Stanford and Oklahoma Quotes from San Antonio

On the eve of the Sweet 16, coaches and players from both Stanford and Oklahoma sat down to answer exhaustive questions from the media. In particular, Tara VanDerveer and Sherri Coale were asked about every angle of Saturday's match-ups. The dominating topic of conversation was unsurprisingly Oklahoma freshman phenom Courtney Paris...

Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer

Opening comments

"It's pretty simple.  We are very happy to be here.  We are healthy; we are playing well; and we know we have a big challenge.  We are ready to go."

On Courtney Paris and her play as a freshman

"I am not sure that there has been another player like her who had made an immediate and such a great impact as she has.  Her numbers are incredible.  I also think it's a compliment to the people she plays with and to the Oklahoma coaching staff on how she has developed as a freshman and how she is being used.  I saw her as a high school player, and I also saw her on the USA Team, and she's really come on strong.  I cannot think of any other freshman who has played that position and posted those kind of numbers."

On offensive similarities between Stanford and Oklahoma

"We are kind of similar teams, knowing that we both like to run, and we also go outside - we go inside to Brooke Smith and Kristen Newlin.  We both have good three-point shooters.  In some respects, they don't have a lot of seniors.  We are a pretty young team, and they are a young team.  The type of numbers that Courtney is posting - we don't have anyone on our team doing that.  She really is kind of the "X" factor."

On Oklahoma's balance of performers alongside Courtney Paris in each game

"I guess they do have more than one player, obviously.  Chelsi Welch is a great shooter for them.  They bring people off the bench like [Kendra] Moore, and then there's the point guard, [Britney] Brown.  But, we've got to play the numbers.  We've got to look at who has consistently done well for them and try and take away their strength.  At the same time, I think you can really get distracted with them.  We're here for a reason, too.  We've got to really just concentrate on doing the things that we've done well all season.  We're going to need a couple of different people stepping up for us."

On the advantage of having players familiar with Courtney Paris, plus watching Oklahoma play last week in Denver

"It is important and an advantage in that, first of all, someone like Candice [Wiggins] has played against and with her in high school.  She's seen our team a lot, too.  I think being in Denver with them in the first and second round - it's different when you see someone on tape and when you see them play in front of you in person.  Courtney is much more impressive in person.  I thought our players were really paying attention this week in practice.  They saw [her play] in person and they said, 'Wow.  OK, we know what we need to do.'"

On the frequency of Stanford and Oklahoma playing in recent years

"It started because we had a player for us [Sarah Dimson, 1998-2001] from Oklahoma City.  Then, the NCAA fueled it by putting them in our bracket, like four times.  I think we have a good, positive rivalry.  I think we'd like to play them again, especially with Courtney and Ashley [Paris] being from the Bay area.  So hopefully we can keep it going."

On Candice Wiggins and her strengths

"Candice is a great leader for us, scoring and playing defense and doing all the things a great player does.  I feel just like probably Oklahoma feels - we are more than just Candice Wiggins.  Brooke Smith has done really well; Kristin Newlin, Krista Rappahahn and our freshman have done well.  It's a team game.  It's great when you have a great player who can lead the way for you and who you can depend on to get baskets, but it is more than one player."

On the defense of Brooke Smith and Kristen Newlin

"I think Brooke has really improved her defense, and Kristin Newlin works really hard at it, too.  Having said that, we'll see tomorrow I guess, huh?"

On the NCAA Tournament dunks by Candace Parker

"So much is made of the dunk.  We actually had some of our male managers say, 'Wow, that was a nice dunk.'  Well, yeah, it wasn't like a dunk that you go in and throw down with two hands.  She didn't go in and hit the back and have it jack out like some people do.  I think it is exciting for the women's game.  It's something that I feel sometimes that the women are: darned if you do, darned if you don't.  If you don't dunk, the game's boring.  And if you do dunk, then it wasn't a good dunk.  If it brings excitement and attention to the women's game, I think it is good.  Is it the meat and potatoes of our women's game?  No."

On getting veteran players to buy in on a freshman star

"That is a really great question, and from what I can see, our team welcomed and embraced Candice Wiggins.  And I think the Oklahoma team did the same thing with Courtney Paris.  They are a team that was in the middle of the Big 12 last year.  I am sure that Leah Rush, more than anyone, wanted Courtney and Ashley in the middle so she could play her natural position again.  The players who want to win will welcome the great players to the team.  Courtney seems mature and is someone who seems to be all about the team.  She seems exceptional like Candice was exceptional for us last year."

On simulating Courtney Paris in Stanford practices

"We are fortunate that we have a young man, one of our practice players, who goes about 6'2", 220.  We told him to eat a lot and come back bigger the next day.  Really, we studied a lot of tapes on teams that they have played.  Honestly, our focus is on helping our post defense.  At the beginning of the year, we put in a system that would get us ready to play against great post players.  So, we really focused on our stuff as much as theirs - we didn't have a lot of time.  It's really important for us to stick to our game plan and not get caught up in what they do."

On both team's guard tandems

"For anyone who has watched us play this year, our team development came with the development of our freshman point guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude.  Both she and Candice - they have developed good chemistry, and they have a great bond.  Candice is a great role model for a young player like Ros.  They do play really well together.  When you talk about Brown and Chelsi Welch or Erin Higgins for OU - we both play three-guard lineups.  Those three people together are very similar to us.  Brown runs their offense; Roz runs our offense.  Welch & Higgins and Wiggins & Rappahahn are the three-point shooters.  How they screen for each other and how they play together has been the key to our development."

On playing Oklahoma

"Rivalries are great for the game, whether it be Tennessee and Connecticut or us and Oklahoma.  We are trying to develop those out-of-conference games and rivalries.  It's important, and with TV having more games on, it helps.  We want people on the East Coast to know about Candice Wiggins and Brooke Smith.  I would like to play Duke, North Carolina, DePaul, LSU and bring them out West and grow the game, so to speak."

On any surprises in Courtney Paris' development

"I don't know if there is any single thing that surprises me.  She is very efficient.  She has great hands, and her footwork has improved a lot.  She doesn't waste a lot of motion.  She reads doubles very well, passes well.  She doesn't seem to get frustrated.  She doesn't foul a lot.  She is exceptional and mature.  Coming from an athletic family, I think probably helped her a lot.  I love watching her play, except for when I'm on the other bench."

Sophomore guard Candice Wiggins

On a gameplan to stop Courtney Paris

"I don't know if there is one.  She is so dominant.  You have to double her.  One on one, she is the most dominant player I've seen on the low block.  No one has been able to figure it out.  I think the best way is to go two-on-one, I guess."

On foreign opponents' ability to stop Courtney Paris last summer with Team USA

"Well, we had a size advantage all the time, so no.  The opponents seemed intimidated.  They could not stop her and mostly were confused when going against her.  She could do whatever she wanted to do.  We were a really, really good team, with a lot of great players."

On the adjustment and acceptance as a freshman superstar

"I wasn't really a leader last year, and I went off the experiences of my older teammates.  My experience was the best.  I never felt like my role should be any different than it was.  There was no bitterness.  We wanted to win, and that's what we cared about each day.  For us, we never know things like who the leading scorer is in a game, or who has the most rebounds.  That's not our focus, and everyone accepts what is working for us."

On knowing Courtney Paris and seeing her play in person in Denver

"It was helpful for all of us to see her in person.  Courtney brings great energy to the floor, and in person you see that.  When she gets a stop, or a basket, or a block, the players around her get picked up and get energized.  That is what we got from watching Oklahoma in person.

"Four years ago, I met Courtney.  I was a sophomore and she was a freshman, and we played in the state championship game at the Arco Center.  The captains met early, and when I saw her, I said, 'Oh my gosh!'  She was so imposing.  But, she is very different off the court than on the court.  She is funny and a real genuine person."

Redshirt junior center Brooke Smith

On playing in the post against Courtney Paris

"We know she has great hands and is really strong in the low post.  I played against others this summer and in the past like her.  Offensively and defensively, you have to read what you get from her and then go after her."

On the offensive strengths of the Stanford team

"We have scoring inside and great shooters outside, with Ros, Kristen and Candice.  We can hit from the outside as well as Oklahoma."

Junior forward/center Kristen Newlin

On playing against Courtney Paris and the guards of Oklahoma

"The whole team, not just one player, has been working hard on defense this week.  We will keep working at it and will try to contain her.  Like Brooke said, Courtney blocks well and has great hands.  But the guards for Oklahoma are strong as well.  Welch and Rush and Higgins - they move well without the ball.  And Brown, the point guard, gets lay-ups off the double-team in the post.  They make you pay for that when you double."

On Stanford's offensive strengths

"We have confidence in our team to knock down shots when we need them.  That helps even things out in the court in terms of post play and guard play."

Oklahoma head coach Sherri Coale

Opening comments

"It's great to be back in San Antonio.  When we rolled into town from the airport, I saw the Alamodome and I was flooded with really fond memories of this city and the neat things we were able to be a part of in 2002.  It's just a neat place to hold an event.  The City of San Antonio really wraps its arms around sporting events in particular.  There is a life and a spark to this city that is different from every place else we've ever been.  We're excited to be here and look forward to the opportunities and challenges that await us."

On the similarities between the two teams

"Stanford is similar in that they have a terrific post player that they throw the ball to a lot.  She's very productive there.  I'm not sure we have a Candice Wiggins on our roster.  I'm not sure how far those similarities go, but Stanford is a typical Stanford team.  They've got a tremendous three-point shooter, a great post player, they run the floor, play hard and get after you defensively.  It's just a typical, very well-coached Stanford team."

On the problems Candice Wiggins creates

"She creates all kinds of problems because she can do so many things.  She's really, really good in transition.  She can shoot the three.  She can get to the rim.  Probably the greatest problem she poses is her ability to get into the middle of the lane and elevate over smaller guards and jump up over you and shoot.  She's really got all three phases of the game, and that's a little bit rare in women's basketball.  There are a lot of challenges she poses."

On comparing Courtney Paris to the all-time greats of college basketball

"I've been asked that over and over, and I don't know that I've been in the college game long enough to give you the kind of answer you deserve to that question.  I've only watched tape of Anne Donovan, Cheryl Miller and Lynette Woodard and the list of the truly greats.  That having been said, I look at Courtney's numbers and her consistency and the number of really spectacular things I've been blessed to watch her do over the course of the season, and I don't know she could be very far behind, if any, of those names I just mentioned.  It remains to be seen what she will do with the rest of her career obviously, but for her freshman season, I don't think there has been anyone who can touch what she has done."

On how the team has accepted the attention given to Courtney Paris

"Our team has accepted that beautifully.  They read, they watch TV, they see how she is showcased, but when we are at practice she is just like everybody else.  She gets yelled at when she doesn't block out.  They get on her just like they do everybody else.  She is a normal kid, a normal piece of the team.  Our team was ready for her - I've said this a number of times.  Our group was ready for the arrival of Courtney Paris, and I mean that tangibly and intangibly."

On the non-conference schedule preparing them for the conference schedule

"We're very fortunate that our pre-conference schedule ended up the way it did.  Everybody during the summer was saying, 'Who are you playing?' and 'What are you doing?'  'What are you thinking?'  By the time August got here, I didn't know what I was doing or what I was thinking, but that kind of schedule prepared us for the Big 12.  I feel strongly that the Big 12 schedule has continually prepared us for the NCAA Tournament.

"It's one of the reasons we've had the success we've had, because every single night of the Big 12 you're challenged.  Their maturation and learning curve were sped up a little because of the caliber of competition that we faced from November through the first of March.  No doubt that over the Christmas holidays when we suffered those two losses right before the break, that's when we became a team.  There's no doubt about that."

Redshirt junior guard Erin Higgins

On the attention given to Courtney Paris

"Courtney's numbers speak for themselves as to why she gets all the media attention.  There's not any person on this team that worries about who is getting interviewed.  Courtney has earned every bit of attention she has gotten.  I don't think anybody would argue about that.  She's completely humble and down to earth.  It doesn't go to her head.  She's earned everything that she has gotten."

On how the guard play on the team has matured

"It's huge.  Courtney's play in the post is physical, so people are going to have a hard time scoring on her.  On the perimeter, we have to be able to hold our own.  A lot of times we guard, we're guarding collectively, not individually or one-on-one."

Junior guard Britney Brown

On Candice Wiggins

"Erin will start on her, but we're going to have a bunch of people try to stop her defensively.  She's a great player.  We're just going to have to try to limit her touches as much as we can and just try to slow her down."

On memories of playing Stanford

"We're really excited to play Stanford again.  We owe them for knocking us out two years ago.  We're really excited and we're going to go out and play our best."

"I feel really confident right now about where we are, where the team is.  Over Christmas our team really picked it up.  I think that's where all this started.  We're playing harder; we're more confident.  We're on a winning streak right now, and I think that makes us more confident."

Freshman center Courtney Paris

On matching up with Brooke Smith

"I just have to be physical with her.  She's a finesse post.  She's very good.  I just really have to pay attention to her and try to push her out and make it tougher for her."

On her freshman season

"I'm a confident basketball player, so I expected to play well.  I thought I would average 15 to 25 points a game, so I guess I'm not living up to my standards [grins].  The off-court stuff, the attention I'm getting - I wasn't aware of it.  I guess I wasn't expecting any of the off-court stuff."

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