Roy Williams Press Conference: Visiting Coby White, 2020 Recruiting Class and Cole Anthony's Rebounding

Brant Wilkerson-New

Roy Williams met with reporters on Thursday afternoon ahead of North Carolina's matchup with Gardner-Webb on Friday night (9 p.m., ACC Network) at the Smith Center.

Here are the highlights from the conversation:

Was it exciting to see Coby White's performance live in Chicago?

Yeah, it was; there’s no question about it. The first three quarters, I’m dying a little bit with him because he was … I told the guys that went up, I thought he was 1/17 from three right before that, but I was wrong; it was 3/26.

I try to go see every guy play in their rookie year and try to go see them early. Let me make sure we understand one thing: I had nothing to do with him making seven threes, but it made me feel better to just go up and talk to him a little bit and I had a chance.

Jimmy Boylen got Coby brought him in his office and Jimmy left … I just told him, ‘Be Coby. Don’t stress it; how long do you think you’ll play, about 15 years?’ He said, ‘I hope so.’ I said, ‘OK, we’re 10 games into 1,500, so come on, quit stressing a little bit and just be Coby.’ I think he was really frustrated through the first three quarters and then that first one went in, and it was on then. It was pretty impressive.

This is the best a UNC recruiting class has ranked in a while. How do you assess it?

Getting lucky, working hard too. I never, ever, ever get caught up in recruiting rankings; I really don’t. I think it was 2009 recruiting class … the one that David and Travis Wear and Leslie McDonald, Dexter Strickland, John Henson; come on, you guys figure it out. So, I never get caught up. I love those kids and I love these kids and it remains to be seen what they’ll do. I do feel really good about it…

I could care less. I just want guys that I like and I think we lost a couple of guys we would have liked, there’s no question about that, but I feel very comfortable with it, happy with it; extremely happy because I also think they’re high-quality kids, the character they have. They’re all characters, too. I do enjoy that part of it. Solid kids, all want to be better and all have big-time dreams and goals individually, but also have them as a team as well.

On the challenge of recruiting a new point guard every year...

I almost do that every year anyway just about. You guys have heard me say I always want to have three point guards anyway, so it’s not that big a difference. It’s just we lost Joel, then all of a sudden we have Coby who is very gifted, then we lose Coby. Now, we have Cole who is very gifted and probably going to lose Cole, so, you need to have someone behind it.

There’s not many years I don’t recruit a point guard because I want to have three really good point guards in the program.

On showing his team the Evansville-Kentucky game or talking about it...

They’ve got to treat every game. I mean, they know about Evansville and Kentucky. I was at the Chicago game, I was at the Bulls and Eric and Steve were with me and one of them is keeping me up to date on Kentucky and Evansville and other was keeping me up to date on UNC Wilmington-Campbell, so I know a lot about those games and I think our players don’t pay a lot of attention to it. At the same time, if a game is on TV, they’ll watch it more than I watch other games.

What things have you learned about your team that you didn't know in the preseason?

There’s not many. We had 30 days practice, 33, so we had a lot of time. Those two games are not going to change my opinion very much, but we’ve got to get more balanced scoring than we’ve gotten, but I knew that before we started too.

I don’t know anything that I’ve been surprised about.

I’d like to have B-Rob back out there because that’s a guy, again, with more experience. Like to have Sterling back out there, that’s another guy with more experience, but we don’t have those guys. I don’t know that there’s anything I learned during those two games that I didn’t already know.

I know we’ve got to have more balanced scoring, I know we’ve got to shoot the ball better; you can’t shoot 41 or whatever percent it is, you can’t shoot that for a year and be very successful.

Justin Pierce played well on Friday. What do you need from him moving forward?

To play better defense.

He made some threes. I’d like for him to keep that going … I guess he’s averaging 11 and five, so he scored 18. Oh, he had 12 rebounds, too. I’d like to see him keep doing that too.

It’s one game and I’d like to see more consistency from everybody, not just Justin. I think he was not as stressful as it was the first game at Notre Dame, and I guess that helped too.

What challenges are there for graduate transfers from smaller conferences coming to this level?

I think every day you’ve got to remind them and try to get them prepared that it is a much different level. William and Mary and Charleston, nothing against their programs, but this is a different level and most of the time the competition you’re going to face every night is better than you’ve ever faced.

I think the consistency of their effort and consistency of their efficiency is something that we’ve been trying to make sure of.

I mean, it’s hard; when you jump out there and all of a sudden you’re playing Notre Dame in your first game and you’re trying to guard John Mooney, you don’t know what’s going on and you’re hoping everybody is not like that.

Biggest thing for us is just trying to push them as hard as we can to, this is corny, to be the best they can possibly be.

Two No. 1 teams have already lost. What's the process to get to March and April to win six games in a row?

Jeez son, I don’t even know what the crap I’m doing today. We’re going to have close to 100 practices and every day you try to get better and we’re not talking about six games in March. My first goal would be to make sure I’m still alive for six games in March.

We’re not talking about that and I know it sounds corny, but that’s … you find somebody that has a more colorful way of saying it, but we’re trying to get better every day.

We won it in ’17, we lost early too, didn’t we? Every year we’ve won it, we’ve lost … it’s college basketball is what it is. Just try to get better every single day and work at it and work at it and concentrate at it and try to figure out the most important things and really do a better job in that area and things that aren’t very important, don’t worry about them.

On Cole Anthony as the best rebounder he's seen at point guard...

He’s got the physical ability, he jumps well and he’s strong. He goes after ‘em. Fat Lever … he averaged a triple-double as a point guard for stretches during his career and he was a great rebounder and he went and got some offensive rebounds, which I don’t want Cole to do because I don’t want to give up anything going the other direction.

There have been some guards that have been good rebounders, but for a point guard, Cole does it better than anybody. He goes and gets it and that’s the biggest thing; you’ve got to go and put yourself in that position and he’s not afraid to go in and mix it up with the bigger guys. He does have the strength and the jumping ability to go in there and compete for it, but he bids on everything.

Does Cole's rebounding mean you can give the big guys grief when they don't do it?

I’m on them because he’s getting a lot more than they are.

I want them to get it, too, but I’ve always felt like when the Lakers, for example, everybody thinks they’re probably the best fast-break team ever in basketball when magic was there. I always thought their best fast breaks were when Magic got the rebound because then there was no outlet pass, there was no catching and turning and all that. You just get the ball and you bust out, so Magic left two of the opponents behind and sometimes three behind in the first five or 10 feet. Now, there’s only two other guys to deal with and so I’ve always felt that way; I’ve always encouraged perimeter players to get the rebound, they have the right to bust out on the break if they have the ability to do it and the point guard always has the ability to do it. Cole is going to get better at that too. He understands it more and he’s going to work on it even more.

In the Notre Dame game, TJ Gibbs got an open three when Cole crashed the boards hard. Is there a balance with him being a great rebounder?

Steve Kirschner: There’s some Internet analysis out there that says we’re not breaking as much and sometimes we gave up an open three because Cole is rebounding too much on the defensive end. That’s where that came from.

Williams: Belichick. Zero.

I could give a blankety-blank what some analytics say. I watch the freaking game and our point guard has 21 defensive rebounds. You think I care about one basket? Tell the analytics, no never mind. God almighty.

You know the reason we don’t have our break is the other freaking guys aren’t running enough. It’s not Cole going to rebound, Jesus Christ.

On Hubert Davis saying Cole is the best point guard he's seen...

Well, if he said that, he feels that way and he’s been around some guys who are a lot better than the point guards I’ve been around because he played 12 years in the NBA.

I think Cole is the most complete point guard that I’ve coached after two games, but I’ve had some pretty good point guards and I want him to try to be the best; but I also want him to try to be the best player, not just the best point guard.

It’s way too early for me to say. First game against Notre Dame, that’s about as impressive as it could possibly be, but why was it impressive? … Because the shots went in. 7 for 24 the next game, so I’m not getting too excited about that, but I do think he has the ability to be the best point guard I’ve ever coached because there is no big deficiency in his game.

Kendall was the best passing point guard, but Kendall didn’t have the speed or the shot. Joel Berry had tremendous ability to shoot the ball. Marcus Paige could make big shots, but Marcus physically wasn’t like Cole is. Ty Lawson was so quick it was ridiculous with the ball going down the court and got to be a really, really good 3-point shooter.

To me, it’s way too early to say something like that, but as I’ve said, I think he’s the most complete and he doesn’t have any tremendous weakness — shot’s got to be better — but there’s no tremendous weakness out there and we’ll wait and see what happens.

I’m not ready to say that yet, and I hope yet is the appropriate word because I hope I can get to say that.

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