"We're very optimistic, in the sense of we have eight returning players and finished the season really strong last year. We have five seniors, all of whom have started games and had success."
"I'm not a coach that spends a lot of time with individual player goals. I have one goal for this team, and that's to play in the NCAA Tournament. My schedule card will say ‘March 13, 2005.' Everything I do every single day will be designed for Selection Sunday, and to get Iowa State's name on a national stage. That's got to be your focus."
"We understand that we have to get better. I have great faith in all of the kids we have coming back, but they have to be a little better. We have to score more points. Last year we averaged 65 points a game and ended up winning 18. If we would have scored five more points a game last year we would have won 10 more games."
"It's not that simple, obviously, but the point is that we need to score more. We've got to make more free throws, score easier baskets, score in transition, score quicker, and score in bunches. We also have to score more on the block, and get some easy points. I have faith that they can do it, but they have to prove they're consistent."
On defensive focus versus offensive focus:
"We gave up 63 points a game, and in a normal year you'd say that's pretty good. That's as good as we've defended. We had to defend great in a lot of games because we couldn't score. Even in games where we looked really bad, we didn't give up a lot of points.
"The challenge is to maintain that balance between still trying to be a solid defensive team, and improve our offense enough that our defense doesn't suffer. Our kids understand that and know the system. Defensively, we can move a little quicker in review and move on to other things offensively.
"I don't think you can be a great offensive team and defensive team. Maybe Tennessee or Connecticut can, but most teams can't. You have to be a little better at one than the other, and I'd much rather be better on offense. Basketball is the only sport where a shutout is not the goal of the defense. People pay money to watch us score, and not guard people. We need to score points, be entertaining, and win games. Seventy percent of our practice will be offense, and 30 percent will be defense. Hopefully that will translate into more wins."
More on importance of offense:
"You've got to score, that's the nature of the game. You've got to guard some. You can't just give up points. But if you're not scoring you're not going to win. I don't care what level it is. At some point you've got to find ways to create offense. I also believe that your offense can make your defense better. In the past, we were a good offensive team and that made our defense better. Other teams knew they had better score, because we were going to score on them.
"That hurt us last year. Our defense was good, but our kids knew we were struggling to score. We had about five or six games where I'd sit through 10, 12, or 14 minutes and not make a basket. We had nights like that. It's hard to believe because we have kids that can make shots. That's the nature of our team. Not saying we'll never have that again, but hopefully it won't be so dramatic and pronounced as last year."
On importance of better play inside:
"I don't think there's any question. Every football coach will tell you that you've got to have a good offensive line and defensive line. That's the way in basketball. All basketball coaches want inside-outside balance. We need to find easy baskets.
"We love to shoot the three and run the ball, but it's a lot easier to make that shot standing underneath the basket. At some point, when you're really struggling, you've got to be able to throw the ball in the block and make a layup or get fouled. It stops the bleeding. We couldn't do that last year enough.
"Without question, Katie Robinette is as talented a kid as we've ever had here. Because of circumstances of transfer and having a child, she's not going to have the greatest career in Iowa State history. But there's no doubt in my mind that she could be as good a single-season player as we've ever had.
"Lisa Kriener has shown great signs and has to get healthy. She's probably the one kid that's lacking the most in health right now. But she needs to get more consistent on the court.
"Brittany Wilkins is a fourth-year junior now and it's time to play. She needs to be a positive force on this team."
On how post production can improve:
"We've got to do a better job of getting people the ball at the right time. Ultimately, the kids have to make the shot. We had a lot of shots on the block, and our percentages were not good enough. A lot of it is running the court and understanding positioning on offense. All of those kids can step away from the basket, and we're going to try that a little bit. They can all make jump shots."
On experience as a positive for this team:
"A lot of people think that experience is a great thing, but if your experience is getting beat then it isn't a good thing. We have a lot of people back – is that good or bad? But on this team, because of the kind of kids we have, it's a great thing. It's a great advantage for us. Our kids are very bright, know how to play, and know what's at stake. Our seniors are well aware of what has not happened the last two years. In our system, it allows us to make some changes on the fly a little better. They know what we're doing.
"I think the success we had at the end of last year really helps. Without the NIT, that experience might not have been as positive a thing. We got to practice extra. We tried to win every single game and win that tournament, but we spent a lot of time in practice working on this year. We were experimenting with different things and different ideas. We used it as a bowl practice kind of thing. I hope that helped us coming into this year."
On trying any new things offensively or defensively:
"We're going to try some different things. We've experimented with a lot of different things. We need to extend our defense a little bit. We're not going to be a full-court pressing team. That's not what we are. We've never played a lot of man-to-man defense here or pressed a lot, but in the past we've scored a lot. If you force long shots and bad shots, transition will come if you don't foul people. There are some things we can do a little different.
"But we're not going to change a lot on defense. Our philosophy will remain the same. There are going to be some subtle things that the casual fan might not notice. Our kids will notice the difference in how we guard the ball and rotate. The bottom line is we need to be more efficient on offense."
On newcomers making an impact:
"Right off the bat, Tegan Stuart will play. She gives us a toughness and another guard. You're definitely going to see her. She can play the one and two. She gives us a defensive presence that a lot of teams have. She's a defensive stopper-kind of kid. Whether or not she can score at this level consistently remains to be seen.
"Lisa Bildeaux and Seirra Dawson are a little bit behind. Lisa had offseason ankle surgery and is slowly working herself back. She wouldn't be ready to play much tonight. Seirra is learning a whole new position. She's played in the post her whole life and is now learning how to play guard. Not that they're good enough or talented enough, but when you look at what's ahead of you and the experience coming back, it's going to be hard to get in there.
"If we had a game tonight and it was a close game. Tegan Stuart might be the only one you'd see. Whether or not Lisa and Seirra can garner some minutes and get in the mix – we'll see in practice. It's hard to play 11 players."
On Anne O'Neil having great year:
"Anne has done so many things at Iowa State, as far as the impact she's made in the community and at the University. But she's never played on an NCAA Tournament team here. That's something she really wants to do. She's worked very hard.
"She's a fifth-year senior and has changed her shot. It takes a lot of work and an odd commitment. She did it at the free throw line last year, and now her 3-point shot is a little different. She'll be a huge part of what we do. She's our leading scorer and can play both guard positions. Physically she's in really good shape. Off the bat, offensively, she and Katie are the two that will have to set the tone."
On O'Neil and Lyndsey Medders, and point guard role:
"Lyndsey Medders is our point guard, no question. Anne is our off guard and can play the backup point guard. We have to make a decision based on what we see in practice, and whether or not Tegan can be a backup point guard or not. The backup point guard would be Anne O'Neil tonight, but her best position is off guard playing away from the ball. We want to get her in position to score, and off guard is her best spot. She feels most comfortable there."
On incorporating more post players into games:
"The best five players have always played here. In a lot of games, we needed to play two post players and couldn't because they weren't the best players. We are going to spend a lot of time in the 19 practices trying to find a matchup, continuity, and some kind of cohesion between Katie, Lisa, Britt, and Tracy Paustian. We have to have a lineup that we can go to when we need a little more size. There is no question we could easily play Lyndsey, Anne, Megan Ronhovde, Mary Fox, and one post player. I have a lot of confidence in that group.
"But last year there were times where we needed to be bigger and different. We couldn't and I didn't have the courage to do it in games. We're going to spend a lot of time with a four and five man in the game, two post players, and see if we can function at both ends of the court. When you play teams like Baylor, Texas Tech, and Texas, it's hard to play them with four guards for 40 minutes."
"We were asking a freshman point guard to play at a very high level, so there were going to be some ups and downs. Physically, she battled a shoulder injury that no one knew how bad it was until Doc Greenwald opened her up and was in shock she could play with it. She lost a lot of weight, and in this league got thrown around pretty hard.
"She'll be better this year, but should be. I think she'll be a lot better because of her experience and with her shoulder. She's gained some weight back. Her mindset is a lot better going into it. I'm expecting her to make another move upwards."
On possible breakout player for this season:
"Mary Fox. She has the chance to be really special. She's an amazing and has had a great fall. She's a senior that understands it all. I've been as hard on Mary Fox as probably any player I've ever coached in my life, and she just keeps coming back for more of it. I think she's going to be somebody that will dramatically impact our team. I'm not trying to jinx her or put any pressure on her. But she's been as good in our workouts as anyone. Between her and Katie, those five points I talked about could be gone in two minutes.
"She's already struggled from a confidence standpoint. It's not because she doesn't think she's good enough. She just absolutely positively doesn't want to let anyone down. If anyone deserves to have a good year, it's her. She's very enthusiastic, upbeat, our fans like to watch her play, and is someone who doesn't hide her emotions on how she plays. She's a fun kid to coach and be around. She's going to be really good."
On Katie Robinette's role:
"Katie will contribute a ton. She's healthy and has been here long enough. Her personal life is great and stable. There's nothing you can point to like you could in the last three years of her life, where there's been something that held her back. She has had a great fall.
"We've got to get some consistency out of her, and number one it was physically. She is harder on herself than anybody, and knew she wasn't playing like she was capable. She was not in the kind of shape she wanted to be in, and stayed here all summer and worked out. She's had a great fall. My expectations are very high for her. And as high as mine are for her, her's are even higher for herself. She's going to do some things that people haven't seen here in a long time."
"The kid needs a break. Not many good things have happened consistently for her, and allowed her to be a basketball player and do what it takes. She's got a lot of God-given talent and really hasn't been able to do that since her senior year in high school. Hopefully this team will benefit from it."
More on Robinette:
"She was recruited by everyone and could have basically gone to any program in the country. The expectations and weight of those is really a bad thing for a young person. Then it doesn't go great at Nebraska and she transfers. Then Caden comes along. That's a very positive thing in her life and he's a great young man, but it set her back again from being a basketball player. She tried to come back last year and wasn't ready. She went out there at 70 to 75 percent and tried to help our team win. But when you don't have success, that's hard when you're 21 years old."
"She has handled it great. She's a very even keeled kid with supportive parents and family. But it's been very hard on her. She'll never show it, but it has been. Hopefully it will come together and she'll have the kind of year that she's capable of having."
"Last year it was kind of weird for her. It was matter of, ‘When do I come back and how do I fit in?' She just shows up in the Washington game. I don't think there is any question that her demeanor is different now, and she's much more upbeat and positive. She's much more confident in her position, and at ease with her teammates. It's made it easier for her to focus on what she needs to do to be a basketball player."