Pac-10 Women's Basketball Coaches Teleconference
Jan. 6, 2010
Arizona State Head Coach Charli Turner Thorne
We actually took an extra week off for Christmas break. We're hoping to be back this week and get ourselves going a little bit. It was a disappointing weekend for us. We definitely didn't play the way we wanted to play. We're just looking forward to getting prepared to play some very tough Washington schools this week.
For those of us who didn't see the games (vs. USC and UCLA), talk about what you did or didn't do that you needed to do.
The SC game was kind of surreal because we were winning the whole game, and you're up nine, you're up six with under two minutes. I think it's just inexperience. We just had some let ups and let the game slip away from us. With the UCLA game, I think it's a young team trying too hard. We played really hard but we didn't play together as a team. We were very individual and weren't connected at all. Not because we didn't want to win, not because we don't care, but because we had one of those games. Credit those two teams. They did some really good things and chalk it up for us, for obviously still trying to figure those things out and be a little bit more consistent as a team. I do think the five days off probably did hurt us. And we got pretty beat up at those games [against] Texas A&M and Baylor, so we are still nursing some injuries. We lost a little bit of what we had gained through the preseason and we needed to get back.
The conversations you have with your team heading into the couple of games at the end of the week, are they about the physical things you guys need to do or is it about the mentality and mindset?
Definitely both. It starts with your mentality and from there, the X's and O's and everything comes. I think we are still growing the mentality of this team. At the same time, there are some basketball things that if we do better, we're winning.
Looking at the Conference, there seems to be more parity this year. Can you talk about that?
I think everybody knew that coming in, and I think the preseason shows that. I think the Conference - top to bottom - is as good as it's been in a long time. We may not have many top 10, top 15 teams right now, but in terms of people just continuing to get better, UCLA and USC have had a ton of talent, they're doing well. Oregon and Washington schools are all improved. UofA is improved. Everybody is better. Cal and us - we're young. And our teams are still trying to figure things out. But we certainly have all the pieces it takes to be a very good basketball team. There's no doubt, the Conference from top to bottom, every team in it from last year - again, I think Cal and us are making the transition a little bit. Plus, we lost six seniors and our leading scorer in Dymond Simon. One of our top recruits tore her ACL and isn't playing. So, there's a lot of transition for us. And everybody is better. Which is what we want in our Conference. We get criticized across the country for not being a strong conference and it's getting stronger, which is great.
On the other side of that, the 60+ point blowouts from over the weekend can't be good for the game. What are your thoughts?
The Baylor and Carolina [routs], those are not Conference teams. They are beating up on their guarantee games. That's what people do. It's hard to say. We've had the conversation, I feel like everyone should go home-and-home and there shouldn't be any guarantees and make everybody play people and make people schedule. We do have a lot of people buying games. At the end of the day, you have to do what's right for your program and follow your philosophy in scheduling. I'm sure all those programs have also played very tough games that's prepared them for their Conference.
Arizona Head Coach Niya Butts
Thanks for having me. Obviously, this past weekend was a tough weekend for us. But I felt like we got better as a team. Two tough losses. Both games, I felt like, we let get away from us. But we'll have second opportunities later in Conference play. But our team is improving. If we continue to grow and we going to be a much better team at the end of the year.
What is the most dangerous element of the Washington State team you're going to be playing this weekend?
The one thing they can do at any given time is, they have players that can put up numbers. Whether they've done that consistently or not this year, at this point really doesn't matter because you know they have the capability to do so. Their defense can be pretty stifling at times. And that's the thing, you have to really cut down on your turnovers with this team and that's something we're going to stress all week long, being able to handle their defense, especially when they start pressing they get a little confident and they start knocking down their shots and creating opportunities on offense with their defense. Those are some things we're really going to work on this week.
When you talk about things getting away from you when you talk about home games, is that a mark of a young team?
I think it's a mark of a somewhat new team for us. We have only two players that get the bulk of our minutes that returned from last year. We're still gelling and we're still learning. We've got a freshman, in many aspects, along with Ify Ibekwe, leading the way. We jumped on her back in our last game against USC. We had 25 points at the half, she had 21 at the half, ended the game with 34. I think, again, you can say young, you can say new. But I think we're finally coming together. We're hoping the giant awakes at the right time.
Can you talk about USC and what Michael Cooper has got them doing and how they're playing?
I think the biggest difference, in terms of this year's team versus last year's team for them, is they run and they push a lot more consistently. I'm not sure he's telling them this, but it would appear, if they're open, we don't care how many people are down on the floor, we want to get our shots. I think when you have two shooters that can really c
onsistently put the ball in the hole like they do, I'm not sure I would do the same thing but they're running a lot more consistently and I think they're playing a lot faster.
With the impressive weekend that Davellyn [Whyte] had, what would you like to see her improve?
I want to see her stay consistent. Although I know she's a freshman and you're going to have your good games and you're going to have your bad games, but I hope those performances continue. But as a coach, you know, in terms of points, that stuff is going to come and go. But what she can do, she can continue to play strong defense, she can rebound the basketball a little bit better and we just have to find some way to keep her on the floor and get her some rest at the same time.
Washington State June Daugherty
Good morning, everyone. Looking forward to playing a couple home games against the Arizona schools. Certainly I do not feel like we played well at Oregon and Oregon State, and credit them, they played very, very well. In our match with Oregon, it was one of our better games of the year. I thought our team competed for 40 minutes and had an opportunity to close it out on the road, but unfortunately, were not able to finish. But I saw a lot more positives than negatives this weekend. And I'm looking forward to playing much better at home.
What were the positives you mentioned in your opening statement from the games against the Oregon schools?
I thought that we certainly learned a valuable lesson against Oregon State. We were in foul trouble very early in that game. We have to be able to adjust to the officiating in the Pac-10. Every night is going to be different depending on what crew you have. There were times when our team got frustrated instead of adjusting to what was going on with the calls being made in the game. We were certainly in a lot of foul trouble for the entire first half and most of the game. That's one thing we have to be able to show more maturity about. The next thing, I thought the bounce back and the next few practices and film session getting ready to play UO at Mac Court were very focused. I think the team really went into the game with a great understanding of the game plan and, for the most part, we were able to execute our game plan to perfection. That's something that's very, very encouraging to see from this group with the youth that is involved with our program right now.
With the Arizona schools coming in this week, what are the challenges they're going to present?
They're both difficult teams. They're both teams that obviously have very good players and athletes on both programs. I think for us, we have to continue to build and making sure we are doing the right things in our system on the defensive end. I think, we've fallen short a lot of times this year of being able to provide good ball pressure, our rotations have been late and also our rebounding continues to be an issue, although I think we should good improvement this past week. For us, we need to get better every day in practice and use the games as a marker to see how we are improving.
What is the health status going into these two games?
Good. We came out over the weekend pretty good. Both games were pretty physical, as Pac-10 basketball normally is. We were able to get home, actually, Sunday night after the UO afternoon game. It gave the team opportunity to rest up and do some recovery here. We'll get back after it later this morning.
Your team played Oregon and there has been a little bit of anticipation with Paul Westhead taking over of what Oregon was going to look like. Can you give a bit of description of what it was like and what that offense looks like on the other side of the ball?
They're going to try to create an up-tempo game. Mostly to their defense. They're going to pressure you full court for a great majority of the game and try to get you to either turn the ball over or, obviously, take advantage of numbers and get down the floor and score very quickly with the premise of, hopefully, you're not scoring that quickly and they can get the ball back. They really want to score high numbers, offensively. They want to just outscore you. That seems to be the M.O. of the Duck team and they're doing a great job with it. They don't play a lot of players, but the players who step on the court certainly are very proficient, especially on the offensive end. They will shoot a lot of threes and if they don't have a three, I think their inside game is very underrated. And their inside game is very substantial, as well. They're a team that wants to get you going at a very very high pace. They want to get the ball back so that they can score and work on outscoring every opponent they play.
Is it a very different team to prepare than most of the teams you're playing this year?
The pace of the game is one of the faster games I've ever been involved in in the Pac-10. It was actually a fun game until the last 40 seconds. We did have the lead, we had the lead with about five minutes to go in the game. It's exciting. It plays into what we like to do - running, pressing, as well. It was an enjoyable game, up until the last 40 seconds, to be a part of.
Washington head coach Tia Jackson
First of all, it's really nice to be back home. We've been gone for pretty much the entire month of December. This weekend will be against two very, very good teams that will be in redemption mode after their weekend of Pac-10 start. They're going to come in with a lot of firepower in positions 1-5. To be quite honest with you, both teams, despite the record this weekend, it's truly not indicative of what they're capable of doing. We'll definitely have our work cut out for us, but we approach the game operating on all cylinders, both mentally and physically. I think it's going to be an exciting weekend of basketball.
Talk about how big of a left was it to finish the road trip with a win at OSU.
It was tremendous. More than anything, it was really good for our kids, mentally. It definitely made for a more fun bus ride back to Seattle.
Talk about the stress of not playing at home. Does it wear on the kids for not being at home for such a long stretch of time?
I think it really pressed up for not starting the Pac-10 on the road. It wasn't ideal to be gone the entire month, but it definitely brought our team closer. It allowed us to get a Big East opponent in, as well as Big Ten opponent - two very solid contenders. I think our kids grew from all the experience.
USC Head Coach Michael Cooper
Our success has been our defense. I think we've done a good job of that. We work hard at that. By no means was this an easy weekend for us. We started out going to ASU and playing the type of game we had to play where we had to come from behind. So we're making marked improvement. To get that win and then going on to Arizona, playing a good first half and then have a total collapse, but being able to comeback from that is exactly what I've been trying to tell our team all season, it's going to take defense to win games.
How long do you think it took to get a read on your team? Do you feel like you know them much better now after some big wins than a month or two ago?
Of course. In first coming here, you had to make the assessment and the first thing you had to do was the healthiest people that we have. That was our biggest problem was our injuries over the years with this team. But we have people healthy and now getting a pulse. Now I feel like I've got a pretty good feel for our team. We went to the Virgin Islands and we played Rutgers pretty tough. We had an opportunity to win that game early but, again, we lost. And I think that's kind of where we found each other and we decided what kind of team we wanted to become. And, obviously, defense is something that I've always preached and once we got after it defensively, we were able to come up with two big wins there. But again, always charging forward, going into this week and the start of Conference play, we are a defensive team. I think they feel like that's our identity right now.
About the Stanford matchup this weekend, they are a much bigger team than most of the teams you will play. What are they priorities against a team like Stanford?
We're going to have to play against that big front line they have. They got Pedersen, Ogwumike and Appel. They are a formidable threesome. That's going to be our biggest matchup with them. We're going to have to do all the fundamentals this game is about, as far as boxing out and hustle, and playing with some toughness. And then the perimeter people, with that big lineup, those perimeter people are given the opportunity to shoot some wide-open looks. So we've got a two-fold thing. We have to shut down the inside game or contain it a little bit, but still be able to get out to the perimeter. And looking at it like that, that's going to be our biggest challenge against this team. But again, I think we're a good shooting team and they're going to have matchup problems with us too. They're going to have to get out and defend our three-point shooting. I think that's our biggest strength and I think we can get out and run against this team.
What do you think about the way Nnemkadi Ogwumike is playing?
She's probably a top-five player in the country right now, the way she is. Obviously, this team is led by Appel, but you have to say Ogwumike it's her team, because when she's playing good basketball and doing the things she did in the last game against Cal - a double-double - she creates a different type of matchup for you because she can run the floor but she's a beast down low in the offense.
Can you talk more specifically about the principles and the fundamentals you have changed that has made this team better defensively?
In order to become a good defensive team you have to be a good individual defensive player. Coming here, that's the thing we worked on, individual defense - full court, half court. And as we slowly started getting the concept of containing people, now you can put your team defense together and try to contain a whole team. But we know it's still a work in progress. I think our confidence level is high. We know that with defense, it always gives us a chance because our shooting is going to come and go, as you've seen in the past couple games. We'll go through four, five, six minutes of not being able to hit a basket but our defense is keeping us in some ball games. That was the first thing, as a coaching staff, we wanted to get them to understand. Because looking at this team over the years, they always played a zone or a full-court trapping defense. I think in order to become one of the elite teams, you have to roll up your sleeves every now and then and get after people man-to-man. And that's what we've done. Trapping... 2-2-1 or 1-2-whatever it is, full-court trap, that is designed to change the course of the game for a few minutes. But man-to-man defense is the substance of what you have to win by.
In terms of your offense, you've had two consistent threats so far. Do you feel like someone is emerging as your No. 3 most reliable threat?
We put a lot of responsibility on Ashley Corral and she has taken on the role of getting us into our offense, as well as trying to shoot. What we now have to do is develop our second and that third. Our second, I feel, is Briana Gilbreath. And we have to establish our inside game because we just don't want to be a perimeter shooting team. Those two players have really raised their level of play for us and been counted on to hit that big shot, so to speak. But we need other people playing well. Heather [Oliver] has done a great job for us, hitting some big baskets down the stretch. She's just a scorer we have coming off the bench. But we have to develop some other players. We're slowly but surely doing that. We're going to take our time. It's not going to happen overnight. But as we go through this, we're getting people stepping up, playing consistent basketball for us.
Is Jacki Gemelos still on schedule to possibly comeback at the end of this month or the beginning of next month?
We're taking it slowly, but, yes, her progression coming back is, hopefully, sooner than later. But, again, she will definitely be a big part of what we have to get done. We're just bringing her along slow because we need her to be totally, totally healthy, from the physical standpoint, as well as the mental standpoint. But it's on point for us right now.
UCLA Head Coach Nikki Caldwell
First I'd like to commend our team for playing out on the road, and playing a pretty tough non-conference schedule - being at Kansas, at Tennessee. And finishing up the non-conference schedule, we had Jasmine Dixon with us. Going into Conference play, I'm very pleased with what she's able to contribute. I thought she played solid at the Arizonas, both she and Walker, in establishing and getting an inside presence. We're looking forward to this weekend. We've got some tough opponents, back-to-back-to-back. Hopefully, our team will bring that toughness they had on the road last weekend and bring it to Pauley Pavilion.
Can you talk about Jasmine Dixon and the impact she's had on the floor since she's become eligible?
Jasmine really brings a toughness to our team. She's undersized, but she plays so much bigger than what she is. She's someone who is a 'go-to' for us. Markel Walker has done a phenomenal job for us in being that 'go-to' inside. But she and Dixon form a great tag-team for us. [Jasmine]'s so versatile in her game, where she's able to play away from the basket, her back to the basket. But I like the toughness she brings to this team.
How has the meshing of Jasmine Dixon and Markel Walker, two fairly new players, with a team that was pretty well established?
I think this group wants to be successful and they know, in order to do so, they have to get Dixon and Walker the ball. With our guard play, returning [Doreena] Campbell and [Erika] Tukiainen and [Darxia] Morris, they understand that partnership has been developed with our inside play because they know now, 'if I get them going, that will free up my game, as well.' Because we really have been stressing having an inside-outside attack. And in doing so, they've learned to work together as a unit, and the main thing they have been focusing in on is our efficiency in a half-court setting. We want to be, not only a great running team, but we also want to be a team that can score in the paint or make that outside jump shot. They understand all of that encompasses being a great team and that's, obviously, getting those two involved immediately within our offense and our defensive package.
Is this the toughest two-game set with Cal, who was ranked at the beginning of the season, and No. 2-ranked Stanford?
Yes. When you look at the Pac-10, you have a tendency to beat up on each other. But consistently over the past few years here, especially since Cal has been successful... They've been a team that has been ranked nationally and has gotten into NCAA play, and Stanford speaks for itself. Definitely, it's going to be a tough challenge this weekend. It will test to see what we're made of. I hope this team comes out and do their best and that's all I've ever asked of them to do, do your best and what's expected of you.
What has allowed Walker to be so successful as a freshman?
Walker has the ability to play multiple positions. She's very elusive around the basket. And when she has isolation, her moves to get by defenders allows her to get easy looks at the basket. She's someone who, transition-wise, can really run the floor. She can get out, she can start the break, she can finish the break. But her versatility really makes her very, very difficult to guard. And, again, she's not someone who is standing 6-2, 6-3. She's 6-1 but you can't measure the heart and the toughness of that kid. I think, also, Walker has been surrounded by great guard play. Because you're not going to be able to double team her and allow Tukiainen or Campbell to sit out there and bomb threes. So I think it's all coming together and they are also making a conscience effort to get Walker the basketball.
What were your impressions on Arizona's Davellyn Whyte?
Whyte is someone who, in scouting her, we mark her as a 'no touch,' because of what she can do with the basketball. She led their charge. I think she's going to have a phenomenal career at Arizona. I think she, and Ify [Ibekwe] both, are two really strong players to continue to watch. But I like Whyte's game. I like the fact that she's coming out and she's ready to compete on every possession.
Talking about Walker who is from Philadelphia, you first saw her when you were an assistant as Tennessee. Was it difficult to lure her to come out to California and do you see that as a real advantage in your recruiting that you can go to the East Coast and get players to go to LA?
I would say `yes' to both questions. It was the most difficult in luring her to come. But when she stepped foot in Westwood and was able to meet the team and get to know the staff, she felt very much at home here. She didn't want to leave after she took her official visit. But my staff did an unbelievable job in fostering and building that relationship with Markel when she decided to open up to the recruiting process. But it does allow us to, not only recruit on the West Coast, but it also shows future the student-athletes who are coming up on the East Coast that you can come to a UCLA. Look how successful Markel Walker has been in a short period of time and, obviously, I think they would enjoy the weather out here in LA.
How much of an advantage do you think it is to have an older sister who played at a high-level Division I team, like Markel Walker does?
I think it's a huge advantage. I know when I worked at Tennessee and we played Pitt and Mercedes was there. Mercerdes is a player that can make plays. She was a 'go-to' and still is [in the WNBA]. And I think having someone who you can say, who's come from your same neighborhood, 'look she's done it, she's made it, look how successful she is.' Mercedes has been a great role model for her younger sister. I think, also, Mercedes is someone Markel can talk to with when things are good and when things are challenging because Mercedes has been through this process of a four-year college and things like that. So she's a great board to bounce things off of and get advice from.
Is big part of what you're instilling at UCLA that consistency being the difference between winning and losing, especially with the tough games you have coming up?
I totally agree. We talk about and stress the things we can control. And we want to be consistent in the things we can control. And hopefully this team, through this past weekend, I thought that was a great start for our team. But there's still much, much work to be done. The one thing we try to do is break the game down. We look at every effort each time out and look at the segment and see if we won or loss the segment. So now we determine if we won more possessions that our opponent. All coaches talk about putting together 40 great minutes of basketball. We have not been consistent in doing that. And in order to be consistent in putting 40 great minutes of basketball together, we then have to break the game down to each possession. And that's what we're really, really focusing in on.
Oregon State Head Coach LaVonda Wagner
We were disappointed in our play on Sunday. We lost to Washington in a very close game. The lead changed seven times and we weren't able to pull it out. We came up short. We were very excited that we, however, won our game opener on Friday against Washington State. We're looking forward to playing our in-state rival Oregon this weekend, Saturday.
Can you talk about playing Oregon and preparing for that game and how much different in what they do than many of the other teams you'll play throughout the season?
The bottom line is, they want to play tempo for 40 minutes, a high-tempo game for 40 minutes. They want to run and transition, obviously, and score easy baskets at the rim. And then they want to make scores off of your turnovers. So I think, the biggest thing is, they're not looking to run half-court offense very much. They prefer to go 94 feet to 94-feet and score offense off of their defense. So the big thing difference is there's several teams in the Conference that like to run the floor, as well, but they're not looking to do it for 40 minutes, whereas Oregon is looking to do it for 40 minutes.
So in terms of preparation, how do you get into that running-mode?
The bottom line is, you have to break down and understand what the routes are. Westhead, he runs routes. It looks like they're just running in transition, but they're very organized and they run routes and you just have to know what those are.
Can you reflect on how much the style has changed in the Pac-10 with all of the coaching changes over the years and how difficult that's been for you to prepare?
I think that change is always good. I'm excited about it. Going into my fifth year, I'm one of the coaches that's been around the longest. I think it bodes well for our Conference it has different styles of play and different coaching minds and lot's of coaching experience. I think that it makes everybody better. You might play somebody that walks the ball up the floor and runs their sets and half court offense one night, and you might somebody who wants to play at the rim and run it to the rim. I think it makes you prepare your teams and your players have to be versatile and have to understand the game plan. You have to plan your work and work your plan. Overall, I think it's really good for our Conference.
Oregon Head Coach Paul Westhead
We're very, very happy to have won over the weekend. It was terrific to get off to a winning start. The players are healthy and working hard. We're looking forward to the next game which will be a new experience for me. My first Civil War. So we have a good practice week coming up.
Can you talk about the difference between the games where things are going well for your team and the games that didn't go well? Is there a common denominator in those games?
It's kind of interesting. I guess, the games you lose, you say things didn't go as well. In our Utah game, things went about as well as we would want. We had about an eight- or nine- or 10-point lead inside of two minutes. So you couldn't have asked for anything more. We just didn't finish it out. We were missing free throws. Normal things that contribute to losing when you have a lead. But the game itself was played exactly the way I would've liked it. The other two games, Wisconsin game, was kind of played slow, for our standards. So that contributed to us not playing well. And the Georgia Tech game, we just didn't play very well, though they had pretty good pace going. I would say, the only game I would look back and say that didn't suit our style would be the Wisconsin game.
What has it been like to be back coaching in the collegiate ranks, if college athletes have changed much since last you coached at this level? And how has it been different from coaching college men?
It's all brand new because, even thought I've been in the college ranks for a number of years, but it's my first experience with college women and I'm finding them to be terrific, hard-working young ladies. And I did have that experience in the WNBA [where] they were much more experienced and highly skilled. Kind of different in that regard. But our players, are not yet at the Diana Taurasi level, but they work, they're terrific and they're certainly good enough and I'm enjoying it.
USC coach Michael Cooper has said that basketball at all levels is the same, but at this level the bench presence is different. Have you found that to be the same?
Not really. I kind of approach the players and especially during games probably similar to what I've done in any and all my coaching experiences. I try my best to get them in a relaxed mode and hopefully let them make a number of crucial decisions on their own self-motivating. Especially when it comes to shooting. They have a green light to take shots they feel like they're capable and wanting to take. I can't honestly say that I loosened my feelings or tightened anything in the WNBA versus here. It's pretty much the same.
How have they responded to playing your style?
I can tell you one thing. Yesterday was a day off and they enjoy days off. I think they're ready for a full 24 hour rest because it is a lot of hard work for them. When you're playing the kind of speed game and pressing defenses, that's what you have to practice. So it's not like you have three or four days of easy practices. The practices are probably more difficult or as difficult as the games. I don't hear them complaining, but when it's time to be off, I'm sure they're enjoying that time.
California Head Coach Joanne Boyle
Getting ready for this weekend with the LA schools. We had a tough game against Stanford [to open the Pac-10 schedule] and now we're trying to learn as much as we can from that game before we head down to LA.
The freshmen did not seem overwhelmed or nervous against Stanford. Were you happy with their overall attitude in the game despite the result?
It's funny you say that because you have to find some positives out of that game for a young team. I told them, I felt like you guys walked on that floor, starting four freshmen, and just competed, for the most part, the entire game. Honestly, we had our lapses, but for the most part, everybody that went into the game was competitive and impassioned about it. Balls were flying all over the place and we weren't doing necessarily what we could to win, not making easy shots and things like that, but I didn't feel like they walked out there scared. For four freshmen, I thought was a bright spot in the loss to [Stanford].
Could you tell pretty quickly their mindset? On television it was pretty apparent they were not going to back down.
You never know. When you're in the locker room, you feel like they're ready and you have some experience - guards out there that have played for four years - so I don't know what conversation went on among the freshmen. I don't know if it was us being in those games early with Ohio State and BC and Texas A&M. It doesn't hurt, so they were prepared with it not being the first 'Big Game.' We take out lumps along the way with young kids, just trying to keep telling them it's coming and don't let them settle for average. Maybe a little bit of a light bulb went off in that sense.
There are new coaching staffs at the LA schools with different philosophies and styles. It seems like, ultimately, it's a good thing for the Pac-10. Can you talk about what you see about those teams that might be different?
I haven't really gotten to the USC stuff, I've just been really working on UCLA and Nikki is in her second year and has done a great job. I always say, in your college and the profession, it's takes a year, year-and-a-half to get kids to buy into your system and feel comfortable and really working hard for you. I think Nikki's done a great job of taking her kids and putting them in position to be successful. You can tell, when they step on the floor, they just work hard. They're athletic, they get up in you, they frustrate you. They just play really, really hard. I think she's running some great stuff for that group, in particular, working on all cylinders and showing that with their record. I think she's done a great job within a year. And just getting to know Michael [Cooper]'s team right now, I'm just starting a little bit of film on them, but I have focused on UCLA the last couple of days.
How have your freshmen progressed and improved since Day 1 until now?
It's day to day. Sometimes they take three steps forward and sometimes they take two steps backward. I think it depends. I think it's finding that patience. I don't let them, in practice, take possessions off now that they've been 10 games into it, 12 games into it. And just learning that competitiveness that you have to walk on the floor with every day and we didn't always have that. And that's not to say we're going to have that for the rest of the year, but trying to instill in them that kind of stuff and understanding plays, understanding what we're looking for. I feel like, everyday, that's getting a little bit better. But, we haven't put it together yet by any means and it's still a work in progress, and I think they've taken the normal course of direction for where freshmen started and where they are now. I feel like, I really want them to become competitive and compete. We don't have the skill level yet, or all the pieces, but we're getting... as a coach, when you watch your team and you see where they were in September and where they are now, you're like, ok, it's starting to turn the corner a little bit.
Are you doing some confidence building this week after the game against Stanford and now following up a road trip to the LA schools?
They're in a good place. After the Stanford game, we had some serious talk about, and they know, the things we need to improve on, things we need to do better but what was good about it. I don't feel their confidence is shaky. I don't. Maybe I'm wrong, but I watch them practice... they had a great practice yesterday, it was competitive. Not trying to look at the record. We're trying to emphasize that one game in the Pac-10 doesn't make our season and where we're going to go from here. Because if you make too big of a deal, then their confidence starts to waiver. The seniors are in a different place, but for the young kids, they don't know any better. They're just like, grind it out. We just have to start grinding things out here.
How much of a difference has Jasmine Dixon been to UCLA?
She fits their style. For what Nikki is doing, [Jasmine] fits very well, even though she's undersized. She's mean, in a good way. She plays physical, she's all over the board. She's a hard matchup problem. She's still playing her way into shape, but that's going to come. She adds another athletic, physical, tough kid to their team. And, again, Nikki just puts her in place to be successful and it's just giving them another body out there.
Stanford Head Coach Tara VanDerveer
Not sure exactly where to start. We've had two, I would say, real challenging games with Fresno and Cal starting out. We're not playing as well as we want to be or need to be. But our biggest problem right now is that our three point guards were not in practice - Jeanette Pohlen, JJ Hones and Melanie Murphy. Just all out with little injuries. Hopefully, we'll get them all back. But we're excited about this weekend and we have a lot of improving to do.
Is Jeanette Pohlen out with the ankle injury she suffered in the Cal game?
Yeah. Jeanette tweaked her ankle on a back-door play.
And JJ Hones injury is knee swelling?
What is Melanie Murphy's injury?
Is holding them out of practice, is there a chance one or a couple of them will not play this weekend? Or is this rest to get them better for later?
I hope it's the latter. We had several issues in the Cal game, and the Fresno game, both. But we really need our point guards to get reps. Especially running our offense and knowing what we're doing and directing our team. Hopefully, they're watching on the sidelines and picking up things.
Are you concerned about the level of play not being to your expectations or is this just a lull after the non-conference schedule?
I hope we can iron some things out, offensively. We had some real issues in both of our games, just not having everyone on the same page, in terms of what we're looking for, offensively. We see some real bright spots with individual play with how well Mel played, as an example, or well [Nnemkadi Ogwumike] played. And then we could
have practiced all day yesterday just taking layups. We just missed too many just point-blank shots, but that's really the least of my worries. I don't think it has anything to do with who we played. That should be confidence building and motivating when you play such a great preseason schedule. I feel like there's a lot of things we have learned or should have learned and need to be implementing that into our game how we're playing right now.
How big of a difference does Melanie Murphy make for your team when she's on the court?
In the Fresno game, she came in that game and did the same thing [performed like she did vs. Cal]. She has the ability to go by people, create her own shot. She really played heady. She had been playing well all fall and then, unfortunately, she got hurt. For a kid that was out for five weeks, I just said, practice it totally overrated. She came right in and did some great things for us and made some super passes. Hit some big shots, hit free throws. Took a charge that got the crowd going. We all know the importance of great guard play. That was a real highlight of the [Cal] game was her play. Along with [Nnemkadi]. Nnemkadi played great in that game.
Your job is to beat those LA schools. But how important is it for the Pac-10 for the LA schools to get something done nationally and will it help the Pac-10?
We always, whenever we're not playing any Pac-10 schools, I'm always cheering for the Pac-10 schools for them. Cal played a great schedule. Arizona State always does. I'm always rooting for them. I think what it is, there are so many great players in the LA area, to establish, keeping the kids home, that would be a good thing. Now, all I'm focused on is what we need to beat them. But otherwise, I'm all for them.
What are some of the differences you've seen from USC under Michael Cooper and also talk about Nikki Caldwell bringing that Tennessee mentality to UCLA.
Well, with USC, for the most part, they're all returning players. Ashley Corral played last year, along with [Briana] Gilbreath, [Kari] LaPlante and [Aarika] Hughes. I'm used to those players. They lost a real key with [Camille] LeNoir, but I would say, for the most part, they're doing a lot of things really similarly with the exception of, they don't substitute as much. The style, I'm going to say, watching them play, this year versus last year, there's much of a change. A lot of that is, both coaches took advantage of their players' skills. They run a lot of the same stuff, almost like identical, from what I can see. Of course, that might expose my scouting ability. But UCLA, they have a lot of the same players, too. I think both coaches went in and took over programs that had a lot of really good players and they took advantage of those players' skills. I don't know that they're really... honestly, it doesn't feel any different to me going down there and playing them. They really, to me, are doing a lot of the same things. But that's because those players are that good at doing that.