Nolan Smith has been a key component in the Blue Devils' attack since coming back from a concussion suffered against Maryland. Coach Krzyzewski most recently sang the praises of the sophomore guard, saying that he feels like he has found his role on this season's team.
Smith has been in the news a lot of late, including a recent feature on ESPN's Outside the Lines. There is no doubt that Duke will need Smith to be at his best in order to defeat Villanova on Thursday evening. Here are some of Nolan Smith's thoughts from a question and answer session before the Dukies headed to Boston.
Did you have a tough practice today?
Today's practice was quick but very intense and we started going over Villanova and have a good game plan going into the game.
Has the team been able to stay fresh?
We are very refreshed. The days in between those games we've managed to relax and stay off our feet. We play those forty minutes and are right back to resting. We definitely take care of our bodies at this point in the season.
How does the team feel to be going to Boston for the Sweet 16?
This team is very excited to be where we are at. When we step on that court we're going to let it all out and play as hard as we can. That's what we have done during these first two NCAA games.
Was there ever a time when you thought the team might not make it to where they have today? Like after the Clemson game?
Not at all. Even after that we realized we weren't at our best. We knew that we're still developing and growing. Right now, I feel like we are playing very good basketball. We are getting something from different players every game.
Talk about your relationship with some of the Villanova players -
I played high school basketball with Dwayne Anderson and Dante Cunningham my freshman year at St. John's. And then Corey Fisher and Stokes were in my class and I have played against them numerous times on the AAU circuit. So, I have a good feel for all their players and have a good relationship with them off the court as well.
Many have said that Villanova and Duke are similar teams ...
They are very similar to us. Their Dante Cunningham is our Lance Thomas. They are not a real big force inside, but both teams shoot a lot of mid-range stuff. They play with three guards a lot just like we do.
Have you talked with Coach K a lot of late?
We've talked a little bit. He let's me know you have to be ready for anything. Role changes may happen and you have to be ready and do what is better for the team. Since my role change, we've been on a tear and playing great basketball. And my play has picked up, so ... He's told me to stay ready and be ready for anything.
Are you comfortable with your new role?
I feel very comfortable. Before I check into every game, Coach K looks at me and tells me to attack. So, I try to attack and make plays. If Jon is not out there, I still have the ability to run the one and set my teammates up. It's not for a long period of time like at the beginning of the year.
On Zoubek and McClure being in at crunch time versus Texas after Singler and Thomas fouled out -
Coach K lets us know that in order to win a National Championship, we are going to need a whole team. So they have to stay rested and ready. Zoubs and Dave and those guys have stayed ready.
Has the emergence of Elliot Williams helped you with your game?
Oh yeah, definitely, I tell him all the time that I'm glad he showed Coach he can really press the ball. I got tired of doing it the first 22 games by myself. (smiling while media laughing) It takes a toll on you. Now that we have two guys that can pressure the ball, Elliot and I can take turns out there.