Women's Hoops: Hillary Hager Interview

After Monday's practice, junior guard Hillary Hager talked with VandyMania about practices with the new coaching staff -- and why she's eating Ben & Jerry's ice cream in this picture.

VM: Hillary, you've had three practices now. Can you talk about what practices are like with the new coaching staff?

Hillary: I'm just going to start out by saying that being able to practice in the summer for those nine days helped so much because now we knew what the coaches wanted, what style they're looking for, and a lot of the drills so it made practice so much smoother. Also, doing the individuals helped a lot, too.

It's different than before, obviously. The focus is a lot more on running, and it's a faster game, like we're shooting off one pass on the break, and we're looking inside two passes off the break, too.

Although things are pretty similar to last year in terms of defense, we have a little bit different defensive philosophy, so we've been working on that a lot, and doing breakdown drills with our offense.

VM: When you say a "breakdown drill," could you explain what you mean by that?

Hillary: You have your offense, and you're working on a little situation that's in the offense. But it's only a small situation. Like in our offense, we have down screens and post pops, and then the guard waits, the post comes off, and then the guard comes up for a shot, and that's like one little sequence within the offense. So that's a breakdown drill. We're getting repetition and more repetition on that one scenario.

VM: Could you describe the drill that you were doing at the end of practice?

Hillary: There are two lines. There's one line underneath one hoop, and one line underneath the other hoop. You're supposed to get down, push the ball out, take four dribbles or so, and make a layup. We have to make 65 layups in two minutes. So it's a conditioning drill. We're tired at the end of practice so it's like a mental toughness thing, too. You gotta make the layups because you can't miss very many and make 65 in two minutes.

VM: You made your 65 today?

Hillary: Yeah, we did. You have to.

VM: What happens if you don't?

Hillary: You do it again till you get your 65.

VM: Can you talk about each of the coaches?

Hillary: I just want to say that I really like the coaching staff, so I'll start off by saying that. I'll start with Coach Balcomb. She knows what she's talking about, obviously, and a big thing with her is enthusiasm and having fun. She has a philosophy that if one player is enthusiastic, it catches on, and if you're down on yourself, you should focus on the team and then that brings you up, too, because you're not thinking about yourself; you're thinking about the team. That's a great philosophy because it really works. I think our team is really starting to adopt it, and it shows in practice.

And then Vicky (Picott). She's tough. She's our post coach. She also knows what she's talking about. She makes you feel the game.

VM: Can you talk more about what you mean by that?

Hillary: Well, for instance, say you're underneath in the post, and she shows you the drop step. You can just drop step, everyone can drop step. But when she gets you to drop step, it's like a DROP STEP, like you KNOW you're drop stepping -- or rather, the person who's guarding you knows you're drop stepping. She gets you intense -- I guess that's what it is. She's pretty intense when she does that.

And then there's Kristin (Schneider). I'll call her "the shot doctor", because she knows what she's talking about with the shot. She does our individuals with us, and for me personally, she's helped my shot a lot -- like fixed it. And in practice she does the side notes that make you do something so much better. It's just something small, but if you take advantage of what she says, it'll make you do something so much better.

Stephanie is our defensive specialist. Most of the defensive philosophies are from her. She's helped me become a better defensive player already just in the technique. It's a slightly different technique than what I've been taught before -- and it works.

VM: What about the ice cream at the end?

Hillary: Well, we had recruits in this past weekend, and the coaches just wanted to reward us for spending time and going above and beyond. It was a surprise.

VM: You mean you don't have it every day?!?

Hillary: Omigosh no. Definitely not. We were happy. We didn't know it was coming, and then we had some ice cream, so it was nice.

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