Preseason Press Conference Quotes From Head Coach June Daugherty
Oct. 24, 2002
WASHINGTON WOMEN'S BASKETBALL PRESEASON PRESS CONFERENCE
HEAD COACH JUNE DAUGHERTY
On the goals of the program:
'We work with young student-athletes every day and it's a privilege, to have this kind of inspirational group to work with. We have four goals in the program and I think that it's important that we share the goals with the media so you understand a little bit where we're coming from and maybe, hopefully, stimulate some stories. I know a lot of you talk about writing side stories, human-interest stories or whatever. Foremost we want these kids to graduate, 100% graduation rate is our first goal. We want to have the highest GPA's on campus out of all the sports that are here. The next thing we've talked about and worked very hard towards is being positive role models in our community. I'm very proud to say we do an enormous amount of community service. I think a lot of you have been covering the things that we've been doing most recently, and I think it's a great opportunity for us to give back to the community, and puts us 29th in the country in attendance. Fourth is to win a national championship and that's the expectation of the program. The players in this program know that and are recruited here with that in mind and we work hard everyday towards that. In the off-season we sat down and evaluated where we were at last year, and knowing that we had a veteran team coming back and like it was said, having all starters return, and losing only one senior and adding four very talented freshman, the biggest thing we talked about was improving our defensive efficiency, our offensive consistency, and our rebounding. Those three things are areas that we really focused on in the off season as well as player development, and I can tell you, when someone talks about player development, we really try to emphasize in the off season the importance of being in great shape, they're sick of hearing leaner, stronger, faster, so we can play more physical, play more competitive and consistent basketball. I can tell you after ten days of practice, we started on October 12, that as a coaching staff that we're very pleased with the conditioning aspect, the player development, and the skill development that the players have brought back into the program since the last season, as well as our trip to Australia. I think that from head to toe in the program the talent level is the highest it's ever been in my seven years here. I'm very, very pleased.'
On the captains and the development from the off season:
'I think our tri-captains, Loree Payne, Cheryl Sorenson, and Giuliana Mendiola, have done an outstanding job as leaders in this program. You see the type of development, like I've said the conditioning improvements we've seen in the off season have been monumental, we're very, very pleased with that. Competition level in practice is at an all-time high, and we're improving every day. That's something as a coach that makes me very happy, and it tells a little bit about what the character of this team is going to be. I know last year at this time a lot of you were asking what's the character of this team? I can tell you right off the bat, not only are they very talented from head to toe, but they are extremely competitive and have improved immensely on their skill level, their conditioning, and their level of competition. I think that the learning curve for the program has been really solid. I think coming off a foreign trip in June to Australia we were able to continue working on different aspects of the system both offensively and defensively, as well as player development. We had a lot of success in our 10 extra days in practice, which was a great experience for the program. The international competition in Australia was phenomenal, and I think we've kind of come back from that trip and our players have worked extremely hard, and now we've kind of stepped right from that trip even though it was in June, right on the floor. We're way beyond where we've ever been at this point after t10 practices. Again, I credit the upper classmen and the senior leadership, and the tri-captain leadership for that to occur.'
About the four new freshman:
'The freshman of the program, keep in mind Nicole Castro redshirted last year, they're probably the ones with the most disadvantage coming in because they didn't have the opportunity to go through all the years of practice. Nicole did train to go to Australia and went down there and did very well. Everything is so new to them, and they are handling it very, very well. They work a lot extra to try to match this system. Obviously the upperclassmen are way ahead of the eight ball if you will. Athletically they are a huge boost. The four freshmen have provided a big lift in the program on both ends of the floor and we're very pleased. For the most part they have done a good job of getting to know the system, it's a lot for them right now.'
About the preseason games:
'It's a smorgasbord of competition. If you look at the leagues who are represented in our preseason, we're going to see the Big 10, the WAC, the SEC, and on and on and on. This is exactly what we wanted; we've stepped up the preseason schedule. We know we really have our hands full with the teams we're going to play. We want our hands full we want to use the preseason as a barometer to know exactly where we're at as a team getting ready for Pac-10 play with the conference of champions. We're very, very pleased about the schedule and excited about the TV games that stations have committed to thus far as well.'
Thoughts about the Pac-10:
'It's going to be better than ever; there's just no doubt about it with the amazing players and coaches that are in this league. The fact that so many younger players of two or three years ago like Giuliana (Mendiola), Andrea Lalum, Ebony Hoffman, those type of kids that came into the league and just battled and battled for freshman of the year are juniors now. They're more skilled, they're more experienced, so I think the Pac-10 is going to be incredible this year. I really think nationally we're going to make a lot more noise than even what we've done in the past couple of years. As you know we have two players up for preseason All-American honors, Loree Payne who is a senior, and Giuliana Mendiola as a junior. I don't know if all that comes down to media, the kind of season the team has, the kind of season they have, but I think with the improvement that we've seen with them, and the continued consistent play, and the numbers they're able to put up, both of them have a great opportunity to be honored in such a prestigious way. We're excited to have them both as candidates this year.'
On being picked to finish second in the Preseason Pac-10 Coaches Poll:
'The media polls, I'll kind of group them all together. With regards to the media polls for the Pac-10, as well as the national polls, being ranked second on the Pac-10 preseason, or being ranked in some of the other national polls is a nice compliment to the players and how hard they've worked. It's definitely a confidence builder. Our thoughts are - where are we going to be in the end of the season, and where are we going to be ranked, and that's what we work hard for everyday. It doesn't bother me where coaches pick us or don't pick us. They have not had the opportunity to work with this group and see how much they've improved and how motivated they really are.'
On finishing second in the Pac-10 last year and still not getting into the NCAA Tournament:
'If we can take care of business -- and I believe we can --and take on those powerful nationally ranked teams in the preseason, by the time that gets here then we can take a little pressure off ourselves. Whereas last year if we fell short at all it was the preseason. We were very consistent, and we don't want to leave it to chance at all and I think our players know that. We have to take it one step at a time, obviously take care of this tremendous opportunity with this great competition of the preseason, learn from it, have success from it, and roll right into the Pac-10.'
On how much last year is a motivational factor to the players this year:
'We've talked individually, the players have talked about it and they don't want to leave it up to chance. They know the way to take care of that is to continue to improve, work very hard on becoming the best team we can possibly become and just taking it one step at a time. Don't leave it for if you have to make a terrific run at the end of the season or Pac-10 tournament. Take care of business each step of the way. They have chosen the theme 'something to prove.' They chose that in the spring and they've really dedicated themselves to that. I think a lot of that comes out of the fact that they want to prove to people that if we were second in the Pac-10 we should have been in the tournament.'
Two years ago UW was picked to take sixth in the Pac-10 [went to the Elite Eight], this year they are picked as one of the front runners. Is there added pressure?
'I don't think it's going to be additional pressure. I think the type of personnel that we have in this basketball program, this basketball family, is that the expectations are high. That's why they came here as players, that's why we came here as coaches. We want the off season to compete at the highest level and I think that's part of the reason this group works so hard. They do have very high goals for themselves, they understand the goals for the program, they want to be a part of it, and they want to make it happen. They want to make sure they leave their legacy and the highest level in this program, and so it's right there in front of them. That's why you come to Washington, you want the expectations to be high.'
What can this group do to contend for a national title?
'I think it's a goal every year. Being as talented as I think we are from top to bottom if you will, and the fact that this team is willing to play as a team, they're disciplined enough to put the team first and do whatever it takes to get the victory. Not worrying about your own stats or your own plays, being a great team player. They are very unselfish and very motivated. I believe there is a sense of urgency in this program, especially by the upper classmen to get it back to a certain level and beyond. Those are the kind of kids that work 24/7 with the goal of getting a big ring.'
Any change in our coaching philosophy from last year knowing how seasoned this group is?
'We're always making adjustments according to where we're at experience wise and again coming off that foreign trip that really helped us because we had to play a different style against a different style. Boy, it was rough and rugged down there which was great because that was part of our focus which we talked about earlier is to play more aggressive, play more physical. The thing is in our 10 days of practice, we've been able to put 75 to 80 percent of the whole system in and now of course we're going back and detailing it piece-by-piece. But having the leadership and having the upperclassman, experienced as they are now, you don't feel like you're missing a beat. That's a real compliment to their off-season work and how well they've come together as a team.'
Who do you think is going to be a lunch-bucket type player, who'll get the tough rebounds, mop the floor, do the things that LeAnn Sheets used to do?
'I'd say Giuliana Mendiola. It amazes me to watch her in games and practice, be able come up with the amount of rebounds she comes up with. She has sense for the read, for where the ball is coming off. She's not afraid to mix it up and I think at times, whether she realizes it or not, sets the tone in practice and games for how physical we're really going to play.'
There's comfort in coming back with someone who averages 20 points a game, someone you know you can lean on. You don't necessarily have that with this group.
'To be honest with you, I would rather have five starters averaging 10 to 15 (points) and us getting it done as a team. That we have that much versatility and then the solid bench play that I think we're going to have this year, we are going to have so many weapons that people aren't going to be able to 'key' on that 20-point scorer. We work hard at developing complete players in this program and we want to be able to count on everyone. I think the players have dedicated themselves and challenged themselves to be able to do that. A pattern we had last year, that every other game there was a different leading scorer or leading rebounder. That to me says a lot about our talent.'
If you could pick one thing to improve upon this year, what would it be?
'Coming into the season, one of the biggest areas is consistency. We want to see day in and day out in practice, our players competing at a very high level and that you can count on what they're going to do. It doesn't mean you have to get 20 (points) a game, but you can count on a consistent effort on both ends of the floor throughout the whole team. Fortunately we had the luxury of our foreign trip to work on those things.'