Chantelle: (Laughs.) A lot! It's funny. When I was a freshman, I said, "Tammy, don't give me any interviews!", and I was like, "Coach Foster, I'm not doing them. NEVER! I'm not doing it." He was like, "Okay, you're taking a public speech course." So I took a public speaking course. The problem is, I was SO shy that -- (laughs) -- this is bad, but -- I was so shy that I got so nervous when I did my first speech, I skipped my class the day I was supposed to do my first speech. Not because I didn't have it done, but because I was so nervous.
VM: That's so funny, because you seem so naturally at ease speaking to the public.
Chantelle: Well, that's what people say, but I've always been so shy in front of people, so I was just scared. What was funny was the teacher was friends with Coach Foster. So I went and talked to him and explained to him what had happened. I was like, "It's not that I didn't have it done, I promise! I just got really scared. I'm really nervous." And he was like, "Okay." Well, then Coach Foster of course explained to him why I was taking the course -- because I was nervous and shy and needed the experience. So my freshman year when I got the MVP award and had to say something at the banquet, that was my makeup speech for that class, because I had skipped that first speech.
But I've always been really shy, and I guess a lot of the fans interpret that as kind of stand-offish. I've never been like Zuzi and Jillian. I know they went around and said "Hi" to all the fans and stuff. It's not because I don't care or because I don't like them, but I've just always been kind of shy and self-conscious -- not around people I know, but around people I don't know.
VM: It's funny, because we -- us fans -- watch you on TV, like down in Texas at the Final Four last year when you were on camera on ESPN, and we were all, "Ah, Chantelle, we're so proud of her, she's does such a good job of representing Vanderbilt." You'd never know that it's not a completely natural thing for you.
Chantelle: That's what everyone tells me, and it's funny because when the camera comes on -- I mean, I used to be really nervous in front of the camera, but when the camera comes on, it's fine. It's just around people that I panick around. Not so much now, obviously, I'm a lot better at it, but I'm still a little shy.
VM: You really did have a hard act to follow in that way. In the history of the Vanderbilt program, Zuzi and Jillian must have been in the 99th percentile in terms of going around and circulating, and they were also very "huggy".
Chantelle: Yeah, I've never been like that. Not at all. Well, around my teammates and around my friends, but I've never felt comfortable just going up and talking to people. But it's not that I don't care. I hope people know that.
VM: Well, it doesn't hurt for you to say it.
Chantelle: Yeah, I'll probably say something at the banquet. I have been so supported here.
VM: Also, I think people have been a little in awe of you --
Chantelle: Yeah, that too, and that makes me even more like "I don't know what to say". (Laughs.)
VM: -- 'cause you're famous, and you're big and you're tall-- in case you didn't know. (Both laugh.) Speaking of tall, on to what I was actually planning to talk to you about. You have this game coming up that has some tall, tall players.
Chantelle: Okay, I looked at the roster, and I was like, "How are you going to have a 6'8 girl on the floor and a 6'7 girl coming off the bench -- and then a 6'5 girl?!" I was like, "What!? What is going on?"
VM: Have you played against--
Chantelle: Georgia. They've got 6'6 and 6'5. The Georgia posts are probably much more athletic than these girls, so I'm not worried at all.
VM: Is that something you look forward to? Is this kind of a fun prospect?
Chantelle: Yeah, I'm excited. I really am. Like I was telling Tony [Anthony Lane, beat writer for the Nashville City Paper], I think that the matchup has actually helped. It has helped a lot because when you see the bracket come out, your eyes immediately go to when could we possibly play UConn, so I was like, "Okay, Chantelle, work to keep yourself focused. Make sure you keep yourself focused on Liberty first." Well, when I found out they had a 6'8 center and a 6'7 center, it got my attention! And I haven't even thought about UConn since then. So I think has definitely helped, and I'm really excited. Although I think we have the advantage in this matchup, I'm really excited to prove it.
VM: Changing the subject, we saw in the paper this morning that Nicole was suspended. You've been a close-knit group this year, so how does this affect you, and, as a senior on the team, how do you help your teammates deal with it?
Chantelle: What did it say in the paper, so I don't say too much?
VM: It just said that she was suspended for violation of team rules without specifying any further, and that she can't travel, can't practice, and won't be playing in the NCAA tournament. And then they gave some stats, but that's about all.
Chantelle: Well, it just sucks for her -- you probably can't say that, but I don't know how to say that another way -- because this is the funnest part, the most fun of the whole season starts right now. And it's just sad that somebody can go through a whole season and work that hard, and then this is the reward, and they can't participate.
But at the same time, she brought that on herself, and so the coaches really had no choice. So it's a difficult situation. I don't really know what to say or how to deal with it as a senior leader. I've just been really working on keeping everyone together, keeping us confident, keeping us focused, working hard in practice, and it's definitely paying off. Our practices have been great ever since the SEC tournament.
VM: It looks great, watching you against the guys. How far have you all come since that first scrimmage back in October?!
Chantelle: Oh, so far! I'm so excited because I can finally practice, and I've noticed a huge difference in myself.
VM: So your foot is feeling better?
Chantelle: Well, it's feeling better, but I was like, "You know, I've sat out, I've re-habbed, I've taken medicine, I'm wearing this boot everywhere I go, and it still hurts. So you know what? I don't care, I'm practicing." So it's a combination of both -- that attitude and the fact that my recovery time between workouts is a lot better. So it hurts now, but it'll be fine by tomorrow. So that's helped a lot. But the difference is amazing. I've never appreciated practice so much in my life.
But -- back to Nicole. I think the worst effect it has on our team is that you look at our post players: Ashley's knee still hurts from surgery, like post-surgery, it swells up, it hurts. Jenni's knees always hurt. Jutta's foot is hurt. My foot is hurt. You look at our post players, and that's four post players, all hurt, that have to go every single play in practice. The guards already have to go, we only have ten people, so that's just rough on your team. But at the same time, I think our coaches have done a great job of managing the fact that we do have ten players. And they realize that we have injuries, and they realize that it's the end of the season, and while our practices are intense, they're two hours. So you can go hard for two hours if you're hurt, and that's good. So I think they've done a great job, but at the same time I think that people need to think about how their actions affect the team, and hopefully she'll learn that.