Michelle Plouffe Checks In from Tour with Canada Basketball
Utah women's basketball player Michelle Plouffe is currently participating with the Canada Basketball Senior Women's program on a summer tour of Europe.
The team has played three of six scheduled exhibition games during the tour, falling to Cuba (62-59), Japan (70-55) and Spain (66-59).
Plouffe took a few minutes out of her schedule to answer some questions for UtahUtes.com about her experience so far. Click on the links above for more information, including photos from Plouffe as well as former Ute Kim Smith's blog.
You've played with the junior team before but this is your first go-round with the senior team. What has been different?
There are a few things that differ from Jr to Sr. The training schedule for one, is a bit different. Instead of having two practices every day we have a two-a-day every second day and are also lifting in this phase of our training. Also we have more recovery time here which is necessary for some of the women here whose bodies need it. As far as the actual game goes, it is more physical and at a faster pace than Jr. The women playing are also just very experienced, so they play smarter. There is more expected from the players.
I haven't played with anyone on the team before. The 10-year age gap with some of them might have something to do with it! But seeing as the next youngest on the team is 22, there hasn't been any team or program that we would've been at at the same time. Although, a few of the women here have played with my older sister in the past.
Talk about the first half of the tour and your first three games.
The first week was to prepare for the 3 games we had so the practices were a little lighter in that we didn't do as much full-court 5-on-5, and we also did some walk-throughs of the opponent's offenses. Our first game was against Cuba. We watched them play Spain the previous night and saw that they were absolutely tenacious on the boards on both ends of the floor. We also saw that they could really pick up their ball pressure at times. Our game plan was to rebound on both ends and control the tempo. We had kind of a slow start and in the first half were down at most by 13. In the 2nd and 3rd quarters we started running our offense and getting good looks. By the 4th quarter we were back in the game. We kept them off the glass for the entire game and had a chance to go into overtime in the end. For our first game we thought we fought hard and once we get more flow in our offense we will be able to have more opportunities to score.
Our second game was against Spain, who finished 3rd at the World Championships last summer. We came out strong. We were running the floor, making hard cuts, getting good looks, hitting shots and were playing pretty solid defense as well. We were up by about 10 after the first quarter. Then Spain made a smart move on their part and switched defenses. They started playing a bunch of 2-3 and 1-3-1 zone. This is where we kind of got stuck. We hadn't had much time to work on our zone offense so we were pretty stagnant on the floor - not good. We were still up at half but in the second half we still struggled with the zone. We ended up losing by 7. This game was a huge building block for us. Each game we take as a chance to get better and we played really in that game.
The last game we played was against Japan. We knew they were a transition team that took a lot of quick shots. In that game, we started off slow and then had ups and downs throughout the game. And then Japan got hot and hit a few 3's in a row. That was not a good game for us but we took it as a learning opportunity and got something out of it.
After those 3 back-to-back games we had two full days off which was much needed and appreciated! Now we are in another training phase. We alternate days with a two-a-day and one practice a day. We also do strength and conditioning as well. On the day with one practice we will have our morning practice (after 8 am breakfast) and then right after we will lift and a 20-30 minute spin session. With our two-a-days we will have our morning practice (9-12) followed by a core session right after and then our second practice will be at around 5-7 followed by a spin session. The second practice of our two-a-days is a lot of walkthrough work with some shooting. This is where we might put in another offensive set or defense.
The difference between the collegiate level and playing on a national team is just the overall level of play. There are just smarter players, which comes with experience of course, which is why there are a lot of older women still playing. And it is even more physical at this level than at the collegiate level. There are also bigger, faster and stronger players.
Have you had a chance to do any sightseeing outside of basketball?
We have actually had quite a few chances to look around. When we first arrived in Segovia a few of us went into the old city and got to walk around there. There was a children's festival going on so that was cool to see. And then on our 2 days off from training, after we had travelled to Torrejon to play our last game, we were free to do whatever so pretty much everyone decided to go to Madrid. There were 6 of us who stayed overnight in a hostel in Madrid. The first day we were in Madrid a bunch of us went on this go kart tour of Madrid. It was literally two people in a little go cart driving around Madrid with just a voice on the speaker guiding us through the old part of the city! Of course we all got lost at some point, but it was so much fun! We also got some shopping done and a little more sightseeing. We also got the full experience of the food...it was great! We went to a few cafes and restaurants while we were there and most of them were really good. On the second day, the 6 of us went to this food market. They had fresh fruit, breads, cheeses, everything! That was a pretty sweet experience as well.
Overall, I am just having a blast here. I am in a beautiful country with awesome people and able to do this through doing what I love, playing basketball!