Q&A: U of L women's coach Jeff Walz

University of Louisville women's basketball coach Jeff Walz, who led the Cardinals to the 2009 national title game, recently had his contract extended to seven years. Walz talked to Cardinal Authority on a wide range of topics.

CA: First of all, you have to be proud of Angel (McCoughtry) and her playing for a gold medal on the USA Women's Olympic team?

Walz: Oh, it's great for Angel and really big for us. She's a special player and it's such a great experience for her. I'm going to London to watch her. It's going to be very special. She's meant so much to our program.

CA: You had a great year last season despite some injuries, now you head into the new season and there seems to be a lot of expectations?

Walz: We have a lot of experience. I am really excited about fact that Shoni (Schimmel) has been through two years of play in the Big East and in two NCAA tournaments and now comes back as a junior. That experience she has gained, you just can't put a price tag on it. A big thing for us development and improvement of Bria Smith and we need Antonita Slaughter to have a year like she had as a freshman, shooting the ball. Shawnta' Dyer had a groin injury at the end of the season, we're looking for Sherrone Vails to have an bigger year for us. But we have the potential to be pretty good.

CA: You do have some players coming back from injury?

Walz: "We're fortunate to have a lot of key players coming back but at the same time, we're waiting to see how we return from our injuries. Tia Gibbs is rehabbing and coming back. We're hoping she's cleared for the start of practice. Monique Reid has been cleared but is on a restricted basis. Asia Taylor had a labrum tear repaired a month ago and we're hoping she'll be cleared in early December. So we have a lot of questions still with injuries."

CA: So where do you fit in the Big East?

Walz: "If it all comes together and we can stay healthy, I like our chances. Injuries are a part of the game, I understand that we might lose somebody two or three weeks and it might be four. But we can't afford to have two season-ending injuries to two of our top four players again."

CA: What do you like about this group and what do you need to improve?

Walz: "They're a very smart team. We really do have some good kids but we have to learn that we need to cut down our turnover-to-assist ratio. We're going to turn the ball over some because of the way we play, but we can't have all the unforced turnovers like we did in a lot of games last year."

CA: What about the two freshmen: Cortnee Walton and Megan Deines?

Walz: I am really excited about both of them. They have both come in and are pushing some of the older players. They're both going to be good players in our program. Megan gives us some diversity at guard. She gives us a bigger guard, which is something that we really haven't had."

CA: So do you talk to them about higher expectations? Preseason polls or anything like that? Or do you not mention it?

Walz: "We were fortunate to have expectations the past few years. It would not surprise me if we were picked in the top three or four in the Big East again. This team is fine with that as long as we don't lose two top players in the first month of the season and have to rebuild from there."

CA: What about the schedule, how does it look?

Walz: "We have Texas A&M at home, Kentucky at home, we're going to Colorado and at Tennessee-Martin, which will be a very good team. We're going to Puerto Vallarta (the Puerto Vallarta Hardwood Tournament of Hope) and there will be some good teams there, Gonzaga I know is in it. We are going to be challenged. I learned a lot from last year. We spent too much time on the road last year. I learned from that, so we're not going to try that anymore. But I do like this team. If we can manage to stay healthy, I really like our team."

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