Okay let's start by talking about your first season. What were some of the highlights and some of the low points of the first year?
Definitely, when you look at our season, the highlight was definitely beating Florida State, a top-ranked team in the country, a team that everybody has high expectations for now in the NCAA tournament...a team that won the ACC tournament. So that was really a highlight of our season, knowing that we worked hard to achieve something and that it payed off for us. Definitely one of the lows was all of the frustrating losses early on. We thought we were going to be a lot better at the beginning of the season, but we didn't realize what it really took to play at this level. So, it was an adjustment for us, but I think overall, all of the ups and downs during the entire season was most frustrating for all of us.
It seemed like you guys may have gotten a little more mentally fatigued toward the end of the season. Was that the case, and if so, what are some things you can do in the off-season to make sure that you have the same mentality for the whole season next year?
Yeah, I think mentally and physically we got pretty tired towards the end of the season. I think a lot of it was us not really knowing what to expect for a season like this. Playing ACC-level basketball is not something that most people have a chance to do and we really weren't mentally and physically prepared for it going into the season. But I think that going into the off-season, everyone is much more keen on not just putting in a high school level workout in, but really putting in the extra time, the extra hours, that it's going to take to not just be good for one night against Florida State but to be good for an entire 30-35 game season. I think we really need to put a lot more of an emphasis on our workouts both as a team and individually.
Do you think that the team regressed a little bit towards the end or did you see pretty steady improvement throughout the year?
Like I said, I think this season was a lot of ups and downs. Sometimes we were going really far down and then we'd come back and, maybe not get a win, but play a lot better, and we'd find ourselves coming back up. Towards the end of the season I think we were going on our way down, but we made a lot of strides this season. Starting out, we were getting blown out by teams like UMass and Holy Cross but then we were moving up and playing teams in the ACC very competitively for most stretches of games. I think we just grew a lot as a team and I think we will continue growing into next season. So I think things are looking pretty good.
So talk to me for a second about Donahue...Is he as intense in practice as he is on the floor during games?
Yeah, on the court, I don't think there is anyone else that I would rather have coaching me out there. He pays attention to every little detail that you wouldn't even think was important out there on the court, but when you put it into the grand scheme of things, for one play or for one game, you see the affects of it. I think once we are able to grasp everything that he's throwing at us, because he's throwing something new at us every single day...Once we get at least most of it, because he's always going to have something new, so we're never going to have everything that he says...But I think on the court, he's one of the best coaches in the country and I really love playing for him because he just breaks everything down for us.
What does he say to the guys on the bench during games? Something it seems like a guy on the court will make a mistake and then he'll turn and yell to the guys on the bench.
Yeah, if something on the court happens, if it's a bench player or if it's a starter who plays a majority of the minutes who just happens to be on the bench, he'll tell us to not do what they just did (laughs). He'll tell us the correct play, what should have happened, if someone turns the ball over. He definitely saw what should have happened right. You've got to take what he tells you because it's really true words. A lot of times I'm on the bench and he'll tell me something and nine times out of ten it will work the next time.
Can you describe for me a little the difference between the out of conference schedule and ACC play? Did you notice an immediate difference in size, speed, and strength?
I thought the beginning of the season was one half of our season and that ACC play was a totally different season. No knock to any of the teams we played, but the ACC is known nation-wide for being one of the best leagues in the country. I feel like the play, as soon as we stepped on the court at North Carolina for the first game, the tempo picked up, the speed picked up, the strength, the athleticism, the game was just flying up and down...and those guys are top-tiered athletes...I think it was just a big stride for us to get used to that. I think it was almost a little bit of a shock at first, but then we got a handle on it as we moved along so it was a totally different brand of basketball.
How much does the team hang out outside of basketball practices and game? Is there a sense of building team camaraderie?
Yeah, being with so many freshmen, we're like a family, us nine. Most of us eat dinner together everyday after practice. Most of us have some of the same classes together so we go get lunch together, go get breakfast. So, now that the season's over we're joking that if we don't see each other for one day that it seems like we haven't seen each other in forever, because every single one of our days is with each other in some aspect, and not just on the court...We're always asking: "Who wants to go eat? Who wants to go to the movies?" We're just a really close-knit family. I think all of us going through the freshman year all at once and experiencing it all together has made us closer.
Check back for Part II tomorrow...