Head Coach June Daugherty Speaks in Preseason Press Conference
Oct. 30, 2001
General Remarks: 'We are excited to begin this new year of basketball. We had the opportunity to begin practice on October 13 and we have gone straight through until now. There is not doubt that this team is very talented, and the biggest thing for us right now is teaching the system. We have five new players in the program and we are making sure that all 14 players can execute, both offensively and defensively. Some changes that you will see, besides the personnel changes with the six departed seniors, is the fact that we are going to be a little bit more up-tempo than we have been in the past. We are far more athletic and quicker than we ever were last year. Defensively, you are going to see us get out there and pressure a little bit more. We will be more of a pressing team than we have been in the past. We then have to turn it around and run on it and hopefully get ourselves in a position where we are scoring lots of points and entertaining people, both offensively and defensively. I anticipate playing lots of players, just like in the past. Practices are going well. Again, we are very deeply talented and the luxury to change players in different positions, and get them inside and outside, its been interesting to see who can do what. The Pac-10 tournament is a great addition for women's basketball, on the West Coast in particular. This is something that Marie Tuite, our Senior Associate Athletic Director, really fought hard for and made it happen. It is something that is going to help our competitiveness and give us a great deal of exposure for the conference at that time of year, which is very important for the selection committee. This year is so exciting with a lot of new things going on.'
On the expectations coming off of last season: 'There are a lot of things that will carry over from last year. Obviously, the target is bigger. We probably snuck on some teams last year. This was a team that was not ranked going in to the NCAA tournament and ends up eighth in the country, one game from the Final Four. Now it is no secret what is going on in Seattle, and I think that is great. We had the second biggest turnaround attendance ever in NCAA women's basketball. But besides all that, we want to make sure we continue to touch on the passion that we had last year as a program and how hungry we were. I think that hunger and that passion took us far. To me, those are the two biggest things besides the attendance going up through the roof and the crowd support we had all year. Those two areas, I remind myself of everyday. We got to where we got to because our players had that hunger and that passion. Those are the two things we need to build on.'
On who helps the newcomers in these two areas, the players or the coaches: 'I think it is both. Although we don't have a lot of seniors, or even a lot of juniors, we do have players who are very experienced even as sophomores who bring a lot of leadership to the team. It is a reminder, not just from the coaching staff, but also from the players.'
On whether or not outside shooting will be as prevalent as last year: 'We shattered the Pac-10 records of taking and making threes, we recruit that way, and we look for players who can play that way. We are excited to say that we are better from the 3-point line, but we are going to have to prove that within the next 30 games. I think we definitely have the opportunity to be better.'
On the front-line: 'You are talking about replacing a starter in LeAnn Sheets and right now I think there are several individuals who can do that for us, just because of the tremendous improvement in skill in the off-season. We have a better-conditioned team now because of their hard work in the off-season and we are a lot stronger as a team. Right now, I can give you a lot of names, Emily Autrey, Kellie O'Neill, Sarah Keeler, who red-shirted last year and Kirsten Brockman, a new post player. There are a lot of people who are working hard at that position to earn that playing time.'
On losing six seniors to graduation: 'Losing six individuals is a big character change for a program. I think we are going through that right now because we have only been after it since October 13. The things that I will never forget from those six seniors, besides all their hard work and what great people they were, was the leadership they provided. They really grew into those roles and did a great job in their four years here. I think our personality is going to be different because they are gone, but I don't worry about that, that is fine. There is a new team evolving and the most important thing is that the leaders, who were here last year, step up. We have new people who have to fill leadership roles, but they are completely capable of that, it just takes time. The one thing that we could be concerned about is experience. Six seniors is a lot of playing time, it's a lot of time on the floor. I think we will be more than fine.'
On the look of the team with the five newcomers: 'I look at the five new players, which two of are walk-ons and three that were highly recruited. We bumped with Notre Dame, Connecticut and other big-time programs to keep these kids at home. One of things that amazes me, not only their size-they are all over six foot, but that they can play different positions, they are quick, they are strong, and they can get up and down the floor. They are great additions to the program. Our strength and conditioning coach, Michelle Latimer, has done a great job during the off-season with all the players. This is a highly motivated group, they have played more five-on-five this summer than any time in the past few years. Between playing all the time, the new faces, being more athletic and the hard work that the players have put in this summer, it is a whole different type of team.'
On the schedule: 'The schedule is great. Talking about our RPI and all the things that you have to be aware of, so that maybe this year we can play at home in the NCAA tournament, instead of going all the way to Florida, although we didn't mind. The schedule is very, very good. The Big-10 is supposed to be stronger than ever, and we want to play them. We have always believed that you play the best to be the best, and that is why we schedule this way. Anytime we can get home games, we'll take them. Fortunately, the corporate sponsorship that we received from Les Schwab and the Seattle Times is unbelievable. Because of their help, we can have the two tournaments at home. Washington State has been a good partner in bringing the Pac-10/Big-10 Challenge here to Seattle and hopefully we will be able to do that in Pullman next year. Trying to get more exposure for Pac-10 basketball is a big reason for it, also it is built-in competition having Michigan and Indiana coming in.'
On Loree Payne: 'I think Loree did a great job last year of leading this team. She came off an injury and missed numerous games, and I think joined the team right before Pac-10 play and had to make up for lost time. Unfortunately that happened to Loree, but on the other side of the coin, you saw a situation where other kids had to step up in Loree's absence and produce. To be honest with you, you hate injuries, but you go back and reflect and say it was sad for Loree, but it was great for the program because others had to step up. They were given opportunity and fortunately they took advantage of it and that helped us down the road rotating 10-11 players during the game. As far as Loree having to step up, everyone has to step up. That is the good thing about being a junior. You take Loree's experience from playing as a freshman, playing USA basketball, and obviously the success as a sophomore and I can tell you Loree is better than she was last year. We are excited about that as well as the rest of her teammates.'
On Loree's improvement: 'She is moving a lot better, she is quicker. And the experience of playing the two years that she has, she knows the system. We are on Loree a lot more because we expect her to know it and be perfect everyday and when she's not, we have to remind her, bring that to her attention. But that is okay, our upperclassmen have to set the tone and show the group under them, the way. We expect that from her. I think Loree is more consistent both offensively and defensively this year. The other thing that I am proud to say about Loree is that she is better in her rebounding, more physical. She goes to the glass and that is critical for the three position in our program.'
On the theme of this year's team: 'Last year was a great experience, but it is done and it is over. This is a new team, a new personality and a group of kids that are trying to find their identity. We are not there yet, but we will get there. We beileve we are a blue-collar team. We want to go out there and out-work people. We are smart and deeply talented, but if we go out and out-work people, some real good things can happen.'
On the role-defining process: 'Some people are starting to gel into some roles and some aren't yet, and that is okay because we have a huge learning curve with our new systems. As a coaching staff, we believe that we are ahead of schedule as far as what the team has been able to take on and polish out on the court. That is really good news because as coaches, we know the Pac-10 season is going to be here before we know it. We don't have as much time to get as much new stuff in. But the great news is that this team is very bright and they are picking the new system up very quickly.'
On the off-season dedication: 'I think every year that I have been here, the dedication has grown. It is interesting because all of July, myself and my staff are out recruiting, we have got camps in August, and NCAA-wise we can't spend time with them out on the floor, so we are not around them when they are playing. Talking to the four captains, one of the first things they talked about, was how hard working these girls are. We had three recruited freshmen from Snohomish County who came down here on their own, just about everyday, to play basketball. That is important for the bonding, to get to know the upperclassmen and the program. The captains were hands-on everyday, and were very proud of the fact that everybody stayed around and worked hard.'
On the exhibition line-up: 'If I had to chose a line-up today, Giuliana Mendiola would be at the point, Gioconda Mendiola would be at the two-guard position, Loree Payne would play the three, at the four would be Andrea Lalum, and at the five-junior Emily Autrey. But like all exhibitions, we would like to see everyone get an opportunity to step on the floor and show us what they put together. It is going to be a great challenge. I know paper isn't everything, but when I look on paper this might be one of the best teams we've ever faced. That is what you want, you want the best challenges in the preseason to see where our strengths are, and if we have any weaknesses, where they lie. It is going to be a fun situation on Sunday.'