that coaches be here. But we did not feel it appropriate to try and stand in the way and negate legal counsel advice that was given to the University of Louisville. We had discussions. Louisville knows that our strong preference is that all of our coaches be here, but these are extenuating circumstances, and I think you have to respect the legal advice that President Ramsey and that athletic director Tom Jurich and Coach Pitino were given, and we respect that.
I think the first thing is that — and I think this is pretty obvious to any of us in the room, that what has been alleged has absolutely no place in college athletics in any way, shape or form. There are multiple investigations going on to try and get to the truth of this issue, and I think we’ve all seen situations in recent years where things got out of hand in the wrong way initially and then things turned out to be very different than what was reported or appeared to be the case at the beginning.
So I think we have to wait and see what comes out of those investigations and hope that they get to the truth of it, and then — I have a lot of confidence in President Ramsey and Tom Jurich, and in Coach Pitino. So we’ll just have to see how this plays out, but I think the fair thing to do is to see, is to wait and see how this plays out and where it ends, and that’s exactly what’s happening at this point in time.
NC State’s BeeJay Anya on team’s front court.
“Malik (Abu) is a freak athlete, can jump out the gym. Lennard (Freeman) he’s the bruiser. Then you have me, I’m the best looking one out of the bunch, best hair, all that.”
UNC Head Coach Roy Williams on the sign he put in the locker room listing the games UNC lost after leading at halftime.
Well, the sign says very easily we need to finish better, what can you do to help. Let’s finish better. There were eight games last year where we had leads in the second half and ended up losing. We did come back a couple of times. We had a couple of those the other way.
But I think we’re a mature team now, much more mature, to say the least, than we were last year, and we’ve got to be able to finish games. You’ve got to have some toughness about you, and toughness is not just being willing to fight somebody. Toughness is making a better box out, diving on the floor, getting the loose ball, or simply do what you’re told to do. If I tell you to go across the lane and set a screen, guess what I want you to do, go across the lane and set a screen, and don’t forget that just because it’s a one-point game and you’re trying to do something that momma or grandma like. We have that in the weight room, we’ve got it in the locker room, but they’ve still got to come up with it and get something from it.
Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski on Grayson Allen.
Grayson was really good for us in February and March, and obviously in April, but he didn’t get the playing time because we had such good perimeter guys. But in practice at times, he was our best guy, and he knew that, and the other guys were really good about telling him that.
And then Grayson didn’t get a bad attitude by saying, well, then I should be doing this over you right now, and he waited for his opportunities, and he took advantage of them.
What I’m saying right now is he doesn’t have to wait anymore. It’s there. He’s 10 pounds heavier. He’s strong. I love Grayson. Grayson is a violent jumper. He’s not just a — again, I’m not saying he’s Dwyane Wade, but you know how Dwyane when he was a younger player would attack all the time. He would end up getting knocked down a lot. That’s what happens with Grayson in practice. I’ve got to be careful about it.
He has such a passion to play, and he’s — we’ve got to keep him healthy. He’ll be really good. I love that kid.
NC State’s Cat Barber on if teammate Shaun Kirk has the best hair in the ACC.
“No, that’s probably the worst. I tried (to get him to change it), but he said when he cuts it he has a funny shape head.”