Media Day - Coach Labati

Head Coach Ferne Labati talked to the media about the upcoming 2004-2005 season. She is excited about the move to the ACC. Coach Labati feels that although her team is young and inexperienced, if they work hard and play good defense, good results will come.

Opening Statement

We are extremely excited to be in the ACC conference. Our team has been preparing since last year. When we lost in the NCAA tournament we immediately shifted our preparation to the ACC. We have a bunch of winners, and winners expect to win. We have a great senior class in, Fallon Phanord, Yalonda McCormick, and Melissa Knight. Unfortunately Melissa Knight got injured during the summer, had surgery on her ACL, and right now it is very tentative if at all she can come back this season. We will make a final decision probably within the next couple of weeks.

We look forward to a great year in the ACC. This team understands that the way we come into the ACC is the way we are going to be perceived. I think the leadership in out senior class will come through. I think Yolanda McCormick and Tamara James will be impact players for us. I think that our non-conference schedule will definitely prepare us for the ACC competition. We are very young, we lack some size, and we lack some depth. We will have to depend on the role players of last year. We have to replace the points that last years seniors scored, and play better defense than last year. I think you are going to see a very exciting team, a scrappy team, a small team. Tamara James will be moved inside, but we will spread the floor more than we did last year. At times we will play four out and one in and even five out and one in. We have several new players that we are looking to help us in the interior, and in 3 point shooting. We don't care where we are going to be picked, we know that every game is going to come down to the wire.

Who will play the five?

What we are looking at is moving Tamara inside to be a 4 and Imani Dhahabu. JoJuana Jones, Tatjana Marincic, these players can come in and play quality minutes. Right now we are in the stages where we are trying to make decisions. Too early to tell, we are not really where we want to be. That's because we lost 45-50 points from last years team. We are trying to rebuild that middle, make it solid enough and get the points on the exterior so that we can average 75-80 points a ball game, and play better defense. If we cannot get to 75 points a game, out defense has to be extremely strong. We have to be a much better defensive team than we had last year. Against bigger opponents, we have to be able to box out and play smart basketball. We are not going to slow it down, but we have to be able to find those points.

How much have you been able to look at the ACC?

As we were preparing for Big East competition last season, we were also gathering tapes, breaking down tapes and breaking down rosters. We were aware of the recruiting process that was going on in the Big East and in the ACC. A couple of things that were important to us in terms of recruiting was determining our regions that we have to work on for this coming year. We are now going into the North Carolina, Virginia, and Washington DC area. I think we can compete with those schools, and I think that our imprint in that area is going to be a major factor in our success.

How are the conferences different?

I think that last year the Big East was a very dominating conference, with eight teams going to the NCAA tournament. You now take 3 of those teams out and move them over to the ACC, and a major shift has occurred. The ACC brought 4 to the tournament last year, so now there are a potential seven teams. With us going into the ACC, it helps their recruiting. The ACC wants to be the number one conference in the nation. I am determined to do my part to make the ACC the number one conference in the nation and surpass the SEC.

What does Tamara James do that make you think she can compete at the 4?

It also really depends who else is on your team. When Tamara played as a freshman, we played a little bit different style, in terms of our offensive sets. The key is we want to be able to get her the ball. If they double and triple team her, it opens up shots for the others. We know we can bring Tamara inside and outside, she can shoot the three point shot, which is a major factor in what we can do in our offensive sets. Our biggest problem right now is getting the young kids to believe in themselves and believe that they can score in games. Our two exhibition games we'll be able to determine the role of our players. This year we will work on all types of combinations.

Is it disappointing to have to start over from scratch in the ACC?

Not really. This team considers it a challenge. This team has a tremendous amount of pride. Last year we felt that we underachieved in the NCAA tournament. We were disappointed when we lost to Maryland. This team will really work hard to set a standard for play of future Hurricane teams. We feel it is unacceptable to be average. We can't guarantee wins, but we can guarantee one thing, that we'll come out and play as hard as we possibly can. We now have a strength and conditioning coach that was with the WNBA. I think that is a major step in our commitment to our student athletes. She's trained MVP's in the WNBA. That is a big plus to our program.

Who are the leaders for this season?

I think Fallon has really stepped up to be the leader on the team. You take a kid that was a role player, and she keeps growing, and over the course of time, when you are a freshman, you just take those steps. She understands leadership. She understands that for us to be successful, the seniors have to lead. The seniors have to keep the enthusiasm and motivation on the entire team, it's their last chance. Everyone on the team plays for those seniors because it is their last statement at the University of Miami.

Do you have anyone penciled in at 2 or 3 yet?

We've tried different combinations. We've tried combinations of Yolanda McCormick, Fallon Phanard, Katie Hayek, Tamara James, and Imani Dhahabu. A key factor is Imani Dhahabu, JoJuana Jones, Amy Audibert, and Lamese James. Out of those four, I feel like 2 of them have to play well for us to win. We have a great point guard in Yalonda McCormick, she can play the 1 or 2.

What is Melissa Knight's situation?

Melissa didn't come back from the off-season in good shape, she was in great shape. The tough thing is that Melissa Knight is an impact player for us. Melissa is capable of scoring 15-20 points a night. So we need other players to step up and fill that void.

How are the freshmen performing?

I think they are going through that freshmen phase where they are thinking so hard that nothing is coming naturally to them. The more reps they get, the better they will be. They need to understand the little things, the little fundamentals. Fundamentally, we have to get better with those freshmen. Those freshmen have to get better fundamentally in order for us to be successful this year, because they are definitely going to play for us this year.

How is the chemistry working so far?

Well, we basically know we have two players who can score for us in Yalonda and Tamara James. We also understand that this year we may need two players to contribute out of one position. It may take a combination of players for us to score our points. As the season progress, we will either expand or decrease our rotation. If we could play nine people, that would be a really great start for us. That will keep everyone fresh and in a position of attacking.

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