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The Daily Tar Heel

Q&A with former North Carolina men's basketball player Marvin Williams

Students get Pelican's Snoballs in the quad Tuesday afternoon courtesy of CUAB.
Students get Pelican's Snoballs in the quad Tuesday afternoon courtesy of CUAB.

Former North Carolina men's basketball player Marvin Williams was a member of the Tar Heels' 2005 national championship team and played a pivotal role as the team's sixth-man. Williams averaged 11.3 points and 6.6 rebounds per game that season, his only in Chapel Hill.

After leaving for the NBA, Williams played for the Atlanta Hawks and Utah Jazz before returning to North Carolina to play for the Charlotte Hornets in 2014. This past season, Williams averaged 11.7 points and 6.4 rebounds to help the Hornets make the playoffs.

Staff writer John Bauman spoke to Williams about why he comes back to Chapel Hill during the summer, how the NBA has changed and on how much he watched UNC this past season. 

The Daily Tar Heel: How’s your summer going, and how much time will you be spending in Chapel Hill?

Marvin Williams: My summer’s been going great. I’m actually driving down to Chapel Hill (on Tuesday). I’ve been talking to a lot of guys down there, Sean May, Jawad Williams, Jackie Manuel — who obviously just took a job with Valparasio so he won’t be down there — Eric Hoots, David Noel, all the guys that I played with on the ‘05 team I’ve really been talking to, so I’m probably going to head down there tomorrow.

DTH: You guys all come back over summers, and I know you could go anywhere to train, but why come back to Chapel Hill?

MW: It’s just kind of a special bond down there. Guys go their separate ways during the season. We are sprinkled all over the world, and we have to stay in contact through FaceTime or email or whatever the case may be, but during the summertime when we head back to Chapel Hill and train together, work out together. We have a lot of time to spend with each other, so we try to take advantage of that, see each other as much as we can. A lot of us have families now so our families try to spend as much time with each other as we can as well. It’s just a special bond, a great place, and everybody seems to enjoy going back there and that’s why we continue to do it.

DTH: You not only come back for basketball but in December of 2014, you came back and got your degree from UNC. What did that mean to you, and why come back to get it?

MW: It meant the world to me. I've got to be honest with you. I spent a lot of time working, trying to complete it. I remember back in ‘05 when I told Coach (Roy) Williams I was going to leave, he really wanted me to get my degree, and I told him I would. I gave him my word that I would finish, and he sat their and watched me year after year come back to Chapel Hill every summer, take those classes, sit in those study halls or tutoring sessions, whatever the case may be, and finally I was able to complete it. It really was a good feeling. 

DTH: With the benefit of hindsight, do you have any regrets from being a one and done vs. returning to UNC for a few more years?

MW: Yeah, I’ve been blessed. I can’t even say looking back I would have done anything differently, because I probably wouldn’t of. The one thing is, as far as leaving school, is initially I never wanted to leave school. I enjoyed college. I loved Chapel Hill. My friends were there, and I have some family in the North Carolina area, I really enjoyed it, but obviously I had a chance to change my family's life with an opportunity, and I feel like I had to take advantage of it. And that’s what I did, and fortunately enough I was able to do that.

DTH: You are a free agent, but you’ve said you want to stay in Charlotte. What do you like about Charlotte and about playing there?

MW: It was incredible. It was incredible. I loved every second of it. These past two years have gone by so fast. I remember signing here and I was really excited to get back into North Carolina and kind of be in this area. Chapel Hill is right down the road from Charlotte, so I was really excited about being down here, but it actually worked out. It was much more fun than I even expected it to be. I was really happy and excited about those things, but I never realized I would have had as much fun as I did playing in front of these fans, playing for this city, playing for a great organization, playing for a great coach and with incredible teammates. I can’t say enough about playing with the Charlotte Hornets and it really did mean a lot to me and I am thankful for the opportunity they gave me to put on one of those uniforms.

DTH: You’ve been in the league now for 10 or so years, what’s been the key to your longevity?

MW: I’ve been blessed obviously, but I’m going to say Jonas Sahratian. And if you don’t know who Jonas Sahartian is, he’s the head strength coach for the men’s basketball team down here in Chapel Hill. And he is the reason I feel like I have lasted this long. He’s taught me so many different things about training, weightlifting, conditioning, eating, sleeping, taking care of your body, getting treatment, stretching, everything that you could possibly think of to help your body recover and perform at the highest level, he has taught me about. I definitely don’t think without him I wouldn’t be here, so I would definitely say Jonas Sahratian.

DTH: How has the league changed since you’ve got in?

MW: The league has changed dramatically I feel like from 12 years ago, and I think some guys who are older than me would say there’s been even more changes. When I first came in, you were used to seeing the centers and the more traditional power forwards, the bigger bruisers, the stronger guys. But now, today, the power forwards are usually played by a much stronger guy, the floor is always spread now, guys are operating with a lot more space, you have a lot more play-making on the floor for the most part around the NBA, so that’s changed a lot.

I would say my game has changed too. Obviously I’ve gotten older, so I’m not the athlete that I once was, so some of the more athletic things I used to do I can’t do as much anymore, but I still feel like I’m a pretty good athlete. My shooting has obviously improved, my knowledge of the game has improved drastically, obviously the more you play the better you get at it; I would say those few things, definitely.

DTH: How much did you get to watch UNC this past season?

MW: I tried to catch as many games as I could. Obviously I checked them out during the tournament, I saw them down in Cameron (Indoor Stadium) when they played at Duke, I watched that game. I didn’t catch any games in Chapel Hill, I’ve seen them practice a couple of times, did see them practice a couple of times, but I try to follow them I guess I would say closely, I keep in touch with some of the guys on the team just to make sure everything is going okay, like I said I talk to Sean May everyday, Eric Hoots probably every other day or so, make sure everything is going well.

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They had a great year, the guy from Villanova hit a hell of a shot, you got to take your hat off to them, but they played extremely well. They should definitely be proud of themselves.

DTH: If you could say something to some of the guys after the team about how to handle the loss, what would you say?

MW: I think that’s what you have to do. You have to kind of deal with it, put it behind you and move forward to next year. They have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. They should be proud to fight the way those guys fought all year long. To make it to the Final Four, to make it to the national championship game and to have an opportunity to win the game, you should have nothing but proud feelings. You shouldn’t be ashamed at all. Usually you might as well put the loss behind you, use it for fuel the next season and you got to work as hard as you can to kind of get back there. Obviously you lost senior leadership with Brice and with Marcus, but I feel like guys like Joel Berry are ready to step in and kind of take the reigns. Kennedy’s got to be ready to hold it down for the big guys, Isaiah’s got to be a lot better this year as well, he will play a lot more.

They have guys that are more than capable of stepping in to step up, so they will play more so they will have a chance to get right back there.