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TRANSCRIPT OF BALCOMB'S COMMENTSOpening statement:
We start practice on Friday and I'm excited about the possibilities of a new season. Like for every coach this time of year, it's exciting and we are looking forward to beginning. With the new rules, a lot of you probably had questions about when we are starting or when other programs are starting. We didn't start (early), we just did some team workouts, probably a few more than we've done in the past. We actually stayed with the rules that we've always had in place, and we are really going to have our first official open practice on Friday at 10 a.m.
I'm really looking forward to our senior class. Jence Rhoads, Hannah Tuomi and Rebecca Silinski have already been named captains. Hannah and Jence, especially, have had unbelievable careers here. They are two of the hardest workers and best leaders that I've ever coached. I'm excited about the possibility of what they can do as seniors and leaders.
After our seniors we have Jordan Coleman back, who tore her ACL last year, and in that same junior class is Angela Puleo, a transfer (from Georgia).
Nine out of our 14 players are freshmen or sophomores. It is officially the youngest team that I've ever coached here, but at the same time, I have great experience. I'm excited about the experience in between that our sophomores have because we have Elan Brown, Tiffany Clarke and Gabby Smith, who all as freshman, at some point started for us.
Really if you look at the end of the season, four of our five starters are returning. There is a lot to look forward to. We also have incoming players that you probably might not have read too much about yet as freshman. We have one local player from Smith County, Kayci Ferriss, who is 6-foot-8. Yes, I said 6-foot-8, but right now she has a stress fracture, so we will probably redshirt her this year. We added a lot more height. The last two years, we called it ‘small ball' because all we did was play a lot of guard-oriented basketball. We played four guards or five guards all the time.
Now we are going to be able to get back to our high-low and try to have an inside-outside game, and some defensive rebounding that was much needed that we used to have in the past. It is kind of getting back to the old for us.
We have Stephanie Holzer returning, who is 6-foot-4 and was a high school All-American who broke her ankle last year. She is healthy. We have Tori Jarosz from New York that is a freshman who is 6-foot-3, 6-foot-4. She is healthy. We have Clair Watkins from Charlotte, who is 6-foot-3, 6-foot-4. She is healthy. Right now it is just Kayci Ferriss who is injured.
We also brought in two guards in that class. Christina Foggie is a 5-foot-8 guard from New Jersey and Jasmine Lister, a 5-foot-5 point guard that should help Jence Rhoads. I think Jence Rhoads is now what I call a ‘player' and not just limited to a position. I think we will be able to use her in a lot of other ways now that we have a point guard coming in as a freshman in Jasmine Lister.
That is our lineup and you guys have seen our schedule. We obviously have a lot of tough games on the road, which is the usual. It is very tough to get teams to come in here and play.
On getting all the newcomers to mesh quickly:
I think it is going to be really important. I kind of look back when Dee (Davis) and Carla (Thomas) were freshmen and we had a senior class with really strong leadership and they just blended in with Hillary (Hager) and Jenni (Benningfield). I'm kind of looking for the middle to keep it together. I think Jordan Coleman and Stephanie Holzer are key because they are kind of the glue in between to pull the young and the new. I'm giving them a lot more off the court expectations just like with Hannah, Jence and Rebecca.
On playing multiple post players at the same time:
I hope to get back to the days when we had a complement to our post player like when we had Chantelle (Anderson) and Jenni Benningfield. Then it was Jenni Benningfield and Ashley Earley, and you had Carla Thomas and Ashley Earley. When we had Christina Wirth, we didn't have that complement. Our complement was Hannah Tuomi, who was 5-foot-11. When your best post player is 5-foot-11 — that is tough. You don't really have to double team a 5-foot-11 post player who likes to play with her back to the basket. Hannah is going to have a complement and those complements are going to be big. It is going to more like Ashley Earley when she was 5-foot-9, 5-foot-10 and she played with her back to the basket.
The complement might be 6-foot-4 this year, but what I'm looking to do is see which post players work better in the Nos. 4 and 5 positions and really have more of a traditional 4 and 5 high-low instead of everything four out or five out.
I think offensively we will have a lot more choices, and I think that the ‘mad scientist' offensive person that I am, as my assistants would say, is looking forward to being able to do a lot more things and be a lot more creative on offense.
On finding three-point shooters to replace Merideth Marsh:
Angela (Puleo) is shooting the ball really well, and she was one of the best shooters in the country when she was at Georgia. She just makes shots. I think Gabby Smith and Elan Brown are right behind her. Jence (Rhoads) has extended her range to three-point which is going to make her a lot more effective, and we'll be able to use her off the ball sometimes as long as we can get Jasmine Lister in there and use her quickness off the dribble that she possesses.
On if it is becoming more important to have bigger players in women's basketball:
I think you have to have height. When you look at teams that were in the Final Four, they were not five-guard oriented teams. We had so many injuries and then didn't get the job done recruiting to get the size that we wanted. Wen we did last year with Stephanie Holzer, she got injured and didn't play a game.
I do think that in the women's game you have to have some height, but it has to be more versatile than it used to be. They have to be able to possess a face-up game as well as an inside game, which is what we've always done, and that is hard to find recruiting. A lot of kids can either play inside or out, but to play both, those are potential WNBA players because that is what they have to do at the next level.
On if Kayci Ferris' injury is the same as it was last year:
Yes, it was not reinjured.
On if she likes having the challenges in the non-conference schedule:
I have always tried to have that challenge early. Some years were a little better than others depending on who says yes and where we decide to go. A lot of our games are for our players, we play where are players are from. Like with USC coming here this year, we will go back out there because we have another California kid. We go where our players are from. We've added two more SEC games, so now you don't have a lot of flexibility with those other non-conference games. We've tried to play the academic schools in Cal, Notre Dame and Duke over the years, and working in USC. We've been asked to play in the SEC/ACC Challenge which is why you see Florida State in there.
I think you have to go out and play people on the road anyway. I would love to get them home obviously, but I think you better not go into the SEC and play a game on the road at a Tennessee in front of 21,000 people or at Kentucky or Auburn and some of these programs that are really starting to draw. You can't go into that game without having had that experience before, whether it is a positive or negative, I want to make sure my players have that experience.