Oct. 27, 2007
“Obviously with practice starting less than a week ago we don’t know everything we want to know, but we know a lot more than we knew a week ago. We talked about having a much more veteran team this year and that has proven to be the case thus far. With our players we feel that we are a little bit ahead of schedule where we were last year for sure. Key players that are going to be on the court have at least a year if not two under their belt. Our freshmen are actually great learners, that’s been a bonus in addition to the talent they have.
This year each of us is wearing a rubber-band at practice with our theme and what is says is `iNam.’ (it’s not about me). That’s something we’re going to take very seriously on a daily basis in making sure that we understand what it is going to take to be a better team than we were last year. This applies not only in the worldly sense that you think the world’s not about me.
The funny thing is you take the `N’ out, it’s `i.a.m.’, it’s about me. There are a lot of times it is about you. It’s about you when you go after a close out. It’s about you when you communicate where you are in transition defense. It’s about you at the free throw line. The `N’ can be replaced with a capital `A’ and that’s the thing that we don’t want to do, `it’s ALL about me.’
There’s a little part that we say take the `N’ out and say take personal responsibility and say `it’s about me.’ There are a lot of things that we are holding our players to this year in that area. It’s about that personal responsibility we’ve talked about before, but at a higher level. In our teamwork it’s really not about me. We worked today in drawing two players defensively to us as an offensive player so that we can pitch the ball to somebody that now has the opportunity to attack in a number of situations in the half court. It’s not about me if I don’t feel like warming-up and raising my legs this high, it’s not about me, you gotta do it. Today we had a situation where we didn’t lift our legs when we were supposed to lift our legs and we made sure they understood that that’s not okay. They’re learning the things they need to learn early on in this preseason that are going to make us a better team in the long run. We’re now at a place were we have kids that are very hungry, they want to work hard; they just don’t know what that is all the time. I think that those of you that have kids would understand that and those of you that are kids would understand that because we all want to take the path of least resistance and that comes into play a lot, it’s our job that we hold them to a higher standard than that.
As far as the players on the team, starting with our senior Shante Williams, who had off-season hip surgery, it was projected to be a six month recovery period and she’s just a little bit behind schedule but is practicing with us. I’d say about 75% of what we do she’s able to do. She will probably not play in our first two exhibition games making sure that she is completely healthy before we throw her into the fire. It’s funny she still has it; I don’t care she’s taken six months off, she can still get by half the guys we got out there without even hesitating. She’s really working on now the movements that she needs to be working on, getting back in great basketball shape, she’s improved her jump shot tremendously, her free throws tremendously-those are the things she could do. Her right hand is much better than it has in the past so we’re please with that.
The junior class all three of them worked exceptionally hard in the summer. Britany Miller is going to be the center point of our offense and defense. She’s much more mobile, she’s more aggressive, a little bit more mature and she can score the basketball and she can move her feet defensively and that makes a great inside presence for us defensively. Mara Freshour has gotten even learner, smarter, quicker, much more of an attacker than she was last year and we’re going to ask her to be more of a scorer. Tanae Davis-Cain what we’ve asked her to do is not just be a jump shooter for us, a 3-point specialist, but also to attack in the half court and transition offense. She’s a great defender for us. Our film guy had a great stat he said that the first free throw that Tanae attempted was against Miami. That just tells you a lot about what her game was like. It was to be the recipient of a pitch and play great defense and we’ve asked her to up her game in that area.
Our sophomores, again anytime you get a year under a kid’s belt in college basketball makes a difference. Alysha Harvin looks great. Jacinta Monroe’s put on maybe ten pounds. It doesn’t look like it at time but I actually saw a stretch mark on her I thought that was interesting. She’s just had some offseason knee surgery that cleaned up some meniscus and is feeling a lot better in that arena. Angel Gray, I am absolutely thrilled with the way that she’s comeback with her rehab. I wasn’t thrilled in the preseason and I’m thrilled now. She’s worked extremely hard to get everything back she had physically and add to her repertoire. Offensively she’s a much better shooter, she’s a much better free throw shooter and she has not lost a bit of her aggression which we’re excited about. Cayla Moore has really come on in the absence of Nikki Anthony, that’s going to be huge for us for Cayla to set up and be that screener, rebounder, defender that Nikki was for us last year. She’s really taken that challenge to heart and it’s been fun to see her grow as a player.
Our freshman, Courtney Ward is probably the quickest player I’ve had here at Florida State. You blink and she’s just somewhere else. It’s a real joy to have that, we did transition defense today and the kid can move not only up and down but laterally quicker than anyone I’ve seen. She’s vocal, she’s really a true point guard, she able to hit the outside shot, it’ll just be adjusting to the college tempo for her. Antionette Howard will be much like Roneeka Hodges when she gets a feel for the college game and the college tempo. She can score on the block like nobody. She’s got great feel for the game probably a better passer than Roneeka Hodges was. Right now defensively she’s learning a lot and that’s going to be her biggest hold back right now. Christian Hunnicutt just blew everybody away in conditioning and has really been a pleasant surprise for us. Somebody that we signed in the late period who is a great chemistry builder for us, somebody that learns very, very quickly and we think will be exceptional on the defensive end of the floor and as she continues to develop offensively you’ll see more and more of her.”
Q: Will Mara be returning to her freshman position or will she run primary ball handling duties this year again?
A: “That’s a great question, you can’t even tell from practice can you. That’s what we want. We want the versatility for our one or our two could bring the ball up and in transition we feel that we have enough players that are capable with Courtney, with Angel, with Shante that either the one or the two can communicate that with the course of time.”
Q: I saw Angel is listed as a sophomore did you not get a year back from her?
A: “She played ten games and seven is the limit and that’s unfortunate for all of us.”
Q: Who came up with the idea with the rubber band, wristband?
A: “I was out one day and actually listening to my iPod and this guy was talking about over and over he just talked about it’s not just me, but then the other side of it is `Jack is more important than me, Andrew’s more important that me’ and that really fit in to what we felt like we needed to do to take the next step. If you saw our LSU game you noticed that we tried, but we didn’t score well, 40s, we couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. When we get to that level we have to be able to be much more patient, pass it up to five times so that we can create better opportunities for shot selection and we weren’t. We didn’t understand very well, we were too young to understand how we made each other better and so that is what this is all about, how we make each other better on both ends of the floor and then we wanted them to remember it everyday. Then we wanted to make it our mantra in the community. If we’re going out and speaking to kids, we went to the boy’s choir of Tallahassee the other day, and to be able to say if we’re successful if we’re able to live this out then people should ask the question, well what is it? Well it’s not about me I hope that that’s a lesson we can carry off the court and in our lives.”
Q: Did they respond to it right away, did they like the idea?
A: “You know it’s interesting, at first they were smart enough to respond in a way that was a little sarcastic but now I think they’re really starting to understand why it’s important which I figured. I think they’ll understand as we talk more. Yeah that’s a tough one for this age isn’t it?”
Q: A year ago you were affected because people stepped up a different times it didn’t seem like there was much of a clast system where this person does this, you do this, you know whatever you needed. Like you throw Tanae in she bombs a couple threes, Shante might give you a lift or who ever, Alicia was probably the only constant you pretty much put her down with her 12-8, 13-8. Did you sense some maybe selfishness at times?
A: “Never, never. It was more of a fact that we didn’t have anybody that we could consistently count on. It’s like we’re going to get the ball to Britany. Britany might produce, she might not produce. Mara we want you to go out and be more aggressive. You know she may or she may not have. I think we’re going to have the opposite this year. I think we’re going to know who we can count on and I think we’re going to know in an unselfish way we’re going to know how to put them in a position to score. I think we’re going to have a lot more weapons that’s the other thing. It’s not just we can count on Britany so we have to get Britany the ball. Tanae’s shooting the ball great. Mara’s shooting the ball great. We’ve got great players on the wings that can knock it down, stretch the defense. Then you’ve got Shante, Angel, Courtney that can come off screens that can get into the seams that can turn around and find on the outside. I think we have a lot more weapons we just have to know what it is that we need to do in order to use one another and that’s really the concept. It was never selfishness; if anything it was a lack of confidence and just a youth that was about them.”
Q: How much do you talk about LSU and you didn’t mention Stanford at all, as teaching points to take that next big step from sweet 16 to farther into the tournament?”
A: “Stanford that’s done. We had an opportunity, we took advantage of the opportunity and now we want to take advantage of the next opportunity and so what happened in the next game. Those are the types of things that we want to use as teaching points we don’t want them to be satisfied and looking back and say `oh wasn’t that fun.’ It’s over and it’s time to move on and we needed to make our point and I think another thing we’ve been very intentional about is saying this is what Final Four teams do, this is the gaps in what Final Four teams do and what we do. Final Four teams, what they do is pursued the basketball on the offensive with 2.7 players. Florida State pursued the basketball on the offensive end with 1.7 players. Well is it really much harder to take one more player and pursue the basketball? Can you do that Jack? Can you do that Brian? I can do that coach. That’s not that much tougher, we have to do that. So it’s the little things like. Shot selection, we’ve said rebounding on both ends of the floor and free throw percentage. We were at 65.8 percent last year and we have to be seven percentage points better to be that level of a team. That means getting to the free throw line four more times a game. How are you going to do that? Those are the things we’re teaching them, we’re saying we’ve done enough studying to know what is that we want to get better at and then challenged them. Can you do these three things and not let up on anything else? Now here’s the other side of it; we turned the ball over less than any of the final four teams so you’re ahead of the curve there, maintain that. This is why we believe in you because you can do this. The things that we have to do in order to catch those folks, is it doable? Is it doable to improve you free throw percentage? I sure hope so. Is it do able to send more people to pursue on the basketball? Absolutely. Is it do able to get better shots? Yeah it is. Those are the things you must do in order to take another step.”
Q: I’m interested with free throw shooting did you break it down to you want to be 72% or did you want to be at this percent but in the last five minutes of the game we want to be at 80%?
A: “I don’t think that really matters to them. You know honestly they get up there and they’re shooting a free thrown. What I’d like them to do is be able to shoot 75-80% in practice consistently because there’s not a lot of pressure there. There’s pressure to run, but then if we can do that and then shoot 72-73% in the game then I think we’ve done what we needed to do in moving up in that area.”
Q: In the case of the list of goals that you all probably have, where does the ACC play into this?”
A: “We haven’t done any goal setting believe it or not. We wait until after our first exhibition game and then just try and be realistic so that they can really see what it takes as a group not just our upper classmen. There are things that they know that they need to do but it isn’t set with this is what we want to do in the ACC yet and any of those things.”
Q: Where would you like see them, are you ready to contend in the ACC?
A: “Absolutely and I think every year up to this point we talk about finishing in the top four, last year we talked about finishing in the top three. We finish in the top three then we’re going to have an opportunity to do what we want to do in the NCAA Tournament and obviously if you’re going for the top three it doesn’t mean you’re not going to win it, but you’re putting out every opportunity and you know what it’s going to take to be in the top three and I think that’s really important. We need to perform better in the ACC Tournament and those types of things, but really we break that down after exhibition.”
Q: A couple years ago you talked about how you were putting more emphasis on character and the intangibles as far as recruiting. With the success you’re having is that opening more doors for you that you we’re able to get into in the past?
A: “It’s incredible. The three players we brought in, this is nothing against a single parent home, but they’ve all had two parents who’ve had a stable home and not that that makes them perfect but there’s a lot of stability in that. The fact that they were pushed by those parents in a positive way brings them to our program with less to deal with on the periphery and more focused on the basketball court. And so that really has been great to find the great talent with the character to match it. Early on we didn’t have that luxury, we could go for talent, not to say that those weren’t great kids again they didn’t have the same type of stability and resources in their home.”
Q: You mentioned pursuing the basketball and trying to get one more persons committed, can I read into that, that you’ve spent more time in off-season conditioning and with especially with 10 players being able to stay on the floor and go longer harder if necessary. Sometimes at a junction last year you guys had people when the ball was rolling away they needed to get back on defense and there were people that didn’t match up the way you wanted to do?”
A: “Dave Plettl our strength and conditioning coach has done a fantastic job every year and he takes what he’s done the year prior and increases it and he lets them know that at the end of that preseason conditioning that you just did more volume at less time than you did a year ago. And there is something to be said about that feeling for the players once they’ve been done. And there’s also something to be said about what they’ve done in the off-season this summer and they were extremely committed in the summer. And that’s Dave being the kind of guy that is going to drive them in and them having the character and the hunger to want to do it. Again, path of least resistance, I certainly cannot require that of them in the summer, so them having that kind of relationship with Dave has really helped out program.”
Q: Who do you think becomes the player someone can look at and say something going down we have to do something.”
A: “I think Mara Freshour and Tanae Davis-Cain have done a great job in that steady when things are going wrong who do you look at. I think emotionally if people need to get charged it’s going to be an Alysha Harvin she’s very competitive, isn’t afraid to say what she thinks, and let’s get this thing done. Interestingly enough, Shante has really wanted to move into that roll and has been really strategic in the way she’s doing it. She hasn’t been able to do that preseason conditioning and if she walks up there well then wait a minute you’re not doing it and she knows that and she’s really tried in a strategic way to move into a leadership roll. And I think she’s done a really great job. And a lot of that’s been through serving them, through cooking for them, through giving them rides, making sure that they’re all getting together. I think her and Mara have done the best job in that.”
Q: How important is it for you to get a higher seed than 10?
A: “I think it’s extremely important; that’s the thing that we didn’t do last year. I thought we beat the teams we were supposed to beat, but we didn’t beat anyone we weren’t supposed to beat. And I think that’s the next step in the non-conference and conference so we can take the next step and get that higher seed in the NCAA tournament.”