One of the great perks of running a site like this is getting opportunities that don’t come along very often. When an email appeared in my inbox asking if I wanted to interview former Tar Heel Brendan Haywood, my answer was immediately yes.
Getting to talk the team I love with a guy who knows them probably as well as anyone was a great treat. Just getting his perspective on the tournament and how he sees it playing out for Carolina was a lot of fun.
I’ve transcribed our conversation for you below. Thanks to Brendan for taking the time out of his busy schedule to chat with me, and to the people at CBS for making it happen.
Tanya: Which teams do you see as the biggest threat to the Tar Heels’ goal of getting back to the National Championship game?
Brendan: Probably UCLA and Kentucky. Those are two very tough ball clubs, they play up and down like Carolina, they have talented bigs so they match up well. So I think either of those two teams could definitely give Carolina a challenge; and Kentucky has actually already beaten Carolina this year, so they already know what it is.
Tanya: Which player on the Tar Heels this year has been your favorite to watch and why?
Brendan: Joel Berry. I think he’s played great. I think he’s the engine of the team. He’s what really makes the team go. We saw earlier in the season when he was hurt, the team just didn’t quite play as well. When he plays well, I think Carolina plays well. So I really like what he’s done this year. He’s continued his steady progression every season.
Tanya: Is there anyone on the team that reminds you of yourself as a player?
Brendan: There’s really not anyone who reminds me of myself because there’s not a dominant shot blocker like that, but if I was going to say someone it would probably be Tony Bradley because of his length and the way he rebounds offensively.
Tanya: Do any of your Final Fours hold any special meaning or are they all special in their own way?
Brendan: All the Final Fours I played in, they don’t really hold a special meaning...well, actually I’ll go against that. The one my junior year holds a special meaning because I played more minutes than I did in my freshman year. It’s a blessing just to be able to make it to the Final Four, but my junior year we had to overcome a lot of adversity to get there.
Tanya: How has the transition from player to announcer gone for you? Does the college game feel different as an observer?
Brendan: The transition has been very smooth because it’s still basketball. You still have to talk about basketball and watch basketball, the only difference is now I’m not preparing to play. I’m just preparing to talk about it, but I still do a lot of the same things before, as far as preparation and scouting reports and things of that nature.
Tanya: Gotta ask - What’s your prediction for the Final Four/the Heels?
Brendan: I think Carolina has a really good shot to go to the Final Four. I think the top half of that bracket is really open for them. I have Carolina in the Final Four along with Arizona, Duke, and Kansas. I actually think Duke and Carolina are going to end up playing for the National Championship, and hopefully it’ll be a Carolina victory this time.
Tanya: I don’t know if I’m ready for that.
Brendan: Yeah! Part four, man. The saga continues.
It certainly does. Go Heels!