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ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE OPERATION BASKETBALL


October 16, 2013


Joe Harris

Akil Mitchell


CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA

JEFF FISCHEL:  We're joined by Virginia.
What did you do in the ACC photo booth?
JOE HARRIS:  I don't know if we can reveal what we were doing in the photo booth (laughter).
AKIL MITCHELL:  Private information (laughter).
JEFF FISCHEL:  'Hashtag Swoon,' talk about what that is on Twitter?
JOE HARRIS:  I'm not that familiar with it.  It's been embraced by a lot of our fans, the Swoon Movement.
JEFF FISCHEL:  Swooning over you?
JOE HARRIS:  Everybody.
JEFF FISCHEL:  The team?
JOE HARRIS:  Yeah (smiling).
JEFF FISCHEL:  Akil, they're swooning over him, right?
AKIL MITCHELL:  Yeah.  I'm the biggest swooner there is.
JEFF FISCHEL:  Going to have to follow those tweets (laughter).
We'll start with questions.

Q.  Do you guys notice bigger expectations around the team this year?  If you do, how do you balance that with you guys as the senior leaders?
AKIL MITCHELL:  We can really kind of sense an excitement level around the fan base, around grounds.  I mean, I don't think it's impacted us as much.  We understand what we have to do to be successful is the same things we've had to do in the past.
It's pretty cliché, but we're going to take it one game at a time, work as hard as we can every practice, to be the best team we possibly can be.
JOE HARRIS:  Going off what Akil said, there are those expectations, but we're just worrying about what we can control, and that's trying to improve every day, be the best team we can be, worry about the now rather than the expectations that might be put on us.
JEFF FISCHEL:  It strikes me when I look at this team, the big difference, depth and experience, you've built that up.  Joe, how does that make a difference for this team?
JOE HARRIS:  It's huge.  Last year going into the season, I don't think we had a true point guard at all.  Now we have four.  It's a good problem to have that depth.
I think there will be a much more balanced attack offensively.  We have a number of guys that can contribute and score in different ways.
It's exciting going into the season with added depth and talent on the team.
JEFF FISCHEL:  Akil, how have you noticed it?
AKIL MITCHELL:  I think the big thing is with that added depth, guys are buying into their roles and positions on the team.  Like Joe just said, we have four guys competing for the point guard spot, multiple bigs that can play.
It's really going to force us all to compete against each other, but we know we have each other's back.  It's a team mentality.  I think that's the biggest difference between this year and last year, the maturity, understanding of what we have to do to be successful.

Q.  We saw a lot of the younger guys getting reps last year.  How have Nolte, Tobey, Anderson improved since last season?
AKIL MITCHELL:  Yeah, I think it's something that Joe and I also had to go through when we were first and second year, baptized by the fire.  Evan and Mike and Justin, all those guys have had to kind of learn on the fly.
I think it's helped them a lot.  I talked to them multiple times since we started practice.  They're saying the game has slowed down so much more since playing last year.  They've understood the defense.  Mike looks a lot better.  Defensively he still has a lot of room to grow.  Evan has gained 15 pounds of muscle.  He looks a lot stronger.  Justin's decision making has improved.
They've all taken strives and it's impressive to see.
JOE HARRIS:  Going off of what Akil said, same thing.  They've all improved a considerable amount.  I'm just excited to get going with them, see what they can contribute on the floor this year.
From a physical standpoint, I think Tobey and Nolte had both put on a lot of weight, particularly muscle.  Then Justin has improved in his decision making areas.  I'm just excited to get going with them, see how they can contribute this season.

Q.  The teams that are coming in this season, from a player's perspective, are they being viewed as the new kids on the block, the bullies?
JOE HARRIS:  I would say it's exciting for the players.  I know I'm excited to play against some different teams, new faces, go to different venues.  I think it's great for the league.  The ACC was a powerhouse beforehand from a basketball standpoint.  Adding these three teams to the league makes it that much better.  I think it's definitely one of the best basketball conferences in America.
AKIL MITCHELL:  Yeah, I don't know if we perceive them as bullies or anything like that.  It's kind of weird to look around, not really recognize some of the faces here and there.
It's exciting, like Joe said, to get a chance to play in some new places.  They're three really good teams.  Whenever you add that type of competition, it should get any competitive player fired up.
JEFF FISCHEL:¬† Back‑to‑back games you traveled to Notre Dame and Pitt.¬† Are you excited about one or the other?
AKIL MITCHELL:  It would have been fun to go to the Carrier Dome.  We don't get that opportunity this year.  Getting the opportunity to play at Notre Dame, at Pitt, it's something different.  It will be a lot of fun.
JEFF FISCHEL:  Joe?
JOE HARRIS:  I think it's going to be exciting.  I'm excited to go and play in a different venue, see what their fans are like, what the atmosphere is like.  I'm sure it will be great.

Q.  You have improved in win totals the past four seasons.  Do you see that trend continuing and do you see this team this year being even better than last year's team?
JOE HARRIS:¬† To me that's the goal every year.¬† Our goal is to make it to the post‑season, to improve off of what we built last year.¬† So far, as Akil and I have been in this program, it's improved every year.
It's not any different for our goals this coming year.  I think we have a chance to be a special team with some of the depth and talent we have this year.
AKIL MITCHELL:  Four years ago that was the goal when coach recruited us.  That was the goal to really turning around that program.  Every year I think we've built steadily towards doing it.  This year I think it's another opportunity to continue to build.
We should be a good team.  After you continue to build after four or five years of being better every year, at some point you come to a point in the road where you have to get better.  I think we have an opportunity to do that this year.
JEFF FISCHEL:  Good luck this season.  Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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