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December 30, 2013

Roy Williams Live: December 30

UNC played three games since the last time Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams took to the airwaves for his weekly radio program. Those three games saw the Heels go 2-1 with a surprising loss to Texas fronting two victories over Davidson and Northern Kentucky.

Also during that brief time away, UNC announced that it would be adding Leslie McDonald back to its active roster but would not seek reinstatement for P.J. Hairston after it was determined he would not be eligible to play in the eyes of the NCAA.

Coach Williams led off the show by discussing the emotions of going through that difficult roster adjustment.

"Well there is no question about it. You feel very sad but you also understand that you have to be responsible and your actions sometimes have serious consequences. Both those youngsters made mistakes and there were very serious consequences," said Williams. "Extremely serious. You have to live with those kinds of things. We're glad to have Leslie back. Extremely sad that we don't have P.J. He was fantastic for us during the entire late summer, all fall, and he's been a model player and great teammate. Very sad for that situation there.

"It goes back to you have to balance it out," said Williams. "You have to understand and feel compassion because of the sadness but they have to accept responsibility and they made mistakes."

Williams was asked if he'd gotten a chance to discuss with Hairston what the now former UNC scorers plans would hold in the future. Williams kept his answer sweet and to the point.

"Yes," said Williams. "That's it."

Anytime a player sits out for an extended period of time it takes some getting used to for that player to get re-acclimated back in with the rest of the team when he returns to action. It's even more difficult when that acclimation process begins with that player being introduced into the team's dynamics for the first time of that season.

That's exactly what McDonald is trying to do but Williams isn't concerned with how that process will play out.

"I think he's doing some good things and I think each and every day in practice it's getting a little more familiar for him. He went 42 practices, or maybe it was 44 practices, not working with the first team," said Williams. "There was no sense in working him with the first team since you didn't know if you were ever going to get him (back) or if you were going to get him, when? He's back doing some good things with that and I think each and every practice he's getting a little better."

Does Williams anticipate that McDonald will struggle to get used to his teammates style of play?

"Not really. People always make excuses for a bad play or something but he's been doing everything everybody else is doing. It does take a while to get used to playing with somebody," said Williams. "There is no question about that and it does change the minutes played but it should help you. He's a better player and if he gives you a quality that you didn't have---and that quality is shooting the basketball in the hole---then you have to be willing to take that one step backwards so you can hopefully take two or three forward."

The Tar Heels have been without the services of big man Joel James and Williams opened up about what their center has been up to as he recovers from his injury.

"Today he did running for the first time. We practiced early this morning so I could go recruiting this afternoon. He's been doing well. He's been limited in what he can do. He's been in the pool and done a lot of stationary work but today they did get him running some," said Williams. "He will not play tomorrow against UNC Wilmington and I don't really think he'll play against Wake. He's getting close and I don't think it will be a long, long time that we'll have to do without him."

The upset loss to Texas came on the heels of some big wins for the UNC program. The loss was all the more disappointing because in the eyes of their head coach, the Tar Heels got beat at their own game.

"They pushed it at us harder than anybody else has. The part that made me mad was we didn't like it. I said well "By God, that's what we're supposed to do to the other people too.' They were much more aggressive on the backboards. Again, missed a bunch of free throws," said Williams. "We got ourselves in a position to win the game and then they made a big play on the offensive rebound on a free throw. But we had our chances, we didn't play very well, we've got to give them credit though because they got us on our heels right from the start. We just didn't make enough plays."

The close margin of victory makes it easy for people to point the finger at UNC's inability to hit free throws this year. While Williams acknowledged that aspect of their struggles, he says there is something else that is more important to the cause of each of their losses.

"I was talking to one of my buddies today and we've lost by four, lost by three and lost by three. So we've lost three games by a total of 10 points and in those games we've missed 56 free throws," said Williams. "Yet, if I look at every one of them I'm so mad about how we played on the defensive end of the floor as opposed to just the free throws because you can point out 10 different things. Hopefully we're going to play better."

The loss to Texas also prompted Williams to say in that game's postgame press conference that he would have his team at practice as early as he could the next day, which was allegedly 5 a.m. Turns out, he wasn't kidding.

"I heard about it. I did show up. I was there early and on time. They were lucky because I had a flight that was leaving at 7:30 a.m. and so I only practiced them an hour and a half," said Williams. "I had a lot more difficult things in my mind that would have taken a little bit more time than an hour and a half but we had a good time. It was worth it. I was going to sleep anyways so might as well get to the gym."

J.P. Tokoto has always been the most athletic guy on this current basketball team but against Davidson he made some big strides in his offensive game. It looks like he might be getting ready to turn a corner and Williams can't wait for that event to happen.

"It was. We need that kind of activity. I think J.P. is getting better and better and I think he's going to continue to show that kind of improvement but he's got to be more active," said Williams. "He's got to have one of the most athletic games of anybody I've ever coached. So you have to use that athleticism. I thought that was something he did in that game and he gave us a huge lift."


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