UNC head coach Roy Williams spoke with reporters Monday in the Atlantic Coast Conference's weekly teleconference. Williams' Tar Heels, sitting at 3-1 in ACC play, return home Thursday night for a home game against archrival N.C. State, who currently sits tied with Florida State and Duke atop the league with a 4-1 record.
Needless to say I feel a heck of a lot better today than I did last Monday after we had gotten kicked so badly at Florida State. We did some really nice things particularly in the second half against Virginia Tech. I thought it was the best defense that we had played all year. The most active we were around the basket, defending the goal. I think that was directly related to our better player on the offensive end as well.
Now we're getting ready to play at North Carolina State. A hot basketball team. Just had a great road win at Miami. We had -- this was our bye weekend, so we didn't play anyone, as you know, over the weekend. We tried to give our guys a couple of days to let them get their legs back, because after the Florida State game, we worked them really hard.
You may know Jason Capel and Wes Miller are going to be coaching against each other this week. I was curious about how much contact -- I know you played Capel's team earlier this year, but how much contact those two coaches have had with you this season or if they've called you for advice over the course of the year?
I talk to Wes more than I talk to Jason, because I did not coach Jason. We have the North Carolina ties, and he knows that I'm here if he needs me. Sometimes I reach out even if he doesn't need me as I do some other guys, but I've had more conversations with Wes. And his was a much more unusual situation, taking over in the middle of the season.
He's got a couple of nice wins recently. I know there will be a lot of pride at stake when that game starts, and it will be interesting to see how it comes out.
Can you give me anything specific about what you and Wes talked about?
Yeah, I asked him what we should be doing after we played at Florida State. We didn't want to discuss any of his stuff. No, it's everything. It's a kid that I coached for four years, encouraged to get into coaching. We talk about everything. We talked about
his staff. We talked about practice situations, how long for practice, how short. When he got his first win, I called him and left him a message and said don't try to call me back. Then decided to call him one more time. I said your phone's lighting up. He said coach, the only call I'm taking was yours.
It's something special. I don't share everything. But when what we do is you're talking
coach speak right now. We talk about everything.
Have you decided yet how you're going to handle the starting lineup with Dexter Strickland being out? Who replaces him?
We haven't even talked about it very much, but yesterday in practice we put Reggie in there, and I would assume that's the way it would stay unless something weird happened in practice. Reggie's gotten better defensively. He's started giving us a lift rebounding the basketball on the offensive board, and the defensive board. I think that he deserves it. Knows more about what's going on than P.J., for example.
I know that there are 25 to 30 minutes a game there that somebody's going to have to pick up, and my guess it would be a combination of a lot of guys. But we'll see after we start Reggie.
Was there any conclusion to Leslie coming off of his year now? Was that even considered?
It really wasn't. And I grabbed Leslie last night and told him as far as I was concerned it didn't change his situation. Where it hurts the most with Dexter is having that back-up point guard. That's where it hurts the most.
We've had Reggie playing and Harrison and P.J., those three guys have spent a lot of time at the wing spots with Dexter, so we still have three of the four. But where it really becomes harmful is that back-up point guard role.
How much more playing time do you anticipate Kendall's going to have to undertake? Like you said you guys are basically without a back-up for him?
It remains to be seen. We're going to try to give Stilman (White) some time there. We're going to try to do a little more work even on the passing game not having a true point guard, see how that works out. We'll see what John Henson or Tyler Zeller looked like out there. You never can tell.
Right now, Dexter has been giving us probably three minutes or so each half, and that's just a guesstimate kind of thing, at the point guard spot, and Kendall's played the rest. But we've got to find some way to get Kendal a little bit of a break during each half. Stilman White will be asked to do it, and again, we'll be looking to see what else we possibly could have.
Did it help to not have to play Saturday or Sunday and have almost a week to adjust to what you're going to have to do without Dexter as opposed to having to play right away?
Well, I'm sure it does, but we really haven't practiced that much. I mean, we came back and we're getting in here to the Smith center at 2:30 in the morning Friday morning. So we gave them Friday off, and then Saturday we just had a shooting period. So yesterday's the first practice that we've had.
Now, there is no question that you'd rather have it this way as opposed to playing Thursday night at Virginia Tech and playing Saturday. But it's something that we've got to work on and keep working on. Having these couple extra days here will hopefully help us.
N.C. State got five guys scoring in double figures, but the guy seems to be leading them lately is Scott Wood. I just wondered what you saw as kind of the problems that he presents?
He's just having a heck of a run here. I think it's what, 58 in a row or something, something crazy like that. That's a phenomenal run.
I always say when you have a guy shooting the basketball like Scott is from the free-throw line, if you foul him, it's the same thing as giving him a lay-up. It's just automatic. He's really shooting the ball well from the three-point line too. He's probably shooting 45, 46% from the three-point line.
He does cause you some major problems. You've got to adjust your game. Lorenzo Brown is doing a good job distributing the basketball. C.J. they had the scare with the shoulder, but he bounced back this weekend and played well. And then Richard Howell and C.J. up front are doing a good job of rebounding the basketball, and scoring as well.
So they're a much more balanced team than they've been in the past. I've always felt like it's harder to guard a team when all five guys could score. They present problems that way, but as you said, Scott is on a heck of a run right here, and whoever gets that defensive assignment has got to be willing to get out there and get a hand up and bother him as much as he possibly can, because he's just playing so, so well.
This is the kind of player that you probably would have asked Dexter to guard, too.
Yeah, there's no question about that. Dexter's guarded him the past couple of years. It's a spot where people say he was only averaging six points a game or something. That's a big time loss. He was our best perimeter defender. Gave us some minutes at the back-up point guard spot, really ran to help our break.
It's a big time loss for us. Hopefully somebody else will be able to step up and do a better job defensively each and every night to make up for Dexter.
The question has already kind of been answered, but I guess, Roy, more of can anybody else -- do you envision anybody else being able to run the point other than Stilman? It sounds like Stilman's going to be your first option here to try to get those three minutes in a half? Is that what I'm gathering?
Yeah, there is no question. We've had this before. Every team goes through some spots where you lose a back-up or worse, a key starter, so you just have to prepare for it. Larry Drew leaving last year left a big gap in our program because it's hard to find a point guard in the spring kind of thing.
We knew this could happen. It has happened. Now we have to deal with it. I may just decide to play 2-3 zone the whole game and put Kendall in the middle and tell him never to foul. So try to make sure he gets to stay in the game without foul trouble.
You've talked about the defensive capabilities of Reggie and P.J. How does it change your identity or not really style, but having maybe more of a scoring two guard, but it seems those guys have pretty good defensive capabilities?
Well, they realize the one thing ahead of them with Dexter's abilities was how Dexter could play on the defensive end of the floor. So they've both been trying very hard to see if they could match his defensive capabilities, because they do shoot the ball better. They are bigger, but they haven't been able to do that enough to get him out of the starting lineup kind of thing. Now one of them's going to really have to step forward and be a defender for us.
They will be a better rebounder because of size, and the ability and knowledge that they have to get to the backboards. But at the same time, defensively, you give up something, and on the defensive transition. Because Dexter's a guard that spends some of his time at the point guard spot so, he's always willing to get back on the defense to give you defensive balance. Now we've got to have those guys being willing to sprint back and get in the stance too.
Do those guys have to take any different approach with their roles slightly changing with a little bit more minutes?
People talk about roles. I think kids fall into their role. They know what they can do and what they can't do. I always say you know what your strengths are. Try to play to them, and you know what your weaknesses are. Stay away from them. Don't try to show somebody they're wrong.
Most of the time people say you can't shoot or you can't dribble or you can't defend, there is a reason for that. So don't try to show somebody what you can't do. Play to your strengths. I think that's what we'll do with those guys.