Jan. 12, 2005
Q: Last year, you didn't play at all like a freshman. How did you build your confidence up so quickly at the college level?
A: While I was sitting out, I worked on the things that I had been struggling with, like using my right hand and my endurance, so when I got back out on the court those things were improved. I felt like it helped put in a situation to do well.
Q: What did you work on most during the offseason?
A: Coach Lappas sat down with me after the last game last year and we talked about the things I needed to work on. He wanted me to work on my endurance, my right hand and also being more of a team player. He wants me to be more of a complete player and just have the confidence to go out there and play my best.
Q: You've got your tattoo on your arm that says "Hated by Some, Loved by Many." Do you use that as your motivation when you're on the road getting booed? Does that drive your desire?
A: That's just how I feel. It could be with anything. You have goals in your life and when you're achieving those goals, there are people out there that may not necessarily know you and they want to see you do badly because they're not doing as well. You don't even have to be playing sports. You can have a good job and be living well and there's going to be somebody out there not living as well that's going to hate you.
Q: Who have you modeled your game after the most?
A: I really don't model my game after a specific player. I like Carmello Anthony's game. I like Hakim Warrick's (Syracuse) game. I just pick things out of certain people's games and try to add them to mine to make my game stronger. I just love the game of basketball.
Q: You guys have a couple games under your belt. What is the team doing well?
A: We're playing well together and we know that if we play 40 minutes, good things can happen. If we don't play a complete game, then bad things will happen - it's called a let-up. You can come out strong or come out of the half with a lead and it can vanish just like that if you don't play 40 minutes. The first game was really close, but the close games help you. If you make it through, when you have another close game, you have more confidence. Obviously, you'd like to win by double-digits so you don't have to worry about it, but close games can help. A team that wins 17, 18 or 19 games is going to go through 4 or 5 that are close. That's how we see it.
Q: What does the team need to improve on?
A: Coach Lappas wants us to go out there with confidence. Also, he says that `the more we pass the ball, the more we'll score.' It seems like if you put up a lot of shots then you'd score more. But if you make 4 or 5 passes each possession, the defense is going to break down and you'll score more. I think we have to stay together every play and we'll be able to put a lot of points on the board. Our game all starts with defense. Defense leads to offense and that's how every game has to be this year for us.
Q: We know that the rankings aren't always accurate. Who is the best team in college basketball today?
A: To be honest, I really don't think about other teams except us. I know we're not at the top, but my goal is to put us on the top. I think if you asked any other college player, they'd say the same thing. I feel that we have a chance to put UMass back on the map and be a competitive team. That's where my mind is.
Q: What is your take on the large amount of players leaving school early to go to the NBA?
A: I think for some it's all about politics and for others it's about leaving at the right time and being influenced to do so. I guarantee you that half of the players that leave are being influenced to do so. There's somebody in their corner saying the money's there and for a young player that came from a place where they didn't have much, the money is hard to resist. I think it's mostly about influence. But you have to be sure about it and make the right decision. It's your life; you're making a life decision. You could go and play in the NBA for a year and then what are you going to do with the rest of your life.
Q: Who else recruited you and why did you choose UMass?
A: I wasn't that heavily recruited because of academics. UMass guaranteed that they would help me academically, so it was a pretty easy decision. I did get a lot of recruitment letters, but when it came down to it UMass worked out the best.
Q: If you earn back your year of eligibility, will you come back to play?
A: It depends on what my situation is at the time. I will definitely be back next year. After that, I can't really say now because it's up in the air, but I will definitely get my degree.
Q: Do you feel pressure being the team's go-to-guy?
A: The pressure hasn't really set in yet, but there will be more once we get into the A-10 schedule. The teams we're playing now have watched tapes of us, but they haven't really played against us. When we get to the A-10 schools, the pressure will come. The pressure comes with a lot of responsibility, but I know my team will be there to back me up. I know that in every game double-teams will come no matter who we play and I have to learn to deal with them better. I think I will do that more as the games go by. Last year my play was a surprise to everybody, but this year it won't be. Everybody's going to know about me and I know that, so I just have to prepare myself for that.
Q: What team are you looking forward to playing this year?
A: I know we have a pretty tough schedule out of conference, but I can't really say. I just take one game at a time. I want to give so much to the next game on the schedule that I can't really look forward to other games. I have a tape of Gonzaga to watch their big men and coach told me not to watch it until after Northeastern. If I look ahead, I can't really focus on the next game.
Q: Numerous publications have named you the A-10 preseason player of the year. What do you think about that?
A: I think about that all of the time. For a player like myself, you would think I would have to produce, produce, produce. But, I feel like I just have to play within the team and do everything I can for us to win and be a team player. If we don't win, then nothing else is really important. It's all about winning. When I go into a game, I don't want to be overwhelmed and feel like I have to do a certain thing. I just want to go out there and do what I'm good at and not worry about the hype.
Q: Who is the best player in the NBA today?
A: Shaquille O'Neal. I feel like if I was to start a team, I would have to have a big man and he is the best.