"I think that Tan has exerted herself the past two years. She has been one of the top players in the SEC. This year, she is an upper classmen. She is going to step up. She has always been a great player. She has really been working on her game. She will be more of a leader this year."
How do you think LaToya's leaving will change your game this year?
"I think last year I was definitely a defensive player. I guarded some of the top players in the SEC. Coach Fanning has said that I have to produce on offense (this year). I worked in my off-season on my offensive game. I come in early and shoot with Coach. (Offense) will be a big part (of my game). I really think we are going to be such a balanced team. We have top players like Tan and Tiana (Burns), a juco player. We have Mamie (McKinney) coming back. Tiffany Burton gave us great minutes last year. Even if they don't start, they will produce a lot. We also have two freshmen post players coming in."
You are about 6-0 tall and go against much taller girls in the SEC. Talk about having to go against bigger girls in the SEC.
"Originally I was recruited at Mississippi State as a three-guard, then I got moved to the post position, which is fine with me. It is a lot tougher and more physical, especially in the SEC where they are known for big girls that are 6-5 and 6-6. Some teams have three girls over 6-4 in their lineup like Georgia. It is a fight. I know that going into the game. I know this year will be tough down in the paint. That is something that we expect. We just have to use our strengths against their weaknesses. If they are big and tall, then maybe we just need to run a little bit more."
Do you relish the role of being a defensive stopper inside? Was that a role of yours while in high school?
"Yes, I would say that was something that I did in high school. (However) in high school, I was more of an offensive player (than I am here). I was probably more balanced on both ends. I think (playing defense) is one thing that maybe players don't focus on as much because they focus more on scoring and offense. It makes me feel good when a girl who is scoring 25 points per game only scores 10 points or less against me."
How do you adjust your defense against a 6-3 to 6-6 girl? It seems like a girl that tall would be able to go over you.
"Last year, I guarded a girl from Vanderbilt who was very tall. Like I said, what my strengths are, maybe she is not so good at. When they are on offense and I am on defense, and they take me down, I just have to hold my own and be sure not to bring them too low where they can get me in that position. One thing we work very hard on in practice is not allowing the post players to get to the low block. It is tiring because they are bigger and stronger but we seem to do alright."
Do you think it will be more difficult for teams to develop a gameplan as far as MSU's offense is concerned since, in the past, they could key on LaToya and Tan?
"I think so. Teams in the past have been able to run a triangle and two, kind of a dummy defense on us because we had two main players. And the other players didn't produce as much. We would catch ourselves standing and watching LaToya or Tan do things. It was tough for them to guard LaToya because she was such a great player, but (with this team) you don't know what night what player will step forward. One night, Tan might have 20 points and maybe the next night they are keying on her and Tiana will have 20. Then, the next night Mamie will do well. You aren't going to know this year who is going to be the one."
Talk a little more about MSU signee junior college All-American guard Tiana Burns. How does here game compare to Tan's?
"They are similar. They are both quick with the ball. They get up and down the court very well. Both are amazing rebounders. They can rebound with about the best of them. Neither one of them are tall but they have great quickness and jumping ability. Both penetrate very well and have good shots. The difference is Tiana is more of a point guard and Tan is more of a shooting guard."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher and owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial site for Mississippi State sports since October, 1996. He can be reached by email at email@example.com