2005 Pac-10 Women's Basketball Media Day Quotes
Nov. 2, 2005
Pac-10 Commisioner Tom Hansen
It's an exciting time of year for the Pac-10 as we start a new season, but also a sad time with the loss of Shawntinice Polk. We will be thinking of her and will miss her a great deal. She was not only respected and admired as a great student-athlete but as a terrific young woman that everyone will miss a great deal. I want to welcome Joanne Boyle at Cal and LaVonda Wagner at Oregon State. They will make us even more competitive internally and nationally. We start off with five teams that competed in last year's NCAA tournament and we had five 20-win teams for just the second time in league history and the first time in 13 years. The Conference has 31 starters coming back, led by UCLA and Washington with all their starting line-ups back. We have four players on the Wooden Top 30 list. Also, 21 of our games will be televised by our partner, Fox Sports Net, that kicks off Friday, November 11 and with culminate March 6 with the tournament.
California Head Coach Joanne Boyle
On first season in Pac-10: 'I'm just excited to be here. We have a lot of things going on in our heads right now. It's a new Conference, and there's some great momentum going on right here right now.'
On style: 'I've always come from up-tempo, physical ACC basketball. I believe in really socring some offense off your defense. I do like the transition game but I do like to teach my kids the game.'
On this season: 'My goal with five freshmen and five new players is about getting better every game, getting stronger. It's a new process for me. It's to play with a high-level. It's smaller goals than at the end, how do you look.'
On what Cal has been working on thus far: 'Part of winning is learning how to win and how to finish games strong. We try to work on situations like that through practice. This year we're in the NIT so that will give us a couple games to do that.'
On the loss of Jessica Lawson: 'It hurt us a lot, but I think all teams deal with it. It's a common injury and we've dealt with it like other teams will deal with it. Like Renee, Jess was in the best shape of her life. The only good thing about it is that we have her for three years and it gives our younger players more time to play early, so they'll be better sophomores and juniors because of it.'
On the freshmen: 'I don't think they think of themselves as freshmen. They are individuals and have incorporated themselves into the team. For us, when you step on the court, it's do what you need to do, whether you're a freshman or not. It's more growing as a team rather than just growing as a freshman class.'
Golden Bears' Reneé Wright
On her role: 'It's to be a calming force for everyone on the court. I always pride myself in rebounding. My team all feeds off each other very well, so that takes some pressure off of me as the only senior. If we play very hard and together, we'll have a very successful season.'
On getting into shape in the off-season: 'I made getting into shape a priority, but I really had no choice. I really want to thank coach Boyle for that, because I don't have to worry about getting tired in a game.'
UCLA Head Coach Kathy Olivier
On practice thus far and goals going into season 'Practice has been going great. This past summer we played four games in Austrailia and traveled on a ten-day trip. We've carried that Austrailia trip into practice, good positive energy. If we continue that, we'll be all right.'
On Noel Quinn's injury: 'She played in Australia and did a great job, full of energy. She loves playing with the team. Her smile, because she was back on the court, is probably the biggest thing she brings to the table. She is a huge plus for us.'
Bruins' Nikki Blue
On her role on a talented team 'I don't think my role is to be a scorer. I'd rather be a passer, but when scoring is needed, I'll try doing my best.'
On the bridge climb exercise : 'We learned we have to have a lot of trust in each other. In Austrailia, it was good because there was no cell phones and no distractions, so it was just us.'
Washington Head Coach June Daugherty
On having everyone back: 'It's exciting that we have three seniors in the program. I think a lot of what our seniors did in our program made our start so good this season in practice. Our team was all here this summer and we are able to build into our system way deeper than we ever have in my ten years at Washington.'
On non-conference schedule: 'Baylor, the national champion, and some other really good teams on our pre-season schedule, is good. Our players embrace the fact too, that we're going to get ready right away for the Pac-10. The Conference is going to be even better this year. We played Baylor at our place last year and it was one of those 'woulda-coulda-shoulda' and we are very much looking forward to Waco for the game. It'll be a great opportunity for us to see where we're at.'
On the upcoming season: 'Game-day is Sunday for us, and it couldn't come sooner. It's the first time that our three seniors actually had an off-season in a couple years. If you see the play we're getting out of them, we just found it. We're provided with a power game that we haven't seen in quite a few years at Washington. We're running harder and faster than we have ever run, and we're scoring both inside and out. The work they did in the weight room, and their commitment to the defenseive side of the ball, you can just tell we're out and we're after it.'
Huskies' Kayla Burt
On her return to the hard-wood: 'There were usually a lot more questions than answers on my first year back. This year, knowing I can go full speed, that's just really exciting.'
On playing with two other seniors: 'The three of us together again for one more year, that's just so exciting for us.'
On what it's like to be a senior knowing it's rapping up: 'It's crazy. Life is crazy. I always knew I'd step on the floor one more time. For some reason, I knew this couldn't be over. There was just no way. When Washington gave me that opportunity, it was such an amazing moment in my life. When the sport that you love is taken away from you in just 24 hours, you don't know how to handle it. I am going to finish off with a bang and this is my last chance to do what I want to do.'
Arizona State Head Coach Charli Turner Thorne
On the outcome of aiming high: 'I really felt last year that we would do great if we stayed healthy, and we felt that we could have made it further had we played a little better. It's fun being over the hump and we've worked hard at becoming the a team nationally. We have improved in a lot of areas and I do think that we are poised for a postseason run.'
On losing two seniors: 'I think we turn to our front court. They've been starters pretty much throughout their careers. I think we don't have as much experience in our back court, but we have some talented players. We do have some really good returners with Randy and Jill.'
On ASU's rotation: 'We have one of the best freshman classes around, and they'll be out there. I don't think we're a hockey team, but we'll get lots of people involved.'
Sun Devils' Emily Westerberg
On stepping into a leadership role as a junior: 'I think being a leader is always difficult, but I've been embracing that role. I know I have two years left to go and I want to make the most of it.'
On last year's NCAA process: 'You have to have the confidence to be the best. We really learned that last year. I had to have the confidence to know that we're talented and that even in Arizona, we're doing good things.'
On the off-season: 'I worked on my shot, especially my outside and mid-range game.'
Oregon State Head Coach LaVonda Wagner
On being a head coach: 'It's been a great experience for me. I've spent a lot of time preparing for this role. I've really enjoyed being a part of the Pac-10 so far.'
On the in's and out's of the Conference: 'This is a Conference that's on the rise. It's a power Conference and we're only going to get better.'
On the Beavers' progress so far in practice: 'They've done everything I've asked them to do and they've improved as a unit. How far we'll go, we'll see.'
On 'the system': 'Play hard. I'd love to be able to run the floor and press in the future.'
On finding a way to compete: 'We're changing the culture I think. Everything we do in practice is competitive. We are just trying to compete.'
On relying on returners/impact of newcomers: 'I really look to the four seniors for leaders and to make sure to teach everyone do things the right way.'
Beavers' Mandy Close
On entering the season with a new coaching staff: 'It's amazing. We never gave up last year and we're going to keep fighting.'
On OSU's strength in the Conference: 'We're going to be hustlers. We're going to be scrappy, even if we don't have the most talent. We're going to give our best effort.'
On wrapping up her career: 'I have to embrace the opportunity to play with someone who's had so much experience at the top level. At the end of the season I want to know I've given all I have to be there for my teammates.'
USC Head Coach Mark Trakh
On injuries: 'Injuries is something everyone goes through. We've had some kids that have gotten some experience last year so we're going to ask them to step up in the next few months.'
On the unselfish nature of the USC game: 'It's something that we have with ten or 11 kids with lots of ability and they can be excited about it or they can be worried about starting or playing. It's a choice between the positives or the negatives. It was genuine and sincere and they bought into that. We just told them we don't care who starts and who finishes. We just care if we win.'
On his experience as a first-year Pac-10 coach: 'It's an honor for me to be coaching at USC and it's an honor to represent the Pac-10. It's a great Conference, top to bottom. There's such a quality of people and quality of coaches here and it was just a great feeling being a part of that.'
On not being an underdog and the challenges that come: 'I think it's going to be a lot harder this year, but we tell the kids that we don't worry what expectations are. Our expectations is to give 100% every day. We use short term goals and we don't believe that we're that good. We believe that we're good but we don't believe we're top-25. You have to play well more than one year to get that type of ranking. We haven't even begun to do that, so that's what we're going to do the next few years.'
Women of Troy's Meghan Gnekow
On coach Trakh's first year: 'I feel like that was the best season we've ever had at USC and the most fun I've ever had, especially going to the NCAA tournament.'
On being in a respected program: 'I would prefer to go in as an underdog any day, but I'm really looking forward to it. It's the best group of girls I've ever played with. There's not just one go-to player, so it makes it a lot easier for all of us to have fun.'
On preparing for this season: 'I don't think it's so much the off-season as it is practice. Everyone is working so hard and playing so competitive.'
Washington State Head Coach Sherri Murrell
On last season: 'We're making progress. We're competitive and those signs are an indication of the direction we're going. The losses left a bad taste in the kids' mouths and that's what's going to propel us into this season- to take care of business that we didn't take care of last year.'
On this season: 'We've done recruiting. We've got five freshmen that are going to play quite a bit of minutes...we also have size in the post so we can get lots of kids involved.'
On Kate Benz: 'I've always said that rebounding is 90% desire and 10% ability. It says a lot about Kate. She's a kid that you can see the size of her heart. When you see her play, it's revealed.'
On her hopes for this season: 'Off the sideline I sleep better. We just had our first exhibition, we look comfortable out there. We have a good combination of mature veterans and mature freshmen. I'm cautiously optimistic, more optimistic than I've been since I took this job. The key components are there.
'I don't want to be in a situation where we have an overtime loss with USC. I don't want to have the feeling that it could have happened. I'm not a moral victory coach. I want wins and I want Conference wins. That's our goal this season, to carry over that competitiveness from last season and to finish games.'
Cougars' Kate Benz
On her Conference honorable mention selection: 'I think it meant more to my school than to me personally, to bring some honor to WSU.'
On her numbers : 'I never look at numbers and I don't look at stats unless someone tells me. Consistency is my main goal. I want to be more all-around, especially on defense.'
On being a leader: 'I'm comfortable. I can't believe I'm a junior. I took the team role when I was in high school. The freshmen ask me questions and stuff, but they are pretty mature too.'
Oregon Head Coach Bev Smith
On springing back from last year 'To get back into the NCAA tournament, we were relatively healthy. We want to be fitter, a little bit stronger. You can't replace players, but you can prepare the ones waiting in the wings. It's going to be a collective effort. We want to have some success and I think the personnel we have this year will make things more up-tempo.'
On injuries for the Ducks: 'We have two players returning from injury. Chelsea Wagner is realy ready to go and Caroline Gaines, who wasn't injured last year, red-shirted last year and had a great summer. She is shooting the ball better than I've ever seen her.'
On changing the style of Duck basketball: 'We'll be a half-court executiing team and we've had some coaching changes that will be great too. I'm looking forward to our perimeter game and our ability to penetrate. We've got a neat aspect to our game that we haven't had before, and that's punching it into the key.'
On this year's Duck defense: 'We will focus really on our half-court defense. We also will look to pick up a little more.'
On Oregon's fit in the Pac-10: 'We have a number of players who are getting used to filling big shoes and we are taking it one step at a time, from exhibition games to non-conference, getting our way back to the tournament.'
Ducks' Brandi Davis
On the decision to return this season: 'It was something I really wanted to do. I definitely wanted four years here, and I didn't want to sell myself short. I am excited about coming back.'
On her expectations going into the season: 'I want us to make the NCAA Touranment again. We can understand how to get back there after our experience last year.'
On being seeded in Seattle last season: 'It was definitely awesome, almost like playing at home. I even saw some of the Washington fans supporting us, so that shows that the Pac-10 fans support us.'
Stanford Head Coach Tara VanDerveer
On last year: 'Well, it was a really exciting year last year and it was hard to see the five seniors leave. We're really excited about this year's team. There's graduation, but those kids laid the ground work for our future, like Brooke and Candice [Wiggins]. I think we're going to be better, but it's going to take a little time to get back into it. I think our key is that people being healthy. I like our teams to be faster. I like our enthusiasm and I like the leadership of our team with Brooke and Candice. We're gonna go.'
On an inside-out combination: 'Candice played with the U-19 team and she played point guard, so we'll look at her sometimes at point. We'll look to Brooke inside. She delivers. She recognizes doubles, and she passes really well. I'm really impressed with her defense and she's much more competitive and confidence this year. Playing with Candice has got to be fun for Brooke.'
On returners who haven't played much yet: 'Claire has really benefitted from her red-shirt year. She's doing really well. We're really excited about our three freshmen too. There are a lot of teams in our Conference that have great young players that have paid their dues. They need to be prime-time players and they're up to the challenge.'
On maintaining a high level of success: 'You have great players. My philosophy is that Stanford has helped with recruiting, but I have a responsibility to do the best I can coaching Candice and Brooke and all their teammates. I think that another thing that attracts great players to Stanford is the success of the Conference. Every night will be a great game. It's going to be extremely competitive. Our players can compete with anyone. That's what makes my job exciting and fun. It's going to be a tough road for us but it's fun to play in a great Conference.'
Cardinal Brooke Smith
On the challenge of being double and triple-teamed: 'Once I dribble, that gets me into trouble. We have some other good shooters this year, so those people have a lot of ways for me to get out of the double.'
On playing with the World University Games team: 'It was a great experience. I met a bunch of people from around the country and the best players from around the country. I really learned a lot from the experience, especially since I got to play with all those players.'
Arizona Head Coach Joan Bonvicini
On the loss of Shawntinice Polk: 'Obviously, the past five weeks has been shocking. It's been shocking that Polkey has not been with us. I want to thank the Pac-10, all the support from the coaches and the athletes, particularly the University of Arizona. Our players and staff have been amazing through all this. Before this happened, we knew our team was going to be close. Now, this is the closest team I've ever coached. I'm just very, very proud of our team. I don't know anyone in the country who can replace Polkey. She was a great player, but I'm going to really miss Polkey as a person. Polkey was bigger than life. Her spirit will live on and we want to keep that alive for a long, long time. A family donated $1 million dollars, they didn't even know Polkey, for our practice facility, and they wanted the court to be named after her.
'It was surreal. Very difficult. Basketball has been a great outlet. These athletes are resilient and tough. Polkey was their best friend. We're better, honestly. Last night, we had our inter-squad game, and for all of us, it was more difficult initially than they thought. They put a uniform on. Polkey was big and loud, and it affected us. We had a moment of silence before the game and it was difficult.
'We have not only our women's team with her number, but every team at Arizona has chosen to put her number on their jerseys. She was the kind of kid that you couldn't help but like. I don't think I'm just saying this, but she was easily the most popular person at the University of Arizona, and not just as an athlete. She was a special person.
'The memorial was very special because it showed how much everyone respected Polkey. Even ASU's team came down last week to Tucson and we talked to them, which was initially interesting like a junior high dance with one group on one side and one group on the other.
'There's no right way or wrong way to grieve. This is nothing that we're going to be able to get over. None of you will believe it until you see it for yourselves and realize that she's not there. The grief counselors have been wonderful with all of their support. For me, I have to make sure everyone is okay and we keep Polkey's spirit alive.'
Wildcats' Natalie Jones:
On the loss of Shawntinice Polk: 'For me, it's still a shock. Everything just hit me before our scrimmage, because Polkey was always the one to get us started in the locker room. I tried so hard to think of the positive things and going into that game was so hard for me personally. I tried to be strong for my team, but it was just so difficult. Overally, I think we're going to have a special team this season, and I think people are stepping up at the right time.'
TOMORROW | 7:00pm PTLive