Women's Hoops: Interview with Stephanie Norman

After practice on Tuesday afternoon, VandyMania talked with Stephanie Norman, assistant coach of the women's basketball team, to get a coach's eye view of frequently asked questions about players, substitutions, and playing time.

Here's what Coach Norman had to say.

VM: As it's worked out, you're basically playing a 7-player rotation. Could you briefly describe it?

Coach Norman: Well, I think every game necessitates different substitution patterns, and, obviously, I would hate to say that it's a certain minute every single time that a person comes in. In certain games we've had foul trouble, so obviously that changes some things. Certain games players have asked to come out early or tired, so all of those things contribute to when, and if, the next two subs come off the bench. Obviously, Ashley's injury then necessitated Erica playing the entire game, and then Hillary backing her up. So I would tend to say there isn't an exact pattern because every game is different, and every game calls for a different rotation.

VM: Is it accurate to say, when Ashley Mac is healthy, that you have four players playing two guard positions?

Coach Norman: We would have Tia, Hillary, Abi, and Ashley Mac playing, and if the game will allow in certain circumstances, Ashley can play a two-guard and Erica can play the point. We've done that in the past in the pre-season. We haven't done it since the SEC started.

VM: Then you've got Chantelle, Jenni, and Ashley Earley--

Coach Norman: -- are our three post-ups that have been playing the most minutes. Obviously we have some more kids that can play, but haven't really established themselves yet in the rotation.

VM: You have a 6'1 and a 6'3 on the bench in Jutta Korkko and Nicole Jules who haven't worked themselves into the rotation yet. What can you say about their stage of development?

Coach Norman: Well, every day they go out and practice hard, and we instruct them to work on the things that we feel can help them get more minutes. There's individual skills that we assess that each player can bring, and when those skills get mastered, we'll feel comfortable putting those kids in game situations. But if you can't master them in practice, it would be impossible to ask them and set them up for failure to get in the game and try to accomplish those things. So the things that we're asking them to do, we try to keep that on a one-and-one situation, so that they're not blasted out in the public about this, that and the other thing.

So I would hesitate to comment on the exact things that they need to work to get playing time, because truly there isn't one particular thing. It's several things. It's being on balance. It's knowing the plays, knowing when to set a screen, knowing how to come off screens, not turning the basketball over. You could go through a whole laundry list of things that every kid that's not playing right now, one or two or three or four of them might be in their bag of tricks. Sure, they're tall, and they may be athletic, but that doesn't necessarily transfer into playing time.

VM: Could you talk about the factors, assuming nobody's tired, whether Abi or Tia is in the game?

Coach Norman: A lot of that is pre-determined by what kind of defense the opposition is playing. If they switch to a zone or any type of presses, we're going to have to have someone in there that is consistent shooting the perimeter shot. And right now, Abi is our biggest threat, "threat" being the operative word, meaning that they continue to play her and respect her shot even if she misses. That opens things up for us tremendously inside. When you watch the tapes that we've had when they play a sagging man, those are more opportunistic times for Abi to be in the ball game.

Against presses as well, we need another ball-handler in there. Hillary has to remain in. We can't substitute Abi in because they would probably both tell you at this stage of their career they're not as comfortable putting the ball on the floor breaking presses as Hillary is. So Hillary has to remain in there a lot when teams are pressing. And obviously when the teams are playing zone, or mixing up man and zone, it would behoove us to have the best possible shooters that we can out there at the same time.

If they're playing very pressure man-to-man and there are very few opportunities for three-point shots, that's a time that Tia would probably flourish. And Tia's been doing a great job in the last few games of putting the ball on the floor and driving and doing the things we've been asking her to do to create some shots for herself because standing out on the perimeter and being left alone, she hasn't been able to knock those shots down, so we've tried to add a new dimension to her game and make her establish herself as being a driver.

VM: And, finally, about Hillary. After the Arkansas game, Gary Blair had high praise for Hillary, saying to look past her stats. Can you talk about the things that she does that don't necessarily show up in the box score that have her on the floor for 40 minutes against a team like Tennessee?

Coach Norman: Hillary's motor runs for 40 minutes, and it doesn't seem Hillary tires very often. When you watch tapes, she plays as hard as she does the first five minutes as she does the last five minutes. Unless she's in a situation where she's tired or just completely out of it, she will remain on the floor, and that's because she does so many intangible things that you don't have in the stat book.

She sets screens for people that get them open. She helps on defense; when her man doesn't have the ball, she's in help-side. When we play the zone, she's oftentimes playing two people's spots because she hustles more than anybody else on the floor. She also has the potential to knock down shots. No, she hasn't taken a bunch of three's since the SEC started, but at least the threat is there so they have to respect her and they have to play her. There are a lot of things we've talked to Hillary about improving, and she knows that there's no perfect player on our team, but what she gives us is a lot of energy, a lot of heart, and a lot of confidence that when she's in there, good things will happen for us.

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