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The Brunt of Great Expectations: CanesHoops are a Veteran Team Poised for a Big Season

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With just over a month until full-time practices begin, State of the U had the opportunity to speak with Assistant Coach Jamal Brunt, to get his thoughts on the team and the expectations for the upcoming season.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Full Q&A below:

SOTU: As a newcomer to the program and to working for Coach L, what has been your impression of the team in the time that you've spent with them, and how have they looked in the gym?

JB: "I've been very, very impressed with the culture of work. These guys, they get in the gym a ton. Obviously, the NCAA limits the amount of hours that we (coaches) can be in the gym with them per week, but those guys are constantly, constantly in the gym, working out, getting extra reps, extra workouts, extra shooting. That was probably the biggest takeaway I had from the summer - I just was blown away by that culture of work."

SOTU:: What are your expectations for the upcoming year?

JB: "I'm expecting a great year, and that was obviously an attractive selling point for me, making the move here. I get to work with a veteran group that is really poised to make a big jump. You've got a lot of experienced guys coming back, a couple of fifth-year guys that should be great leaders. I'm looking forward to it. Guys should  be ready to work once they get back on campus, and some guys are in town already. Tonye (Jekiri) and Ivan (Cruz Uceda) haven't left. Davon (Reed) came back early, (Kamari) Murphy stuck around. All the guys have committed themselves to making sure they're ready. I think it should be an exciting year, knock on wood, if everyone stays healthy - that's obviously the key for any season."

SOTU:  Speaking of health, can you give us an update on injuries? How is Sheldon (McClellan) following offseason surgery?

JB: "He's good to go, and actually was invited out to the Adidas Nations (camp). They have college counselors out there. Chris (Caputo) got some good feedback from some NBA scouts and GMs that were there evaluating guys. He looked good and was in the gym working once he got back for the second summer session. Everyone else is good, other than occasional bumps and bruises from just working and playing this summer."

SOTU: Last year, Omar Sherman and Ivan Cruz Uceda had to adjust to the size and speed of ACC big men. How have they benefited from the offseason workouts?

JB: "Omar has dropped a ton of weight and Ivan's body has really transformed, even from the time I've been here (in April). Just watching him go from where he was the first day of summer workouts to where he was on the last day of summer workouts, he really had a great summer, I think. We're all hopeful that will translate on the floor. He's been here getting extra workouts in every day since everyone went home (before classes start), and he's been putting in the work. I really, really think he's put himself in a great position to have a really good year. Omar looks a lot better and needs to continue to get stronger but weight-wise, seeing how he looks from when we played in the NIT to how he looks now, he really looks slimmer.  I always joke around with him and say, ‘Learn and mean, you've got to stay lean and mean." He is getting there and wasn't getting tired at end of workouts. He says he's working out at home and we'll see that he's still in pretty good shape when he gets back in town."

SOTU: How has the transition to Adidas been so far?

JB: "It does seem like Adidas is trying to be very, very helpful. They're doing a great job to make sure the transition is smooth as kids can be apprehensive given (past) brand loyalty to the Swoosh. They've done a lot just to come in and fit the guys' feet well, to make sure this is the size for you, allowing the guys to do custom colors. I think they're really making an effort to make the program feel special."

SOTU With more continuity from the returning players, are we going to play any differently this year? Maybe institute the scramble more?

JB: "I know Coach has some things in mind with the change to a little bit shorter of a shot clock (from 35 seconds to 30 seconds). We're in meetings all week, all day before the kids get back. We're definitely going to want to try some things out in workouts and early practice."

We can also expect for the full season schedule to be released by the end of the month. The Hurricanes announced their out-of-conference schedule at the beginning of August, and the ACC announced last week that the team will host two "Big Monday" games. Defending national champion Duke comes to the BankUnited Center  on January 28 and ACC regular season champion Virginia visits on February 22. Both games are slated for 7 PM tips and will be broadcast on the "flagship" (ESPN).

A big shout out to SOTU's Hoops Consigliere Josh Frank aka @JoshDaCane for his help on this interview.