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November 9, 2009
Veterans providing leadership to rookies
As North Carolina has been preparing for the start of the new basketball season, North Carolina's veteran players have taken it upon themselves to get the freshmen up to speed.
Players like Marcus Ginyard and Deon Thompson, who have fought the Atlantic Coast Conference battles for years, have been working with the five rookies (John Henson, David Wear, Travis Wear, Leslie McDonald, and Dexter Strickland) to get them ready to make an impact this year.
"They (the rookies) may not be playing 30 minutes per game, but there's no question that all of these freshmen are going to come in and contribute in a positive way for this ball club," said Ginyard.
"It's really going to fall on a lot of guys this year (for leadership)," Ginyard added. "Having these guys that are back from the national championship team that have seen some of the things that these young guys haven't seen yet, we're all going to be faced with that task of trying to get these young guys through it and get everyone on the same page."
"They (the freshmen) want to get in the gym and get better and stuff like that, but they're a bunch of jokesters," said Thompson. "They're all going to be able to help us. Coach did another great job with recruiting guys and getting guys here that will be able to help us."
The UNC veterans have been sending the message to the rookies that they themselves got when they arrived at North Carolina---this is a new level of basketball unlike anything you've seen before, so you better step it up every single day if you're going to make it.
"One of the things is really just the same message that every freshman class has to go through, just that the intensity level of the ACC play is going to increase from the games they played before, and the other thing is just going to be getting through the ACC season, dealing with a couple of losses or dealing with a tough loss and just getting those guys into the mindset that this ball club is going to have some times when it's not playing its best, but we've got to push through those times," Ginyard said. "A great example was last year losing the first two ACC games."
"Another thing you try to get through to the freshmen is just the length of the season and trying to get to the end of the season. They're going to be feeling pretty worn down," Ginyard added. "Just to take care of their body to push hard through the season, and to know the rewards at the end of the season are very nice. Just continue to work hard and it's going to be worth it if you push through it."
"(The veterans) Definitely just (want to) calm them down and let them know it's just basketball. They've been playing it since they were little kids. I think they'll be fine when those situations do come up," said Thompson. "We have young guys, and they're all willing to listen, so it just makes my job (as a leader) that much easier."
Thompson says the rookies have done a nice job thus far in preseason practice listening to head coach Roy Williams and trying to grasp an understanding on what's going on.
"They're really listening to what Coach has them doing," said Thompson. "When you're young you're going to listen to everything Coach tells you to do. If he tells you to jump off the roof you're probably going to do it when you're young."
While the quintet is obviously young, they are talented in several different areas and having talent---no matter how old---is truly the key to being successful in college basketball.
"I think they're going to be an exciting bunch to watch, and hopefully stick together for a long time," said Ginyard.
"I don't worry about how young these guys are because they're basketball players. They've been playing basketball their whole life, so I think they'll be just fine," said Thompson.
"The rookies are all full of energy, man. They're great guys to be around," said sophomore Justin Watts. "All of them are talented. All of them have great potential. They're just having fun. They're out there having fun."