Head Coach Pat Summitt addresses the assembled media.
Nov. 2, 2009
Lady Vol Basketball Media Day Quotes
HEAD COACH Pat Summitt
Opening Statement "It's good to see you all here today. I'm excited what we've got done so far and anxious to get the season started. I can tell that all of our players made a commitment to get a lot better and we have a different comfort level now than a year ago. Being in practice with this team and watching the accountability unfold with the group, in particular, having Angie Bjorklund playing the way she's been playing. I think she did a great job of getting a lot of her teammates in the gym throughout the summer. Across the board, I can tell you that this team now understands what it takes to really work hard to be at a certain level, to compete with the schedule that we have in place. That's one thing that hasn't changed over the years, and I think that's a good thing. It was challenging for us a year ago. I think we're much better prepared to understand how to go out and compete as a team. We're not there 100 percent, but we're getting there. Our freshmen, overall, I think they've really bought in. Certainly, Taber Spani has been very impressive in the workouts. She's got deep range which will help us on the perimeter and will also help us open our inside game. Faith Dupree certainly has shown a lot of promise in just working in the post position, definitely her high-low game. It will help us to have a player like Faith along with the other returning post players that we have. That's very encouraging. Kamiko Williams is very athletic, skill player, she's just got a lot to learn, but she has a great upside. All three freshmen should be able to help us out. A healthy Kelley Cain could make a big difference for us without a doubt. She's working really hard, we just have to make sure to keep her healthy. Vicki Baugh is a player right now, we're just day to day. When she feels like she's having a great day, she can go and get the reps in and [Associate Athletics Director for Sports Medicine] Jenny [Moshak] is managing that. And that's exactly what we want. We're not going to force or push a time when she has to be back. It's when she feels that her knees are standing up and healthy and strong, she's got to be strong. Having the back to back tears is almost unheard of in the same knee. She has really had a good attitude overall. I'm anxious to see how she progresses.
On this year's schedule "I could talk about a lot of the teams that we're going to play, for us to have Nikki Caldwell coming back and have UCLA in here that will be exciting. We'll get everybody in Oak Ridge here. She has stayed in close contact with me. I'm really proud for her and for what she has done already at UCLA. If you look at our schedule, and you know that Baylor is going to be a force to be reckon with. They've got a 6-8 center and that'll pose some problems for us. But hopefully Kelley will be able to matchup with Brittney Griner and go head to head with her. At least we've got the size to compete in the paint. As I look at the schedule, I don't know what I was thinking, I think [Associate Athletics Director for Media Relations] Debby [Jennings] probably put this together. If you look at it, it's a typical Tennessee schedule. Texas, I think, is going to be a much, much better team. Coach DeMoss keeps telling me they're going to be a lot better. We're looking forward to having the teams come in here, to have Louisville on our schedule is huge, we've got Oklahoma coming in. We didn't dodge any bullets. To be able to go play in the [Madison Square] Garden and play against Rutgers of all people, that's always an interesting game. All I can tell you is that we're going to work hard and we're going to continue that offense - I always say sells the tickets - we're better offensively, but our defense and our board play, and our ball security is going to be everything to us being a successful team."
On having better effort this year "I think losing and losing out in the first round. They made history, and not in a good way. They know that a lot of people looked at this team and said `why, why did we lose?' I think this team just thought they could all come together, they had a lot of high school All-Americans, and it was just going to happen. It doesn't happen, you make things happen. Shekinna [Stricklen], she's at a different level, she wasn't ready for that a year ago. I think she's one of the most improved players, and that's going to benefit us tremendously. Bree [Bass] is better, we're better across the board. There is not one player that didn't invest, some at a higher level than others, but clearly, this team understands playing together now. It's all about the leaders stepping up now in that regard."
On a younger generation and how you coach "I think every coach out there is thinking about, `ok, it's a different generation'. But I'm not going to lower my standards because of that, not at all. My thought is that we have to raise the bar. I think they get it now, but it's really been interesting to see the people that have invested the most. I can tell you across the board, that all of our sophomores understand that they just can't step out there, put on the Big Orange uniform and win. And that's a good thing."
Is the Ball State loss still felt? "I think it was probably felt more in the offseason. I think when they invested in all the workouts. For [Assistant Athletics Director for Strength & Conditioning] Heather [Mason] to say that in the seven years she's been here, this team has put in more summer workouts than any team that she has been associated with over the seven years. There are some good teams, obviously Candace Parker and Alexis Hornbuckle and that group. This group put in more than anyone, any other team in the seven years. They needed it, trust me, they needed to put all that in. I think because of that, they have a different opinion of not only their individual games, but in how the team invested so that everyone understands that we're committed. If someone isn't committed on a given day, then it's time to call them out."
As a group, do you sense that this group gets it? "I think they get it. I really think they get it. With the schedule we have, we have to get it. We have to get it early and we have to be able to keep it. And it's a long season. You look at the conference, the conference is tough. We go down to media day and I'm thinking we're going to be third or fourth, and what do they do, the coaches put us number one. I'm like `no'. I don't know that we belong there, but that's where we want to get to. We want to have the best team in the league, but there are a lot of great teams right now. There is more parity within the game, not only within our conference, but within the game."
On having a consistent lineup "Well, my thought has been at least eight. We need eight players that understand how we want to play the game, and how much they have to invest. The defensive part of the game, I think we've made some progress there, but that's an everyday thing, that's all about the hard work. We may have more than eight, but definitely if we can get a great rotation with eight, nine, ten people, we'd have the depth to press and run more. If I'm not mistaken, I think we can do that."
On this team's style of play "I think it's going to depend on the opponent. We have a certain way we want to play, but if things are not going well for us, if we're not scoring in our early offense, we have to be more disciplined in the half court game. I think we can do both. That's the one thing we've worked a lot on, our half game, then the full court game, giving them a little more freedom in that half court game, more three out, two in, instead of running a lot of set plays. I thought, last year, in looking back and breaking it all down, we probably spent too much time in running different sets as opposed to just playing three out, two in, and letting them work the high-low and make the reads."
What do you expect out of the SEC? "I think Mississippi State is going to have one of the best teams, not only in the SEC, but they could definitely make some noise outside of the conference. They've got all five starters back and I think that they are going to be really, really tough. I know some schools have had some injuries, but I look at LSU and think this has got to be a team that contends for a championship in the league. I think Florida is going to be good, Ole Miss, you can just go down the list. I think the depth in our league now is where it should've been a few years ago. I think as we've had new coaches come in to the league, as we've recruited better players for our league, there is a lot of parity right here in the SEC."
Are you rejuvenated more than you have been recently given the new slate for this year? "I always think I've got energy and passion for what I do. I've always said, if I didn't, I'm cheating the team, the university and the program. Last year was frustrating at times, I said it was a lot like pulling teeth. It was hard to get them to buy in and commit every day, but I see a whole different attitude and commitment. I'm excited about it; we've got a great staff with the energy they bring. Dean [Lockwood] does a great job with the posts, along with Daedra [Charles-Furlow]. I think our post game is going to be a lot better. I think our perimeter game is too just because of the time they invested in the offseason."
On the size this team has "The thing we talked about is that we could go big. We could start with Briana and go small at the point. Or we could go big on the perimeter. Most likely that would be Shekinna. You could go with Angie, you could go with Taber or Alicia [Manning], we've got the size there. Obviously on the inside with Kelley. Glory Johnson, one thing we're going to look at with her is that she defends on the perimeter more and that she defends more in the backcourt because she's one of the best athletes on our team. That would allow us to get out and put a lot more pressure in the full court as well as in the half court. Again, I think we've got the depth, we've got it in the post game, we've got some young players in there. A healthy Vicki Baugh would make a huge difference for us, but again, that's a total wait and see, nothing forced at all."
On the team chemistry "I think Angie is trying to be a lot more vocal. She is a lot more aggressive offensively and Shekinna is well. They are both shooting the ball very well. That's why I like them both on the floor because it stretches the defense and opens up our inside game as well. Those two, I think they invested a lot of time in the gym. And Sydney Smallbone invested a lot of time as well. On the perimeter right now, we do have players that can knock down the three ball and again that opens up the inside game. Angie really made a different level of commitment in the offseason and so did Shekinna. I think right now, they are standing out as two of the fine leaders on our team."
On Glory getting off to a good start and not playing as well down the stretch "Freshman, she hit the wall. She wasn't by herself now, that's one thing for sure. I do think that she gave in to fatigue at times. That's something we're on her right now, saying `you can't do that again, it just can't happen'. She's responded very well."
On preparing for this season as opposed to a year ago "I think we can make a lot more progress in whatever we're working on because they are familiar with the terminology, familiar with the patterns, they understand how we want to play, whether it's in the half court game or the full court game, both defensively and offensively. We're certainly way ahead of where we were a year ago at this point in time. We've got to get better, but again I think for the most part, we have in what we need in. We don't have to be adding on more layers. I get a little anxious about that. We've got to give them the freedom to play. I'm seeing the fact that they are demonstrating the fact that they will make plays. Stricklen has been the one who has set the tone that we're attacking the paint."
On hosting the first and second rounds in 2010 and 2011 "It's good for our team and certainly our program, our fans. It's good for women's basketball because of our fan support. You saw a lot of venues that had very few people in the postseason. I think that's when you go to places where you can generate the fan support and have the excitement. If we weren't hosting, I'd rather go somewhere where we would have a lot of people in the stands, even if they were cheering against us."
On having no seniors "I'm not even thinking about it. People ask me and I go `we don't have a senior, guess what, next year we will'. Wouldn't it be something to go and win with freshmen, sophomores and juniors? Are we talented enough to win with them? Yes. We've just got to have that commitment every day, and every possession of every game. That really hasn't bothered me, I think it's probably bothered other people more than it's bothered me."
SOPHOMORE GUARD Briana Bass
On how last season's loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament motivated her "I never want to experience anything like that ever again. So I was dedicated to getting in the gym and working hard every day. I definitely think we will use that loss as motivation."
On what she did during the offseason "My dad and I went to the gym every day and worked on ball handling and shooting free throws. We worked on everything."
On how the experience from last year will assist her this season "I have been telling people that the experience under my belt has really carried over and that I am still learning, but I now understand more of what the system is and what I need to do."
On her specific goals for the season "To be considered one of the top point guards in the SEC and throughout the whole college world."
On her distinctive voice on the court "I actually had a vocal coach last year. We would practice yelling in a classroom and then we came into the gym. I think that is one of the things that helped me."
JUNIOR FORWARD Vicki Baugh
On being a team leader "I definitely plan to bring a competitive mindset. We have a young team, so the juniors have to be the leaders this year. I can also bring a lot of cheerful spirit until I'm able to get on the court myself."
On coming back from her knee injury "I'm doing well. I see myself progressing quite a bit every week. I'm not going to rush or push anything. Coach Summitt told me to wait until I'm ready and that's what I plan to do. My progression is great right now though."
On how her experience of being on a national championship team can help the Lady Vols this year "It showed me what we need to do to reach our goals. It takes an incredible amount of work, but I can definitely see that we have the potential to do it. We're going to have to work our butts off, but I know everyone of our players are willing to do so."
On her thoughts on the freshman class "Kamiko is a great passer, Taber can shoot like crazy and Faith has the strongest mindset I've ever seen in a person. I'm really looking forward to playing with them. Things are looking good."
JUNIOR GUARD Angie Bjorklund
On what she has been working on to improve her game "I've worked on creating my own shot, whether it's off the dribble or coming off screens - just not being a set shooter, but more of a scorer."
On taking on a leadership role on the team "All of the juniors have really stepped up. Kelley Cain, Vicki (Baugh), Syd (Smallbone) and I are really trying to embrace a more vocal leadership role. It has been an adjustment. But last year I had a little experience with that and I think it will carry over into this year."
On what she thinks is different about this year's team "I think this year our competitive attitude has just increased. Last year we were a little more laid back and we didn't have that sense of urgency that we needed. It's not quite there where it needs to be yet, but we have improved as a whole a few steps. I think as the year goes on, if we consistently get better every day, we will be right where we need to be.
On what it is like to play for Pat Summitt "Coach is great. You can never complain about the coaching staff here. They are definitely the best. The thing about Coach Summitt is you can't take one day off. She holds you accountable everyday and she is going to push you everyday to be the best player you can be and that's why I came here.
SOPHOMORE FORWARD Alyssia Brewer
On her freshman season "It was up and down, kind of like a roller coaster ride. It had some good points and some bad ones. The main thing I felt I needed the most work after the season was done was my consistency in play from game-to-game."
On her goals for this season "Like I said earlier, my consistency of play from game-to-game was an issue last year. That was something I really focused on in practice and my hope is put up more consistent numbers to help the team and be one of the best shooters on the team."
On the position she will play this season "Probably at forward, but it I could possibly play a little at center. It depends on where Kelley [Cain] will play and how much she will play."
On how she thinks opponents view her "You'd always like to think that opponents see you as a threat or good competition. I'm not real sure what their view of me is, we'll have to wait and see how the season goes."
REDSHIRT SOPHOMORE CENTER Kelley Cain
On last season "Personally, I've already taken what I needed to take from last year. I'm ready to turn over a new leaf and start playing."
On what she has improved this offseason "I've gotten a lot stronger mentally and physically and gained a lot of confidence."
On how assistant coach Dean Lockwood helps her improve "He helps me pinpoint my strengths and make them stronger. He also helps me work on my weaknesses so that there isn't one particular weakness you can come at me with."
On how the team reacted to teammate Amber Gray's health problems "We were already a close team before, and going through all that, we knew she needed more than just her family. We're her family here too and we all felt for her and felt like we needed to be there for her. I think showing that support helped her a lot."
SOPHOMORE FORWARD Glory Johnson
On what she learned during her first season at Tennessee "I learned that working through fatigue and pain is going to get your farther than anything else. Last year, we struggled a lot because we gave in to fatigue. We were finding excuses for playing bad. This year, we don't take pain as an excuse anymore."
On her individual goals for the upcoming season "I want to score at least double-digits and pull at least 10 rebounds a game. Points are good, but the rebounds are something I can control myself. I can control how hard I crash the boards and how much energy I put into it."
On how the freshmen are fitting in "The freshmen are great. They've fit in really well. I played with Kamiko for a few years in AAU and with Faith for three years straight in high school, so I've gelled with them the most just because I've played with them the most. It's exciting and Taber has a really nice personality and is a great person."
On what improvements she made during the summer "I was here for school all summer long, so I spent the time rehabbing my knee and shoulder and working on my ball-handling skills, left hand and jump shot. I think I shot more jump shots this summer than I did all of last season."
FRESHMAN FORWARD/CENTER Faith Dupree
On the adjustment from high school to college "College is more intense and you have to be more precise about your skills here. It's been pretty tough to balance school work. You have to learn to manage your time. I've done pretty well, though. (Being from Knoxville) has definitely helped. Webb (School) definitely prepared me for college. All of the upperclassmen have helped me with classes, practice and managing my time."
On why she chose to stay home and attend Tennessee "I grew up watching the Lady Vols since the fourth grade. I fell in love with Tennessee. As soon as I was offered (a scholarship) I said yes."
On playing with high school teammate Glory Johnson again "It's going to be a lot of fun. I missed playing with her last year. This year, I'm going to take advantage of having her on the court with me. It has helped me out as a freshman here already knowing her."
On her strengths and what she can improve on "My biggest strength is probably my shot around the free throw line and the elbows. That will bring out the defense towards me and open up the lower post. My defense has been lacking at the college level. Right now, that's what I'm working on the most. I need to learn to do more shot fakes, too, because I've never played against girls as tall as me. That's what I will have to get used to."
SOPHOMORE FORWARD Amber Gray
On her current health "I'm feeling really good. I'm happy to be back and rehab is going well so everything's good right now."
On how her teammates helped support her during her health problems "They were there for me every day. I talked to Shekinna (Stricklen) every day and talked to everybody else at least once or twice a week. Knowing that my teammates and coaches were there for me helped me recover a lot faster."
On how difficult it will be to miss the season "It's going to be tough not playing but I'm just thankful that I will have the opportunity to play again. A lot of people that have dealt with what I went through wouldn't be able to play again so I'm going to take advantage of the opportunity that I have."
On her plans to help the team without playing I think that being a cheerleader on the bench is going to be my biggest role this year I plan on just helping everybody to stay positive and tell them that they can do it and be a cheerleader as much as possible."
On how she thinks the team will fare "We're going to stay positive and hopefully we end up better than we did last year. We look good out there--everybody's listening to Coach Summitt and working together so I think we're going to do really well."
SOPHOMORE GUARD Alicia Manning
On her thoughts heading into the season "We are all pretty upset at the end of last season because we knew we could have done so much more. I think it helped us in the sense that it gave us more motivation though. We know we can't just walk in the gym and have people fold to us. We have to prove ourselves and play hard every game. I'm excited about this season."
On the biggest difference for her between her freshman and sophomore years "I'm a very competitive person and the loss in the NCAA Tournament really hit me hard, so I was in the gym all the time over the summer. Hopefully that will pay off this year. My body has definitely changed as well, with the help of Heather Mason and the summer workouts she had us doing. I think my shot has improved a lot too."
On her role this season "Being another year older, you always have a bigger role in helping the freshmen out, so I've been trying to do that. As far as on the court, it will probably be about the same as it was last year. I'm not going to be that offensive threat, but if I get an open opportunity I'm going to take it. My main focus will be on rebounding and defense."
On her impression of the freshman class "I'm really impressed. They have a great attitude, good work ethic and like to win. We like to win too, so I'm excited to see what they can do and have them show what they are capable of."
JUNIOR GUARD Sydney Smallbone
On how the end to last season motivated the team "It motivates us every day. We got right back to work with conditioning and practices, and all of that and we had a great summer. A lot of people were here all summer so we were able to play a lot of pickup ball together. We've had a really good preseason so far."
On the amount of adversity the team faced in 2008-09 "Last season, there was a lot of adversity that struck us as a team. There were a lot of obstacles that we had to overcome. The whole season was a learning experience and I think we've matured a lot from last season."
On what she worked on in the offseason "This summer I worked o a lot on quickness and defense, and things like that. I want to not be a liability on defense and bring more to the table when it comes to the defensive end."
On her expectations for the season "We go out every game expecting to win and I think that motivates us every day in practice, knowing that our competitors are always trying to get one up on us, each day we keep that in mind and work to be the best."
FRESHMAN GUARD Taber Spani
On making the adjustment to college "Obviously, it is an adjustment, period. Coming from home school, a lot of people would think it'd be a big adjustment but it's really helped me a lot. You had to time manage a lot and stuff, so academically it's been really easy. On the basketball court, of course there's an adjustment. Everybody's so much better and so much more athletic but I think it's been a great adjustment. I've so enjoyed learning how to adjust and I feel like my game is improving."
On playing for Coach Summitt "I love it. I absolutely love coming to practice every day. We just get better and I think our team is really focused this year. The reasons I came to Tennessee were Coach Summitt and the chance to win national titles, which go hand in hand."
On what element of her game she is looking to improve "Coming in, I'm a natural guard and the three-ball is something that's easy for me. I'm trying to improve my overall versatility and continue to improve off the dribble and at pull-up jump shots."
On her expectations for this season "For me, they're team expectations. I want to do whatever I can to make our team the best that it can be. I want to continue to get better every game and compete. Our talent is so great but I think mental toughness is a big thing. If we can focus on that and continue to buy in 100 percent to Coach Summitt's system, I think it will be a great year."
SOPHOMORE GUARD Shekinna Stricklen
On what fans/opposing teams should expect from her this season "They should expect me to be a lot more vocal. I was seen as a shy person but this year I'm much more confident in my game and have been working hard, along with the whole team, to be a lot better. I'm definitely going to be a talker this season."
On what part of the game she worked on the most this offseason "Becoming a lot more vocal and really talking to my teammates. Last year, I didn't really talk to my teammates or coaches but I worked on communicating a lot more and I think it's not only helped out my game but it's helped my teammates out a lot as well, especially if I'm playing the point. I do think I'll be playing the wing a lot more this year, though.
On who the leaders of the team are "I think I've been more of a leader but definitely Angie (Bjorklund). She encourages us and is very competitive. I also have to say Alyssia [Brewer]. She's tough and I think she wants to be a leader.
On the exhibition game against Carson-Newman Thursday night "I'm going to focus on my defense a lot this game and I'm really excited to be able to do that. The whole team is pumped and I don't think anybody will get any sleep this Wednesday night. We're ready to get the season started."
FRESHMAN GUARD Kamiko Williams
On her first impression of Tennessee "I was a little overwhelmed at first because of the conditioning that we had to do and the intensity of the workouts. Thanks to Heather Mason and her conditioning program, I've gotten it together and I'm hanging in there."
On playing for the Lady Vols "It's like a dream come true. I've wanted to play here since I was nine. Sometimes I just have to pinch myself to make sure I'm really here. It's probably going to be the best four years of my life."
On the friends she has made in her first few months in Knoxville "I'm a people person, so I pretty much get along with everybody. The team has been there since day one. I'm free-spirited and I've met a lot of people in my classes that are cool. I also have some people from my high school that came to Tennessee as well, so I've just been catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. It's just been a wonderful experience."
On growing up and playing basketball in Germany
"Basketball in Germany is a lot different. They are more physical and get away with a lot more, like taking three steps instead of two. I played a lot of up-tempo basketball in Germany so that helped to prepare me for Tennessee a little bit."