Houston Roundball Review: Women's Hoops

This is The Houston Roundball Review's (www.TheHRR.com) blog to discuss women's basketball. The HRR began in 1994 and has been media credentialed to cover college and pro hoops since 1997. Member of the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA).

Friday, October 31, 2008

Aggies Blair Likes Team

COLLEGE STATION, TX -- I intervewed Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair to get his thoughts on his 2008 - 2009 squad and the always ultra-competitive Big 12 Conference.
  

You seem much more confident about this year’s team:
“I like my team just because of how much depth we have. We’ve got kids that can play. We’ve got a great balance between the old kids and the young kids. Sometimes you can be ‘senior laden’ or ‘freshmen laden’ and we’ve got a balance. The competition is unbelievable. Our three returning starters may not start this year because our young kids are coming on hard in practice; however, the returning players have done ‘it’ against the Dukes; the Tennessees; the Oklahomas. We have to make sure our young players understand they’re not going against Duncanville or against a junior college team; but, they’re facing high level Division I teams.”


How’s the health of the team?
“It’s getting better. Sydney Colson is going to be a surprise. We’re going to get her back (tore her ACL in June) quicker than we thought. There’s an outside chance we could have her for a few minutes in our first ball game which is November 14. Now, that may be a bit of a reach; but, I’m hoping for the best because I need my General out there.

“We’re monitoring Danielle Gant because she had a scope (arthroscopic surgery) done this summer; so, she hasn’t been able to do much for a few months. We’re bringing her along slowly because we don’t have to worry about her conditioning. She’s always in good shape. We just have to make sure she can go through and be ready to play 35 minutes a game at whatever position we play her.”


With Sydney not yet back, discuss your point guard situation…
“Every day there’s a new person out there. Whether it’s Taniqua Hollis, the little freshman from West Texas, Sydney Carter -- who’s out right now with a sprained ankle for about another week – so, she hasn’t practiced with us, yet. Tanisha Smith, the juco, has spent a little time at the point. Takia Starks has to play the point just to get us through practice. I even had to put a young lady on the men’s practice team, a walk-on, just so I could get another guard out there for practice.”


Talk about Tyra White
“Tyra White is Takia Starks all over except Tyra is four inches taller. Tyra has to be more forceful; and, she has to add to her game. She has to learn how to play defense the Aggie way. I think the redshirt season helped her mature; get over the homesickness; and learn how hard you have to play at this level. She’s what is described as a glider. You don’t think she’s playing hard; but, she makes plays. I think she’s going to really step us for us this year. She’s picked to be Big 12 Freshman of the Year for the second year in a row. I don’t believe that’s happened before. I don’t want her to picked a third year in a row. I’d like to keep her healthy this year. Hopefully, she’ll be able to play a lot of minutes for us – both at the two (shooting guard) and the three (wing position).”


How about freshman forward Adaora Elonu? --
“There’s a good chance she might start for us. She’s coming on strong every day. I picked up the stats sheet the other day and she had 11 rebounds and LaToya Micheaux had one. I asked Micheaux what happened; and, she said, ‘She’s picking up all the shots before I can get there.’ I said ‘Micheaux you have to be instinctive and quicker to the ball.’

“Adaora can possibly be Big 12 Freshman of the Year. Don’t rule her out because she’s going to get the minutes to prove herself.”


Any thoughts on being picked fifth in the Big 12 Preseason Coaches’ Poll?
“That’s locker room stuff right there. A lot of it is due to the nature of how you vote. When the coaches voted in September, we voted on how we thought people would finish not who the five (or the six) best teams are. You vote on how you think the teams would finish; and, there’s no way you could list five teams in the (Big 12) South one through five. It’s impossible with the numbers.

“In the (Big 12) North, when you look at Iowa State and what Coach Fennelly (Bill Fennelly) has coming back and how good a coach he is, Iowa State might be picked to win it because it’s hard to beat them in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State used to be guard dominated; but, this season he’s got the post players to get it done. He’s going to have a lot of balance; and, obviously, he’s the best zone team in our league.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see Iowa State win it; but, hopefully, we’ll have something to say about that. I like my team. I like my chances; but, what we have to do is get off to a better start in the League than what we’ve done the last three years. We’ve lost to Kansas State (to start conference play) two years in a row. This year we start with Missouri; and, we don’t need to stumble there.”
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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Rice's Shorty Adjusting to Rice

HOUSTON, TX -- A brief chat with Rice Owls freshman point guard D'Frantz Smart. I interviewed 'Shorty' in July; so, now that practice has begun, I checked with her again to see how she's adjusting to life as a college student and a college basketball player.

What has surprised you so far?
“Practicing six days then one day off – I did that in high school – but, we’re practicing longer now. You don’t stop. Practice is continuous. You don’t stop. You run this drill. You run that drill. Then, you get a sip of water. Then, you get back on the court. I think that’s a huge transition; and, plus everybody is competitive all the time. In high school, we were competitive sometimes but here everybody is competitive all the time every second, every drill.”

Compare summer school to school now
“Summer school and regular school – there’s no comparison at all. In summer school, you get a totally different view compared to starting Fall academics. I have five classes. I have study hall; plus practice; plus individual workouts if you’re a freshman; plus studying; plus sleep. Forget about the sleep. The sleep is last.”

How have you adjusted to everything?
“It’s hard because I’m a sleep person. I’m kind of losing it; but, I have to say I’m getting used to everything. But, I think I’ll get accustomed to everything. Give me about two more weeks. Once the season starts, I think I’ll be fine.”
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Maudess Ready to Lead Owls

HOUSTON, TX -- Maudess Fulton is the only senior on this season's Rice Owls team; therefore, the fifth-year senior is expected to be a leader on this very young team. Fulton (5'10, guard) accepts the challenge and embraces it.

“I am. I am. This (being a vocal leader) is something I'm stepping into with baby steps; but, it's something my team needs. I'm definitely going to be as vocal as possible. I feel like we’ve really been gelling. We’ve used these practices to get to know one another since we have such a young team. I think we’re coming together. I really do. We’re young; but, we’re learning each other’s plays. We’re playing good defense; so, I think we’re going to do well. It’s been a good bonding and gelling experience.”

“As young teams usually do, we have mental lapses sometimes; but, if continue to limit those lapses, we’ll be fine. We had a good practice overall just a couple of mental lapses.”

The Owls are implementing a motion offense this season and Fulton believes the change will be beneficial to the squad.

“This year we’re doing a lot more movement and more driving and kicking (passing the ball to the corners). I think it will be conducive to the team we have this season. We want to do a lot more running; so, I think, with the players we have, we should be good (with the motion offense).”

Rice only has one healthy player, freshman post Candace Ashford, who is 6'2 or taller; so, the lack of height in the front court could be problematic for the Owls against taller opponents this season.

“Yea, we’re not tall; but, I think we have a lot of people that can transition from post to wing; so, I think the lack of height will work in our favor. We’re going to be quick and run the floor well; so, I think we’re going to use it to our advantage.”

This summer, Fulton worked a "real job"; but, she definitely found time to work on her basketball skills. 

“This summer I worked; but, I also practiced as much as I could. I played a lot of open gym just to sharpen my skills. I want to be a better shooter; so, I worked a lot on my shot; and, a lot of game-time shooting. Not just a lot of shots; but, also people defending me and then shooting the ball.”

The Owls were picked to finish ninth (tied with the University of Houston) in the Conference USA Preseason Coaches' Poll; but, Fulton has hopes to prove the doubters wrong.

“My expectations are we’re going to be a lot better than people believe. I believe people have low expectations for us; but, I believe we play well as a unit. We’re young; we run; we play hard; so, I think those are definitely going to be our advantages and we’re going to use them. I think we’re definitely going to do well.”
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Young Owls Practice Pressure D

HOUSTON, TX -- I had a chance to stop by Fox Gym recently and check out the Rice Owls as the team prepares for the 2008 - 2009 season.

Here are a few comments from head coach Greg Williams.

How has practice gone thus far? –
“Well, it hasn’t gone badly, actually. We’re a young team with five new players and only two seniors and two juniors on the team. We graduated more points than any team in the conference (Conference USA). We lost 65 percent of our scoring. The thing that has been the biggest plus thus far in practice has been our scoring. In all the competitive things that we’ve done, I wasn’t sure if we’re going to be able to score; but, we’ve done well. Hopefully, that doesn’t mean we’re just horribly defensively because we know we’re going to have to been an outstanding defensive team. With five new players, the team has been up and down with how much they can learn. A couple of freshmen are a bit overwhelmed with so much so early. That’s all part of the process. We have to keep moving on; so, we can get all of our stuff in before we start playing. All in all, knock on wood, we remain relatively healthy -- only one injury thus far to Melissa Whitmeyer. We’ll find out more tomorrow.

“Our kids have worked hard; and, that’s all we can ask for as coaches. We’re still a work in progress, obviously, with the inexperience that we’re going to have. We’re going to be young in the backcourt; but, we like our two freshmen point guards and what they’re doing thus far in D’Frantz (D'Frantz Smart) and Amenemope (Amenemope McKinney). Really, all four of our freshmen have shown that they’re not going to be too far behind. Candace Ashford will have to play more this season with the offseason injury to Jackie Stanley. Candace has been a real pleasant surprise in the preseason with her ability to score. She gives us some size and some bulk as well.”

It seems like you’re to going to play more pressure defense in order to counter your lack of size in the front court –
“We’ve been so short-handed the last few years. We haven’t been able to press as much as we would like; and, we’ve been so thin at the point guard. Kadie Riverin had to play 35 plus minutes a night at the point the last three years. A lot of the pressure defense comes from your point guard; and, we couldn’t ask her to do that without a quality backup. We do have more depth at the point guard this year and that’s going to allow us to play a little bit more full court pressure. We don’t have great size inside. So, we are going to have be aggressive on the perimeter and use the depth that we have there, as well as the athleticism on the perimeter, so that teams can’t just come down the court and pound the ball down our throats if they have an advantage inside – which most teams will have against us this year.

“Because of the injuries to Jackie and possibly Melissa (Melissa Whitmayer), Megan Elliot is going to have play in the post. She’s very capable of doing that; but, she’s just six foot; Emery (Emery Carter) is 6’1”; Morgan (Morgan Mayse) is 6’1”; and Candace is 6’2”. We don’t have Lauren Neaves in there anymore or Val (Valeriya Berezhynska) at 6’4”. We will have to be more pressure oriented; and, fortunately, I believe we are going to have the depth to do that this year.”
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Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Ring's the Thing for Ags

COLLEGE STATION, TX -- Texas A&M women's basketball enjoyed a lot of success in 2007 - 2008. The Aggies won the Big 12 Conference Tournament Championship; and, for the first time in the program's history, advanced to the Elite Eight (Regional Final) of the 2008 NCAA Women's Championship Tournament. Despite losing to the eventual NCAA champs, Tennessee, in the Regional Final, the Ags hope to build on last season's success and remember the positives and the negatives from the fact they were mere minutes from advancing to the Women's Final Four for the first time.

As a sign of last season's successes, the Aggies players are wearing a championship ring representing the Big 12 Conference Tourney title and the trip to the Elite Eight. The ring is a reminder of the success the team enjoyed; but, also a reminder of work still needed in order to accomplish the ultimate prize -- an NCAA Championship.

"The ring feels heavy," described Aggies senior guard Takia Starks. "It's pretty heavy. It's kind of weird. I'm not used to wearing rings. Our last ring was our Big 12 Championship ring and it was kind of small; but, this ring is definitely a symbol of our success and how far we can go."

The ring was designed by last season's senior group of guard A'Quonesia Franklin; wing Morenike Atunrase; and forward Patrice Reado.

"They all came up with the design," added Starks. "The ring was dedicated to the seniors; so, they got to pick the design."

Senior center LaToya Micheaux added, "Our seniors made this ring and I'm very proud of it. It shows how much hard work we put into earning it last season.

"We started 0 and 4 in the Big 12; and, a lot of people didn't believe in us anymore. What we did was go to Bible Study -- a lot of people don't that about us -- and once we started getting back to the Lord and staying with Bible Study, the winning kept coming.

"We wanted this ring. I didn't wear the other ring (Big 12 Regular season Champs) because it's too small. If we wanted this big one, we had to go out there and get it done. When we got to the (Big 12) Conference Tournament, we said, 'If this is what we want, we have to go out and get it.'

"We have the 'Elite Eight' on this ring; and, that's something we'll always cherish. We had the lead (versus Tennessee) -- we were up five points with three minutes left in the game. This ring means a lot. We're happy to have this ring; but, it also reminds us how hard we have to work this season."

Micheaux admitted she still thinks about the Regional Final loss to Tennessee (53 to 45).

"I do. A lot of people didn't believe we belonged there. People thought we weren't a top 10 team. That game showed we can compete with the best of the best. Now, we're trying to be a top 10 program and maintain it. That game meant more than just winning or losing. It was a test to see how good we are."

In order to reach the Final Four, Micheaux believes the Aggies need to play smarter.

"We lost that game (versus Tennessee) because we didn't play smart. We just let possessions go by with no points. Everyone knows we're going to play hard and play good defense. But, down the stretch the game comes down to who can execute better; who can use the shot clock effectively; and who can get a good possession. That's what we take from that game; and, hopefully, we can get back to the Oklahoma (site of one of four Regional sites) and then to St. Louis (site of the 2009 Women's Final Four)."
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OU's D-Rob and Ashley

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK -- Check out these HRR interviews with Oklahoma Sooners sophomore guard Danielle Robinson and senior post Ashley Paris from the 2008 Big 12 Media Day held in OKC on October 22, 2008.

Oklahoma senior post Ashley Paris

How do feel being a senior on the team this year? --
“I feel good. It’s a little sad though.”

Are you going to be more of a vocal leader this year? --

“Definitely. I feel like I’d be doing a disservice to this team to not be more vocal and not be more in a leadership role. I am one of the oldest players on the team; and, I’ve been here for a while.”

How is this team going to be different this season from your first few years at Oklahoma?
“My freshman year the team was a new experience for me. My sophomore year, I kind of had an old team. We had a ton of seniors and a ton of freshmen. Last year, we had a ton of young kids and we lost all of our seniors. This year, we have the same group of people as last year; but, we’re a year older now and more experienced and more mature and our chemistry is a lot better this year.”

What’s going to be key for Oklahoma to advance farther in the NCAA Tournament this year?
“Just taking care of business now in the preseason; and, I feel like we did that. We really matured and grew a lot as a team in the preseason. Making sure we make the most of the time we have now before game starts and really develop as a team and grow every game and every practice until that point.”

What did you do this offseason to improve your game?
“I worked on my all around game. I tried to extend my perimeter shot. As well as improve my physical fitness. I touched up my post game and just a little bit of everything.”

You seem to have lost weight. You look leaner. Is that right?
“Yes. I did lose weight over the summer in order to help get ready for this year.”

Do you have hopes to play professionally after Oklahoma?
“Yes. Definitely. Physically, I want to be able to play basketball for a very long time. I definitely want to play in the WNBA and overseas. I’m definitely not ready to give up basketball.”

Have you noticed a different attitude from Coach Coale thus far to try and get the team farther along in the NCAA Tournament?
“Not really. She adjusts with the players. I feel like she’s pretty consistent in how she coaches. In 2002, when she took that team to the Final Four, I don’t believe they were nearly as talented as the team she has now. We trust that she knows what it takes to get a team to the Final Four; and, we’re just trying to be mature enough and follow her lead.”

What are your thoughts on the Big 12 overall?
“Very competitive. It’s a great league. Anything can happen on any given night. Every team is competitive. It’s obviously one of the strongest leagues in the country – if not the strongest. It’s a very excited league to play in.”


Oklahoma sophomore guard Danielle Robinson

How important is it to send the seniors off with a championship?
“I think it’s very important. As hard as they’ve worked over the years; and, all the different players they’ve played with and all the different players that have come through OU, I think it’s their turn to reap some of the benefits – Coach Coale, too. I think she definitely deserves a National Championship or at least another shot at one. And, this year, I think this team has the capability of doing that?”

What did you do this offseason to improve your game?
“Every day I shot one thousand shots. Lay-ups. Jumpers. Threes. I wrote down a list every day what I wanted to get done to make me better.”

Discuss the point guard situation on the team.
“I don’t think we’re going to struggle at all at the point guard position. Jasmine (Hartman) is real good. She’s a baller. She’s got speed. She’s got the handles and she can shoot the ball. She has a fire inside her; and, she represents Houston to the fullest. In addition to her, we have Rose Hammond who’s going play some point guard like she did last year. I think the experience Rose and I got last year playing point guard will help us this year. Jasmine and I worked our tails off in the individual drills with Coach Coale, too. Though I’m a sophomore and Jasmine is just a freshman, youth has nothing to do with our play. We don’t play to our class level. We have no worries about point guard this year.”

Do you feel more like a leader this year? Are you more comfortable this year?
“Yes. Definitely. I have a season under my belt; and, learning more about each player this year has helped. Coach Coale talks about having the connection you have and you can’t leave people you’re connected with. I think Jasmine and I have done a great job reaching out to all of our teammates and making sure we know them not just basketballwise but personally as well. Because you have to have a great connection with the people you’re going to lead.”

Discuss Oklahoma’s last five or six games to finish last season.
“We think about it. In the Big 12 Tournament, the Missouri loss (in the first round) hurt; but, we said to ourselves, ‘We still have the NCAA Tournament.’ But, we lost in the NCAAs, too; and, that was disappointing because we wanted the opportunity to play in front of our fans in the Oklahoma Regional. We definitely don’t want that to happen again. Even though everyone talks about the disappointment of last season, this is a new year. We have a sense of pride for not just the name on the front of our jerseys but also the last names on the back of the jerseys because that’s who we play for.”

What are your thoughts on Oklahoma being picked to win the Big 12 Conference?
“Last year, I was like ‘Okay, we’re picked number one.’ But, this year I’m like ‘Okay, we’re picked number one regardless of how we finished last season.’ We’ve worked extremely hard in the offseason; and, we’re just going to come out and play with the passion and fire that each of us has inside.”

What are your expectations for the team this year?
“I expect big things. Definitely. But, I’m not looking too far ahead. It’s going to be one practice at a time then one game at a time. Home or away. Not just conference play because our non-conference schedule is huge for us to be successful for us this year.

“The Big 12 Conference is the best conference in America; and, you have to come out and battle every night -- whether you’re at home or away – that’s going to be huge for our success this year. In the Big 12, we see every style of play: we see the shooting teams; the run and gun teams; the physical teams; those games will help us get ready for the NCAA Tournament.”
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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Baylor's 3 Seniors

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK -- HRR one-on-one interviews with Baylor's Jhasmin Player, Rachel Allison and Jessica Morrow from the 2008 Big 12 Media Day which took place October 22, 2008.

Baylor senior guard Jhasmin Player

How's practice gone thus far?
“It’s going great. Everyone is looking good. A lot it is getting us in shape. We’re learning about Coach Barmore. The freshmen are learning as much as they can. It’s just a great time. I’m just happy to be out there; so, to me practice is just a feel good time right now.”

Thoughts on the newcomers and / or the Freshmen
“They’re great. I told them earlier ‘it’s tough to be a freshman. I was there. It takes more than a year. Everyone has talent when you come here or else you wouldn’t be playing at this level. It takes time to learn the system. The faster they learn the system the better they’ll play. They’re all talented. The sky’s the limit for them; but, we have to get them in there and learn the system and make them more confident and comfortable. Once they do learn the system, they’ll be fine.”

Thoughts on the Big 12 Conference in '08-'09
“It’s tough. It’s tough. When you send eight teams to the NCAA Tournament, you know how tough it is. Any night in this league you can be beaten. Any night. It doesn’t matter where you’re playing. It doesn’t matter who’s picked first or who’s picked last. You can be beaten. Personally, from top to bottom, I think we have the best conference in the country.”

What are your thoughts on the prediction to finish fourth in the Big 12 Coaches' Poll?
“We just found out we were picked fourth. It doesn’t matter. It’s not where you start it’s where you finish. You could pick us 12 at the beginning. But, it’s not about where you start, it’s where you finish; so, it doesn’t matter.”


Baylor senior forward Rachel Allison

Getting Jhasmin back this season after she suffered a knee injury in February...  –
“I’m so thrilled getting her back. I had a chance to play with for three years; and, I was not about to play this year and not play with her. I’m glad that she’s back. I think she’s a great asset to the team. I think she makes people around her better. Personally, I’m glad she’s back. I know that may sound a little selfish; but, I’m glad she’s back.”

What did you do this offseason to improve your game?
“I worked on my guard skills a little bit because if I want to play at the next level I know I’m going to have do more than play with my back to the basket; so, I worked on my ball handling and extending my shooting range.”

What are your thoughts on the team's depth this season? Having more than 7 healthy players this year
“It’s wonderful. Just the sound of it sounds great. Practice is a lot better. It’s a lot more competitive. We get to do five-on-five stuff we weren’t able to do last year. I think it’s going to help us – especially late in the season -- when we need that depth. We didn’t have that last year; and, I thought that (lack of depth) really affected us in the Tournament. I think the depth is going to be awesome for the team this year.”


Baylor senior wing Jessica Morrow

Describe your time at Baylor up to now...
“My time at Baylor has definitely been a growing experience. I’m not the same person I was coming out of Humble High School. I’ve learned a lot. I haven’t always made the best decisions; but, I’ve stuck with it and I’ve learned my lessons. I think I’m a better person now because of my experiences.”

How has your basketball changed since your freshman season?
“I think I’m more vocal now. I was pretty quiet in high school. I’m more confident now, too. I’m not so hard on myself. Playing for Coach Mulkey brings the best out of you. Things I never thought I could do, when I never thought I could keep going, I kept going and now a lot of times I’m not even tired. I think the maturity level of my play has grown.”

What did you do this offseason to improve your game?
“I tried to improve my conditioning and get stronger so I could finish better when the game is on the line. I worked on my shooting and little things here and there. But, overall, in the summer time we worked on our team chemistry and learned everyone’s strengths and weaknesses.”

Any thoughts on a pro career?
“I’ve thought about it; but, I’m the type of person if it happens, it happens. I don’t beat myself up about it. If it comes, it’s definitely a blessing; but, if it doesn’t, I have a Baylor University degree that I can use.”
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UT's Raven and Williams

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK -- Here are some comments from HRR interviews from the October 22, Big 12 Media Day.

Texas junior guard Brittainey Raven:

Second season with Coach G (Gail Goestenkors)
“I think we’re all used to her system now. We know what she expects from us. Everybody’s been working hard – improving the things we worked on last year.

“Play hard. Run. She’s all about defense. Put it all out on the floor. Sacrifice. Defense.”

Being picked second in the Big 12 preseason Coaches’ Poll
“I think it boosted our confidence. We really weren’t sure where they’d put is the Big 12 Conference; but, they put us number two. Last year, we stepped up at the end of last season; so, I guess they expect us to do well this season. We’re going to do our best to get nothing less than number two and hopefully number one in the Big 12.”

What did you do this offseason to improve your game?
“I worked on my conditioning. I worked on my ball handling; my three-point shot a lot – more than I did last season. I think it’s improved; but, I’m still working on it and trying to get it to be more consistent.”

Outlook for the Longhorns in 2008 – 2009...
“I think we can be really good as long as we stay consistent and stay focused. Last year, we lost focused a lot. We were really good and then we were really bad in some of the games; so, if we just stay consistent and stay focused, we should be okay.”

What are your thoughts on some of the newcomers and / or returning players?
“I think Erika (Arriaran) is going to help us out a lot. I know she is. Teams played us zone last year because we only had one consistent outside shooter (Kathleen Nash); but, now that we have Erika back and one of our freshmen, Ashleigh Fontenette, is a really good shooter. They’re going to open the floor for us which will make it harder for teams to guard us this year.”

Thoughts on the Big 12 overall
“The Big 12 is tough. We have to play hard every night. Most of us know what it’s going to be like; and, we just have to get on the court and put it all out there to win.”


Texas senior forward Earnesia Williams

Second year with Coach G
“I’m looking forward to it. Last year, we were learning each other and learning her expectations and her philosophy. This year it should be easier the second time around. I’m really looking forward to this year. We’re going to be doing a lot of things. A lot of different looks and line ups. The team is more versatile this year and more experienced. Just knowing what Coach G wants we’re more prepared to go execute her game plan on the court.”

What does Coach G expect from her players?
“Coach G is always looking for people to attack, offensively and defensively. She’s not going to let down; and, she doesn’t expect her team to let down. She has a lot of confidence. She’s just one of those high intensity and high energy coaches which are two good qualities for a coach.”

How are you going to be different this season?
“I think I’ll be on the perimeter a little more this year; so, I’m trying to get more comfortable with that. I’m trying to use my strength, being an undersized post, which is quickness in the post and then being a bigger guard on the perimeter.”

Health status
“I’m good. I’m good. I’m healthy. I used the first part of summer to heal; and, right now, I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life. It’s hard to get in shape when you have knee problems; but, I’m coming out of the knee brace. I feel really good.

“The team looks great right now. We’re definitely at a higher place than we were last year. Our freshmen are great. We expect to do big things this year.”

How has Erika Arriaran looked in practice thus far? –
“She’s good. She’s playing. She’s shooting lights out like always. It’s just going to be great to have her back with us. We missed her on the court last year. She’s excited to get back, too.”

Describe the team’s versatility this season –
“We can go with so many different line ups. It just depends on who we’re playing and what Coach wants to do to counter that team. I think everybody is going to get playing time; and, I think everybody is going to contribute this year.”

Thoughts on the Big 12 this season –
“The Big 12 is always competitive. It’s very talented. The teams are so different; but, that just brings more competition to the league. You never know who’s going to win. This year is really going to be entertaining.”
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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Barmore's Presence at Baylor is Huge

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK -- It's not every day a legendary coach is coaxed out of retirement to join a coaching staff as an assistant coach; but, Leon Barmore did just that when Kim Mulkey, head coach at Baylor, talked Coach Barmore into joining her staff.

Mulkey played for Barmore at Louisiana Tech and was an assistant coach for Barmore for 15 seasons at La Tech.

Barmore's coaching record is spectacular. His .869 winning percentage (576-87) is the best in women's college basketball history. He led the Lady Techsters to 20 (out of 20) trips to the NCAA Tournament including four NCAA runner-up finishes; nine NCAA Final Four appearances; and one national championship in 1988.

Because of his relationship with Coach Mulkey, Barmore had attended a few practices in the past; however, now that he's part of the coaching staff, he has made a huge impact on Baylor's players.

"Coach Barmore demands a certain respect without asking for it," said Baylor's Jhasmin Player. "Coach Barmore speaks a word and you just hear everyone in the gym get silent because you know how much he knows and you want to learn as much as you possibly can from him. You just want to absorb from Coach Barmore as much as you possibly can; and, that's what we spend our time doing."

"Coach Barmore, to me, is like another Kim Mulkey," said senior forward Rachel Allison. "He's a Hall of Fame Coach. I think we're blessed to have him. I know not every team has a coach come out of retirement to coach for them and for him to do that says a lot for Coach Mulkey as a person and how he feels about our team. We're just blessed to have him."

"He's definitely added a lot of knowledge," added senior wing Jessica Morrow. "The first day of practice we had over 300 people at practice. The first time he opened his mouth the whole gym got silent. Everybody was paying attention to what he was saying. He's full of wisdom.

"Coach Mulkey made us realize when she said to us, 'Do you realize that you're playing for a legendary coach?' I just try to take as much from him as much as I can because he just has so much wisdom."
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No knee brace for BU's Player

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK -- Baylor's Jhasmin Player tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and sprained her medial collateral ligament (MCL) February 2, 2008, in the first half of the Lady Bears' win at Kansas State. She missed the rest of the season; however, just six months after the February 27th surgery, Player was back on the basketball court. To top off her remarkable recovery, Player has no plans to wear a protective knee brace or sleeve this season.

"It's just a personal decision," said Jhasmin. "My doctor didn't demand it. He told me it was my choice (to wear a brace). I didn't want to do it because I didn't know if I'd be able to let it go. It's like a pacifier. You give a baby something for so long, they don't want to let it go; but, I what I don't know won't hurt me; so, since I never had it, I feel like people tear them up in braces and out of braces. If it's gonna (another knee injury) happens, it's gonna happen.

"I had a great surgery. I had a great six months of rehab; and, I've been playing for about two months; so, I'm slowly getting back into it."

Player expects to be ready for the November 3rd exhibition game versus the Houston Jaguars.
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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

2008 Big 12 Media Day

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK -- I'm in OKC for the 2008 Big 12 Women's Basketball Media Day which will take place tomorrow.

Earlier today, the Big 12 announced Followers of Big 12 basketball will be able to watch the tip off to the conference’s 13th season with live video at big12sports.com.

Coverage will begin on Wednesday, October 22, with Oklahoma State women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke handling the first interview at 9:00 a.m. CDT. In addition to all 12 head coaches on the women’s side, special round-table discussions among selected women’s basketball student-athletes will take place. The final women’s interview will wrap-up at approximately 4:05 p.m. CDT.

Complete coverage of both media days will be available at big12sports.com, including video, photos and quotes from each school.

Women’s Basketball Schedule (Oct. 22)

9:00 a.m. Oklahoma State Coach Kurt Budke
9:15 a.m. Kansas Coach Bonnie Henrickson
9:30 a.m. Iowa State Coach Bill Fennelly
9:45 a.m. Student-Athlete Round Table
11:20 a.m. Baylor Coach Kim Mulkey
11:35 a.m. Missouri Coach Cindy Stein
11:50 a.m. Texas Coach Gail Goestenkors
1:00 p.m. Texas A&M Coach Gary Blair
1:15 p.m. Colorado Coach Kathy McConnell-Miller
1:30 p.m. Texas Tech Coach Kristy Curry
1:45 p.m. Student-Athlete Round Table
3:20 p.m. Nebraska Coach Connie Yori
3:35 p.m. Kansas State Coach Deb Patterson
3:50 p.m. Oklahoma Coach Sherri Coale
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Young UH Preps for 08-09

HOUSTON, TX -- Take a look at the University of Houston's roster for the 2008 - 2009 season. Twelve players are listed (11 are eligilble to play this season -- forward Lesslee Mason will sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules); but, only one of the 11 players, Zane Jakobsone, is a senior. Two other players are juniors which means the majority of this season's squad consists of sophomores and freshmen.

As if the team's relative youth wasn't cause for concern, combine the youth with the return of head coach Joe Curl to the group. Coach Curl missed the entire 2007 - 2008 season after he suffered a heart attack; had double bypass surgery performed on him; and rested and rehabilitated most of the calendar year.

Consequently, this season is not filled with high expectations from nearly anyone except Coach Curl; his coaching staff; and the team.

Houston was predicted to finish ninth (tied with crosstown rival Rice) in the 2008 - 2009 Conference USA Coaches' Poll.

Coach Curl simply sees everything as challenges which need to be overcome.

"I think it's a motivating factor for us to be in the ninth spot tied with Rice," said Coach Curl. "That's okay. It's a motivating factor. There's no question. I'm excited about our Conference. I think everybody -- from top to bottom -- is better; and, we're going to have to play well to compete in the league this season."

"Southern Miss is picked to win it (the C-USA race) this year; and, there are five or six teams, including us, that I would consider an option to win it."

Coach Curl plans to utilize a nine-player rotation this season and play more pressure defense as well.

"I think we have nine players that we can rotate. With our personnel, the kind of defense we want to play, is more full-court, trapping-type stuff," Curl stated. "We can be good at that if we execute."

Houston begins the 2008 - 2009 season, November 10, with an exhibition game versus the Houston Jaguars. Tip is set for 7p.m.
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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

TSU Lady Tigers Recruiting Going Well

UPDATE: October 21, 2008 -- The Texas Southern University women's basketball 2009 recruiting class has moved from a projected ranking of 135 to 113 among the nations 342 NCAA Division I basketball programs according to the All-Star Girls Report.

HOUSTON, TX -- According to a respected basketball scouting service, Texas Southern University's women's basketball program is doing a good job when it comes to recruiting.

According to the 2009 All Star Girls Report, the 2009 Anticipated Recruiting Class, ranks TSU's recruiting class as the 135th out of 342 NCAA Division I basketball programs.

The ranking lands TSU in the top 40 percent.

Yolanda Broughton-Wells, Lady Tigers' head coach, was quoted saying, "This is important for us as we build our program. It will open some doors for us as move to a higher level."
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C-USA Coaches Tabbed Southern Miss Preseason Favorite

Conference USA's annual Media Day takes place tomorrow in Memphis, TN. C-USA's coaches' poll was announced today and Southern Miss was tabbed as the preseason favorite. Southern Miss received eight first-place votes (out of 12).

SMU was picked second; followed by UTEP (three first-place votes) - last season's C-USA regular season champ; and East Carolina (one first-place vote).

The preseason All C-USA Team was also announced.

Leading the squad is UTEP's junior guard Jareica Hughes. Hughes was last season's C-USA Player of the Year.

2008-2009 Preseason C-USA Team
Jareica Hughes, 5'3", G, junior, UTEP.
Pauline Love, 6'0", F, junior, Southern Miss.
Larissa Williams, 6'3", F / C, junior, Tulsa. 
LaCoya Terry, 5'10", G, senior, East Carolina.
Jasmine Young, 5'5", G, senior, East Carolina.
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Big 12 Announces Preseason Individual Honors

Big 12 Media Day is just a few days away (Wednesday, October 22, in Oklahoma City); and, earlier today, the conference announced the Big 12 preseason individual honors.

Player of the Year: Courtney Paris, 6'4", C, Oklahoma.

Newcomer of the Year: Tanisha Smith, 6'0", G/F, Texas A&M.

Co-Freshmen of the Year: Whitney Hand, 6'1", G, (Oklahoma) and Tyra White, 6'0", G, (Texas A&M).

Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own players.

Pre-Season All-Big 12 Team
Shalee Lehning, 5'9", G, senior, Kansas State.
Kelsey Griffin, 6'2", F, senior, Nebraska.
Courtney Paris, 6'4, C / post, senior, Oklahoma.
Takia Starks, 5'8", G, senior, Texas A&M.
Andrea Riley, 5'5", G, junior, Oklahoma State.
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Saturday, October 11, 2008

WBCBL

I was surprised to receive a press release about the Women's Blue Chip Basketball League (WBCBL) earlier this week. However, I finally got a chance to checking out the website; and, I see the Houston Takers are a team expected to participate in the league in 2009.

Now is the best time to join the Women's Blue-Chip Basketball League!

The Women's Blue Chip Basketball League (WBCBL) is a women's "Semi-Pro" basketball league that offers female athletes an opportunity to continue their hoop dreams after college.

Since 2005, more than 60 WBCBL players have signed with professional overseas teams.

The WBCBL currently has over 35 teams in North America, with many featuring professional international players, several former NWBL and WNBA players.

For a limited time, all new teams can join the WBCBL for only $299.

2009 Team Membership Requirements:
  • Adequate staffing (manager; coaches; refs; trainer; etc.)
  • Dependable Team Transportation
  • Team Name (City or State + Mascot (example = "Plano Panthers")
  • Form a team of 10 to 15 players (at least 5 with college experience, ages 20 and up)
  • At least high school quality team uniforms
  • Secure a gym for your team home games and practices
  • Your team location must be at least 50 miles away from other WBCBL teams.
  • You and You Organization's Commitment
The Season Begins May 16th.

To view WBCBL video footage:
North Texas Flash vs. Oklahoma Angels

Arkansas Ballers vs. Canada Out West Elite

2008 WBCBL National Championship: Savannah Lady Warriors vs. Tampa Bay X-Factor

2008 WBCBL National Championship Highlights
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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Houston Comets Fan Party

I definitely want to pass this along...

Thursday, October 9, 2008,6:30 to 9:00PM.

The Showroom in Dave and Buster's, 6010 Richmond @ Fountainview

All Comets Fans Welcome

Join the Houston Comets staff as we celebrate the end of the 2008 season with a Fan Party. Though Hurricane Ike changed our final home game schedule, we would like to thank you with a night full of food and prizes. Haley, Comet Girl, Team NRG, and Comets players Shannon Johnson, Sancho Lyttle and Coach Ryan Weisenberg will be present to join in the fun.*

Giveaways include one autographed jersey of every player on the final 2008 roster for 13 lucky fans and the first 100 fans will receive a Comets gift bag.

*Players subject to change.

For more information or to purchase tickets for the 2009 Houston Comets season at Reliant Arena, call 713-627-WNBA (9622) or visit www.houstoncomets.com
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