A Q&A With Vic Schaefer

A June 20, 2012 Q&A with Mississippi State head women's basketball coach Vic Schaefer.

How are things going at the moment?
"We had a great team camp over the weekend; we had 27 teams on Saturday. We've had quite a few unofficial visits and have quite a few lined up the next day or two. We've gotten a lot done but a lot still needs to be done."

How you been able to work with your team much since you have been here?
"We were only able to work with them in April but we got a lot done. I love their work ethic. They did everything that we asked them to do. And they are very respectful kids. We didn't have enough players to work five-on-five but typically you are working on skill sets during that period. We worked on ball-handling, dribble drills and shooting. We will need all the possessions we can get so I don't want us to give any away. We did do a few things defensively, but the bottom line on defense is you have to play hard. And I thought the kids worked hard on everything we asked of them."

How about evaluating the team that you have coming back.
"It's not very difficult to do when you had a team that averaged 49 points per game in the SEC and you only have 12 points coming back. The nucleus of our team is five freshmen and we only have one senior. We are a very young basketball team.

"Obviously Martha (Alwal), who was on the All-Freshman team, is someone we will lean on heavily. KG (Kendra Grant) is a very talented guard who played a lot last year. We also have two point guards who will have to learn to do things our way. After that, we are pretty young.

"We have one young lady here out of the original girls that were signed early that is eligible right now. We anticipate one of the other two not making it (academically). The other one Coach Harris has been working with and she has gone from not having a chance to being pretty close (to making it academically). I'm hopeful that we will have a pleasant surprise in the next month or two."

Is rebuilding a term you prefer not using when talking about your team?
"I have a responsibility to the one senior that I have so it's not fair to her to think in those terms. We are going to do everything that we can to win every game on our schedule. That being said, I am anxious to work with the young people that I have and instill some confidence in them. I think it's very important that they have some success early. And we are going to do everything we can to help give that to them."

How much have you been on the road recruiting since you have gotten here?
"We had five days in April when we could be out. Friday, Saturday and Sunday were days that were split among events across the eastern part of the United States. Monday and Tuesday we were out going to actual high schools and watch practices. Obviously, Monday and Tuesday our focus was on the state of Mississippi. It was a great experience for us how well received we were by high schools coaches as well as the recruits.

"Our reception has been very good. I think you will find that people across the country know who we are, how we do things, what we are about. I think there is a level of respect in the coaching profession that we will get it done (at Mississippi State)."

Obviously, you will focus on the state of Mississippi but you have connections in Texas. How much will you look outside the box (recruit-wise)?
"We will look outside the box in a lot of different directions. We are not far from Atlanta and we certainly have a lot of roots in Texas. We will continue to cultivate that area. I think you will see that over the course of the next few years. You don't turn your back on the people who have been very good to you over the course of your career. I think they know that if we chose to be here at Mississippi State, then it must be a great place. And it is."

Last year was a lean year but Mississippi State went to the Sweet 16 just a few years ago. Is that something that you point to when you say it can be done here?
"Absolutely but I think the subsistence of that is you can't go invest so heavily in the junior college ranks. I think that is what took place that year. But that has not been a philosophy of ours. We typically go with freshmen. If there is a junior college player who is good enough to come in and start (then you will look at that player). But you don't want to sign a junior college player who has started 60 or 70 games, then comes in here and has to sit on the bench because they aren't any better than what we already have here.

"I think the consistency comes from signing freshmen, then developing them. When you sign a young person you always want to develop them. We are always trying to find that next great player - and that is our job - but at some point you have an obligation to develop the players that you have. That's our challenge with our first (signing) class. We are going to go find that Fab Five if we can get them. We are going to work with those five, then we are going to combine it with another three if we can get them in the class of 2014. And those two classes are going to be a great foundation in the years to come."

Was there a mental adjustment for you coming from a program like Texas A&M that was so successful to a program like Mississippi State that is trying to get to that point?
"I tell my staff to remind me every day that it is a process. I (also) have to slow down and remind myself of that every day. I see what can be done and what is going to happen here but it is a process.

"The other thing is we have some things that have to be done that haven't been done here. There are some processes in place that are a little archaic. An example is the recruiting database. We just have to change some things.

"In 2010, they went to the Sweet 16. That was a great year. And we need to get back to the Sweet 16 as quickly as we can, but I think there is a better way to do it so you can stay there.

"I've said this on our State tour at every stop, 'I wasn't hired to bring you a top-25 basketball team, I was hired to bring you a top-10 basketball program.' Teams come and go but programs are here to stay. Our first step is to build a top-25 program, then take that to a top-10 program where year-in and year-out we are picked in the top 4 in the SEC and top 20 in the nation. We will have a top-25 recruiting class. That will be how it is and how it is done. But there is a process to that and it doesn't happen overnight."

What are our priorities, 1, 2 and 3 (recruiting-wise), considering the offense has been lean the past few years?
"Everybody knows me as this defensive guy who has had great defenses over the years. And every phone call I get they say she can play great defense. That's great, but I need somebody who can score. We usually recruit offense and teach them how to play defense. We have 12 points coming back; you are doggone right, I'm going to recruit someone who can score. But there is also a certain type player that we need, the makeup of the player, the build of the player. When we had our first team meeting I was looking down at all but two of the players on our team. That's not a first team meeting. We have to change the makeup of our team; we have to get some size and some length. That is one thing of the areas that we talk about in recruiting quite a bit."

What has been the toughest part of the job?
"Catching up on things that we are behind in. There is not enough time for me to talk about all the things. But there are some things that haven't been done. There is a way to do things but they haven't been done that way. I think that has been the biggest challenge for me, just knowing there are some things that have to be done. They are doing those things to the right of me, to the left of me, to the north of me and to the south of me. We need to be doing it that way, too."

Of the unofficial visitors that you have had come in, what has been their impressions of you, your staff and your facilities?
"The big thing with them is they are coming here due to who we are and what we have done in the past and the type program that we have been associated with. They know my involvement in that program over the years. That has been number 1. Number 2, they are coming in due to my staff. These kids and their coaches know my staff and have a great deal of respect for them. They know that if we are here at Mississippi State, then there must be something special that drew us here. They want to see it. Then, once they get here they are blown away. We have had a couple of unofficials that talk about how it's nothing like they thought it was going to be like. They think it's great.

"I think they also see the enthusiasm that we have as a staff when they visit with us. Plus, what they see is what they get. There is no dog and pony show with us. This is my staff. They are good people. They have been part of successful programs. But at the end of the day, they are going to take care of your daughters. I think at the end of the day (these parents) know they can trust us with their daughters. That is what relationships and recruiting is all about. I am going to have to do the same thing with my daughter in two years if she doesn't play for me. I am going to have to sit at a table and trust somebody. That will be difficult for me. Somebody will have to win me over. And that is how I approach it myself. We have to make sure that parents trust us enough to know that we are going to take care of their daughters. At the end of the day that is their baby."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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