Friday, July 20, 2007

Deon Thompson Interview (Eddy Landreth,

Deon Thompson is interviewed during the U-19 USA team practice in Dallas.

So far, what has this experience been like for you?

DT: It's been good, going against good competition. Playing for coach [Jerry] Wainwright has been good.

How has this experience helped you above and beyond just playing pickup ball in Chapel Hill?

DT: Playing against better players is really helping my confidence. Playing ball all year round is really helping me.

Could you describe how Coach Wainwright is using you?

DT: We've only had two games so far, so I can't really give too many details as far as how he is using me.

Well, I mean, do they look to feed the post a lot? Do the guards take more of the shots?

DT: We look to get it inside, and we look to run the floor, kind of how we play at Carolina. We get out and run when we can. And when you post up on the side, the guards will get you the ball.

Deon, when you put on that uniform for the first time with USA across it and you're playing for your country, would you tell me what that felt like?

DT: It feels good. I've never been able to do something like this before. It's my first time. Playing for the USA feels great.

You've come so far in the last two years. Could you talk about losing the weight, developing your game? You're on the verge of becoming a real factor for a school that is probably going to be ranked No. 1 in the country this season.

DT: It's a great opportunity. After the season, [strength and conditioning coach Jonas Sahratian] started to get on me about my eating and working out hard. I started to do a lot of extra stuff on days off and on the weekends. It's starting to pay off. I still don't feel like I'm where I need to be physically and with my game, but I'm not going to stop working.

I would think this summer will be a huge help with confidence and getting into shape. Could you discuss that?

DT: I think it's going to help me mentally. I haven't been playing basketball as long as most people. I just started really my sophomore year of high school. As I start to play more and get experience, it's really going to help me a lot.

Tell me about the chemistry of this team. Guys come from all over to make this team. You have to learn each other's game. What has that been like?

DT: We've gelled together pretty quickly. Off the court, everybody laughs and jokes, and that always makes it easier when you get on the court. So right now we're just trying to understand how each other plays. But it's really working out real good.

When you're in the game, is there a particular role you've been asked to play?

DT: There isn't anything defined. Just play my game.

When you think about going to play for a world championship, what is that like?

DT: You've got to think about it like that is something special. Not a lot of people can do that, try to win a gold medal. It's just a great thing we could do as a team.

How did playing at Carolina last year help you take this next step in playing for a national team?

DT: Playing at Carolina is just like playing for a national team. Everybody is so good, playing with Tyler [Hansbrough] and Brandan [Wright]. So when I got here, I wasn't scared of anything or anybody. I played against a two-time All-American and the eighth pick in the draft. That helped me. Playing for Coach [Roy] Williams helps a lot, too.

You're going to have a great opportunity this year with Brandan leaving. Would you talk about that and what this season presents for you.

DT: As long as I keep working, everything should be great. I have a great opportunity with playing time wide open, a starting spot wide open. I don't see any reason why I can't help my team.

One last thing. Besides being in shape, are there a couple of particular things about your game you want to really want to see improvement in between now and October.

DT: Just going to the basket strong and finishing through people. My jumper has come along good. Mostly it's finishing through people and finishing plays at the basket.

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