Merchant Big Ten Media Day

Entering her seventh season as head coach at Michigan State, Suzy Merchant expects to have a team ready to compete with nine letter winners and three starters returning from a team that won 25 games and earned a trip to the NCAA championship last season.

The following are the comments of Michigan State women's basketball coach Suzy Merchant from Big Ten Media Days.

SUZY MERCHANT: Welcome to a new season and we're excited about our basketball team at Michigan State. We have a good, core group of veterans coming back, and at the same time we have three exciting freshmen.

Q. Coach, two-part question here: First, how is the overall health of your team? Second, can you talk about those new and exciting freshmen?

SUZY MERCHANT: I'll try to remember, you're testing me this early. I just started my caffeine!

We're getting there with the health of our team. I think everybody asks about Madison, and bless her heart after three ACLs she is going to try it one more time.

Right now she is doing a lot more in practice, nothing live but we're hoping within the next month or so to be able to get her out on the basketball court and playing games. We're kind of going with the NBA theory there where we won't do anything live in practice and just put her in the game.

She doesn't like that because she wants to be out there obviously but that gives her a full year of rehab. We have been doing a lot of things with film with her to try to get her where she needs to be. We have been showing her footage of different styles of play with kids that have her size and whatnot as well as what we're doing and then it's kind of interesting, Jim, our sports director did a nice job on -- we had our exhibition game last night and he told her that the last two NFL defensive players of the week both had three ACLs and she was like, "Whoa, I can do that," and she is determined to get out there. Jasmine Hines has a concussion. She he has been out five weeks, broke her nose and has post concussion syndrome.

Our transfer from Auburn, Camille Glymph, who sat out last year and was eligible to play this year as a stretch reaction in her back. We hope to have her back eventually as well. The exciting freshmen, Aerial and Branndais were both freshmen, both are back. Aerial started for us last night as an exciting face-up four man, very athletic. Branndais brings that toughness. She is long and lean on the perimeter and she does a nice job of getting to the rim as well as rebounding and our true freshman was "Miss Basketball" in the state of Michigan and she opened up last night with 27 points. Not sure what that means but she has a great range. That was what we were missing sometimes last year. She can extend the defense and not a bad showing for a freshman on game night in a college uniform. It's exciting. They're going to have their ups and downs but we like what they bring to our team.

Q. Klarissa Bell, a lot of seniors graduated last year, Alice Bentley, Tailer Hill and it's just a year when people like Klarissa Bell can rise to the level of those kids and get more recognition, I guess?

SUZY MERCHANT: Yeah, I think the thing with Klarissa, we have had such amazing talent in the league and still do. There are a lot of high-powered upperclassmen and seniors in particular. I feel like she has flown under the radar because she does a nice job defensively anytime you're focused on that side of the ball. Sometimes you don't always get the credit but she does a good job. She is a balanced player and not as dynamic of a scorer as other kids and maybe that's why she hasn't been breaking through some of those things but now is a good opportunity. I think her name is out there, she has put the work in and the time and she is a talented young lady and I think this could be a year for her to step forward.

Q. With Schiffauer and Thomas leaving not necessarily a bulk of your production but more identified, Schiff was so tough inside and Jasmine started to come along in terms of her leadership last year. Who will need to kinda fill those voids and what do you see in identity and leadership?

SUZY MERCHANT: Annalise and Klarissa are our captains and those kids are experienced players, certainly, but you're right. They're now seniors, the clock is ticking and what you saw – Schiff has always been that tough kid anyway, what she didn't have in talent she made up for in hustle and toughness and physicality and Thomas came around as the end was coming. She had this will to win that everybody got behind. She did it just by actions, mostly. Klarissa and Annalise are two of the hardest working kids I've ever had in my program so when you have senior leaders that work extremely hard, I think that will allow our other kids to jump into the fray and that's what seniors do. They have to have a will to win and allow others to jump into the fray and compete as hard as they can and inspire the others on the team to do so. I have all the confidence in the world that although those two brought different dynamics, I think Klarissa and Annalise can pick up in different ways that will certainly make an impact on our team, but those two will be missed, for sure.

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