Q: What are you expecting for your senior year?
A: Im expecting excellence, of history being broken, or actually history being made. Im expecting a total breakout year. The other seniors and I, weve been through a lot together. Weve come together as teammates, and we know well be friends forever; but in terms of basketball, weve worked hard and we want this year to be great.
Q: Whats your role on the team this year?
A: My primary role is to be a leader. We have a lot of new kids, which can be nerve-wracking at times because they dont know stuff. The great thing about them is they offer us things that were missing and that we need, so theyre all going to have a definite impact. Its really important for me to show them, "Youre good. We need you. This is the right way to go about it," so that we can move forward as one team.
Q: Where did you learn your leadership skills? Who has helped you to become
A: Ive been fortunate to have such a great coaching staff that focuses on helping us off the court as well. Coach (Caren) Horstmeyer and former coach (Barb) Smith, have had us reading books on leadership and team-building together for the last couple of years, going to workshops together, and developing all of us together as leaders for our team. Theyve really instilled a lot of those values -- a lot of those traits in me and in KI [Kristin Iwanaga] especially, and now with Kiki [Williams]. Since my freshman year, Coach has pushed me to step outside of myself and think about the team.
Q: So just as youre helping the freshmen now, who helped you when you
first got to Cal?
A: The team was completely different back then. My first two years here, it was more of a fend-for-yourself type of thing. But Kiki helped; she was a year ahead of us. But really, I mostly looked to KI; were really good friends off the court. As soon as we got here, we had an immediate connection in the fact that we came from winning programs. So we looked to each other in terms of "what do you do to get this player or that player to perform better?" So KI has been my closest leadership partner.
Q: What are your personal on-the-court goals for this year?
A: I want to be an immediate threat inside and out. My inside game has really developed and thanks to Coachs help, I really feel comfortable going up against bigger people every night, people who weigh 50 pounds more than me. But I really want to transfer that to my outside game too. My goal this year is to be a complete player, so that I will create mismatches on the court.
Q: It would certainly free you up to play outside more if [frosh center]
Jessica Lawson develops into a solid presence down low
A: Last year, as soon as she stepped on campus [for her recruiting visit], I said, "I need you to come take my spot." Its not that I feel that I dont do a good enough job, but she just possesses things that I can never do. Besides just scoring and rebounding, when people drive toward the basket, she changes their shots. Shes a defensive presence, and thats something weve been really lacking over the years. That will make our team better. So Ive been working with her since shes got here so she knows her role. Also, I want her to think of herself as a "newcomer" instead of a "freshman" because thats going to take our team that much further.
Q: What about the other "newcomers"?
A: As a unit, theyre really hard workers. Theyre positive; they expect to win, which is important when youre not coming off a great record. One can get used to losing really quickly, so its great that they believe in Cal and where were going. Our team is so close this year, and we all love the new people. Theyre just so receptive. Theyre just great representatives for Cal basketball. Individually Krista Foster is so strong, and I dont think Ive ever seen her go slower than one hundred percent, even in warm-ups. Shes really aggressive and a natural leader. Brio Rode from New Mexico is an excellent shooter, which as a post player, that makes my job easier because I wont have four people sagging in on me, which is something weve struggled with in the past. Shes a nice size, which will help too. But we have to get her healthy.
Kelly OConnell is from Colorado, she's little but really feisty and shes also a great shooter. And Seda [Erdogan], I love Seda, shes so great. Shes just a really cool person. Her English is sometimes off, which makes for some funny moments. And she just loves our team. Shes been injured so I havent seen her play, but I hear shes also a great shooter as well. And Ami [Soumare], shes great. Its so funny, because the old Ami, Ami Forney, she and I are really good friends; we hang out all the time. So when I talk to people, I have to say, "Ami, the real Ami, the original Ami, or you know, the new Ami, Ami Jr.," it gets so confusing. But Ami is so great. Were used to the foreign players always being olderTimea is older, Nihan is older, Olga is so much olderand Ami is older too but shes so much fun. I really hope she gets healthy soon. She has a solid body and shes a great shooter and shell really help us.
In Part 2, Gregory will discuss recruiting, D.J. Williams, and the billboards
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