1. Starting out basic, how are you finding Wake so far? Are you enjoying it? What's your favorite thing about it? What's the most challenging?
AR: I love Wake Forest so far. Beautiful campus and great people. Feels a lot like home and that's the best part. I feel like the campus embraces you as you embrace it. My favorite thing is arriving at the Joel on game days. We haven't drawn large crowds, but I love the environment either way. The most challenging is obviously balancing academics and athletics, but that's why you come to Wake. To compete on the court and in the classroom.
2. What are practices like? Do you see a difference in yourself and/or your teammates now compared to when you got to Wake?
AR: Practices are intense and competitive. I feel like we have become better as a team and more of a team over time. I know I can speak for all the freshmen when i say it was a tough adjustment at first, but we have become accustomed to it, and we focus on getting better every day.
3. Something I and many other Wake fans have noticed is the unusual but versatile nature of your game. You're not a major scorer, not necessarily a volume rebounder, yet you somehow always manage to make a huge impact, especially in terms of energy. What's your thought process on the floor? What would you consider your most natural and/or refined skill? What do you think you need to most work on?
AR: My mindset when I step on the floor is to just make a positive impact on the game. I'm really focused on bringing energy and making my teammates better. My versatility is just a result of my energy. I don't feel like I'm great at any aspect of the game. I feel like I'm pretty good at a little bit of everything and my energy helps me translate that to results on the court. I wouldn't consider my length a skill, but it's definitely a gift from God. Having long arms helps me especially with blocks and rebounds. In my opinion my best natural skills are shot blocking and passing. My biggest focus is refining my fundamentals, shooting, and getting stronger.
4. I'm big on hype. That is to say, I think the right video or music or lighting before a game can do wonders in setting up a great gameday atmosphere and getting guys ready to go. Would you agree with that? What's one song guaranteed to get you ready to go?
AR: I love a good atmosphere but I believe sometimes you have to provide your own energy, especially on the road. I do have my everyday game rituals, and I even have a special gameday playlist. I have to listen to "Rise and Shine" by J. Cole (NC's very Own) and "Young and Getting It" by Meek Mill before every game.
5. Wake legend Randolph Childress is on the basketball staff now, something that a lot of Wake fans are really excited by. What's that like? Does he help out during practices? What's one thing that he brings to the table in terms of being a teacher or mentor that some of the other coaches might not?
AR: Having Coach Childress on the staff is great. He helps out a lot, especially with us younger guys. I think having him and Coach LaRue, who both played at Wake and dealt with all the struggles we go through helps. I benefit from this a lot because they both played guard spots here and help me with my technique.
6. You're averaging an insane number of blocks. In an average of 13.4 minutes per game, you're averaging 2.2 blocks. Per 40, that's the better part of 8 blocks. Not only that, you do that with less than 2 fouls on average. What goes into your thought process on that, if anything? Is there a certain type of shot or situation that you find most comfortable in when going for a block? How do you do it without fouling?
AR: Shot blocking is great and I feel like I'm pretty good at it, but I look at is a necessary evil, because it can be misleading. I prefer to get blocks from weak side help because those are easier and less risky for fouls. The reason I say blocks can be misleading is because a lot of my blocks are just examples of me saving myself after I make a defensive mistake like gambling for a steal or giving up a step or two. Blocking shots without fouling is mainly due to me having good timing, long arms (Notice a pattern? Haha) , and not jumping for the block until the offensive player leaves his feet. Coach Battle is really hard on me becoming a better defender than a shot blocker, and I"m working on it every day.
7. The ACC season is coming up soon. A lot of people are writing off the Deacs. What's one game you're really looking forward to on the ACC slate as far as maybe making an impact for yourself and the program?
AR: Counting us off is not what people should do. When you're as young as us, it's scary. We are only getting better and we're all in for each other and the coaches. We're excited for every game this season and the conference games just magnify it. So I'm looking forward to every conference game, so to answer your question, the 1st one is the most important one because it's the next one. Plus it's against Duke in Durham. Talk about a welcome to the ACC game for us freshmen. 1st conference game in one of the toughest venues in the country. Can't Wait!
8. Anything else you'd like to say to the fans?
AR: Just want everybody to know we're not down on ourselves or looking for pity. We're tired of hearing about experience and potential. We have the talent to compete and we plan on it. We're improving every day, so just keep the faith. Go Deacs!
Many thanks to Aaron for doing this interview with me. Follow him on Twitter @DeaconTree33. Aaron is a true class act and a Deacon through and through.