Atlantic Coast Conference Operation Basketball

Wednesday October 26, 2016

Abdul-Malik Abu

Dennis Smith Jr.

NC State Wolfpack

THE MODERATOR: We welcome in N.C. State, Abdul-Malik Abu will be with us first, then Dennis Smith, Jr.

Q. Malik, there were a lot of people who thought the wheels were falling off N.C. State basketball a couple months ago, and now it looks very promising. What was it like to be on the inside of that, and what is the attitude heading into this season?
ABDUL-MALIK ABU: Yeah, that was definitely one of the life-changing experiences, being able to be close to my dream, to make decisions like the one I did. I'm so happy I chose to come back. This has been, this off-season has been one of the better off-seasons I've had. I've focused on maturing my game, maturing as a person, bonding with my team and following these new ideologies we're living by here at N.C. State.

Q. Going off of that, just what you can say about what made you want to come back, what you see in this year's team at N.C. State, and what you took away from those moments that you had with NBA executives and people working you out?
ABDUL-MALIK ABU: The biggest thing for me coming back was maturing and mastering my game. I felt like the NBA wasn't, you know, running anywhere, and they're going to choose the best guys available. So I just want to continue to work until I'm one of those guys.

Looking forward to this season, I'm excited. It feels like coming in as a freshman again, we brought in some really big pieces that are going to be vital for our success and our new coaching staff. Coach G's still here, and he's really bought into us as players. It's going to be special.

Q. You just said that you're feeling excited, it's like coming in as a freshman again. What's causing that excitement and what does a successful season look like to you?
ABDUL-MALIK ABU: A successful season to me, to start off with that is winning. I feel like that's a culture that we try to bring back here at State. I'm excited, like my freshman year again, because I focused on my body, I focused on my game. I really took the time to sit back and enjoy, and enjoy this. It feels like I'm doing it all over again.

I really love being at school. I love the whole college experience. It's something I call a blessing.

Q. I was struck that you said "new ideologies". Can you flesh that out. What's that mean about the team has new ideologies?
ABDUL-MALIK ABU: I can't really give out our secrets just yet. But on a serious note, we're really buying in as a family here at State, and that's something that's going to translate on the court.

Q. A quick follow-up, I saw I think it was an ESPN report saying you guys have an exceptional talent level with the players on the team. But there was concern about Mark Gottfried. What do you take something like that to mean, and what do you think of the guy who leads you?
ABDUL-MALIK ABU: I don't have any concerns. I don't think Dennis has any concerns. We have 100% confidence in our coach. He's the Zen master to us. We're just here to follow by his lead, and he's going to put us in the best situations possible. We have 100% trust in him and our staff.

Q. It looks like you've been in the weight room and your body style is much different than it was your freshman year. How do you feel physically and mentally with all these changes?
ABDUL-MALIK ABU: This summer with the trials of trying to chase my dreams, I got to get my body in the best condition possible. So going into this season, I feel great. I'm looking forward to it, and I'm happy for all the changes. It's beneficial for us.

Q. Do you look at the schedule ahead of the season?
ABDUL-MALIK ABU: I try not to. I try not to circle anybody because I go into it with the same mindset. I want to win every game and treat every game the same.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Dennis Smith.

Q. Hey, Dennis, it's not often you get freshmen down here for this thing, but you seem like you're made for this, your personality and what people are expecting from your game. Is there any part of you that doesn't think you're ready for what we're going to see from you this year?
DENNIS SMITH JR.: There are no parts of me that thinks I'm not ready for anything, anything that comes at me in life. I've been through enough to face adversity, so I'm prepared for anything.

Q. What were the key areas, maybe a couple things that happened, the injury, may be one of them, but what are the things you think prepared you for this stage and the limelight that you're going to have?
DENNIS SMITH JR.: Like you said, the injury. So that prepares me from a mental standpoint as far as basketball goes. I had a tough upbringing, not coming up with everything, so that also prepared me mentally for life. Like I said, I never run from a challenge. I never back down from adversity.

Q. Growing up in North Carolina, you obviously know about these rivalries with Duke and North Carolina, what do you think it's going to feel like when you step out on the floor for the first time against those teams?
DENNIS SMITH JR.: It's going to be exciting. It's something I look forward to. I'm very anxious to play in those games. Like you said, in the Triangle area, you've got UNC, Duke, N.C. State, and N.C. State more often than not is viewed as the underdog. So we just want to come in there and compete as hard as we can and look forward to walking away with a victory against anybody.

Q. You spoke on adversity, and having things that happened that have obviously built you for this moment. How did the team respond to having you first step into N.C. State? And what can you say about the leadership that you can command even as a freshman?
DENNIS SMITH JR.: From day one they were accepting of the type of person that I was on and off the court. So that made it pretty easy for me to be a leader. Coach Gottfried came in, when I came in, coach Gottfried insisted that I be the leader of the team and kind of gave me the keys. He trusted in the fact that I can maximize every guy's potential on this team, because we have some great players. So he believes in me to do this. So I feel like it's my job to fulfill that role.

Q. Coach Gottfried gave you the keys. There is a lot of optimism surrounding the team, in part because of you. Do you feel any pressure at all? Not oblivious to it, but are you just kind of above it?
DENNIS SMITH JR.: I don't feel any pressure at all. I've been playing basketball for a very long time. I had challenges back then coming up. I lost a lot of games that was my fault. I've won games that were my fault, so I don't feel pressure. I just want to go out and compete with my guys and plan on coming out with a victory.

Q. Your coach said you're the best guard in the country. Are you surprised to hear him say things like that? I'm sure you have that mentality yourself, but it's very rare for a coach to come out and say something that bald-faced before the season starts?
DENNIS SMITH JR.: Not so much surprised. I'm thankful that he believes it. It shows he has a lot of confidence in my abilities. I work hard, he sees it, and I have a lot of confidence in myself. My team has a lot of confidence in me and vice versa. So I'm just thankful for the recognition from my coach.

Q. Off stage your teammate Malik was answering that question silently for you. What type of teammate is he? What type of rapport and bond do you guys have?
DENNIS SMITH JR.: We're really close. I don't even want to tell you how long we stayed up yesterday just talking about different things on the court or in reality. Just we're really close. He's like a big brother. We were close before I even committed. We were building a relationship then and it just carried on and progressed from there. So the Malik that you all see here on the podium is the same Malik that's in the locker room and on the court. He's a great guy, and a team-first type player.

Q. Sometimes big brothers tell little brothers what to do. Are you okay with that?
DENNIS SMITH JR.: Definitely. I'm all the way okay with it. You learn something new every day, and sometimes little brothers tell big brothers what to do. That's just a part of the game. So we're going to help each other, and like I said, we're going to maximize potential with each player on this team.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
Rev #1 by #170 at 2016-10-26 14:46:00 GMT

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