Anderson ready for world stage

University of Wisconsin guard will head to Tunisia next month for U19 World Championships

It has been a whirlwind year for Jolene Anderson. From tiny Port Wing, Wis. Anderson came to the University of Wisconsin as the state's all-time prep scoring leader with 2,881 points. She then stepped right in with the UW women's basketball team last fall, starting all 28 games as a true freshman. She quickly established herself as the Badgers' best player and one of the top talents in the Big Ten. The league's Freshman of the Year and a third-team all-conference selection, Anderson averaged 17.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.4 steals per game.

This spring Anderson has continued to achieve at a high level. She was one of 57 basketball players invited to the USA Basketball Women's National Team Trials May 19-22 in Colorado Springs, Colo. Eligible for both the World University Games team and the Under-19 team, Anderson made the initial cut of 15 players for U19 World Championships' squad that competed in the International Sports Invitational in San Diego June 8-11.

Anderson helped Team USA win a gold medal in that event and was named to the squad's 12-player final roster afterwards. In four games, Anderson played 33 minutes and contributed 11 points, seven steals, six assists and eight rebounds. After playing four minutes in the gold-medal game, she sustained a mouth injury and had to undergo an emergency root canal to repair her two front teeth, which had been partially broken off. But Anderson is cleared to play and ready to begin preparing for her trip overseas. The U19 World Championships take place in Tunis, Tunisia from July 15-24.

Anderson joined UW head coach Lisa Stone in the Kohl Center media room Monday afternoon to answer questions from local media. Stone experienced the international stage three years ago while the head coach at Drake. In the summer of 2002, Stone served as an assistant to Texas Tech coach Marsha Sharp and won a gold medal with Team USA at the World Championships for Young Women Qualifying Tournament in Ribeirao Preto, Brazil.

The following is a complete transcript of Monday's press conference:

Lisa Stone opening statement: Obviously we're very proud of Jolene for what she's done individually, as well as what she will do to represent our country as well as the University of Wisconsin. Tremendous honor for Jolene and for our program. I was fortunate to coach this same age-group team a few years back with coach Marsha Sharp at Texas Tech and the experience for myself as a coach on that team, to travel overseas and see teams from other countries, etcetera, and play for a gold medal, was something I'll never forget. And now to have that similar situation happening with one of our players certainly is something we're very proud of.

And Jolene will have stories for all of us when she returns and hopefully a gold medal hanging around her neck as well. I'm very proud of her; she's earned this right; she's played extremely well. Did very, very well throughout the trials and will represent all of us with class and dignity and hopefully come back with a gold medal.

Lisa since you had that experience in 2002, how do you think that will benefit Jolene now? (As far as) the experiences you had.

Stone: Well, what I told Jolene going into Trials—I think if anything, if I helped Jolene in any way, and I'm not so sure I did or not, but I think just telling her when you are out there trying out for this team with all these great players, to demonstrate what you can do. Jolene is a great passer, she can obviously score and shoot the basketball. She's strong, she's physical, she can rebound. Defensively, I think probably was an area that elevated her prominence. Because not only what happened out in California, but when I talked to her after games, (she said) ‘I had this many steals and got this many rebounds.' It's not so much if you scored or not. It was the completeness.

On the other hand I think just the experience certainly I can share with Jolene is the foreign experience. Traveling overseas and going through customs. Jolene's never done this that I'm aware of. And to go through getting a Passport… and now she's played against some international competition when she was in California that she can see what the game's at.

The experience will elevate her game. Her mind will open to see new cultures, and also getting to know some other great players, some of the top players in the United States are playing with her. I'm always a big believer to be the best you play the best, you challenge yourself. That's the experience Jolene will have this summer.

Jolene, what was it like in California and getting yourself ready and knowing what was at stake for you and then finally attaining that goal?

Jolene Anderson: It was nerve wracking going out there being that they were going to cut three players from the 15 that went out there. I just went in, played my game everyday that I had practice and then when games started I just went in there, went ahead, and given a chance, showed what I could do and the best came out."

Looking at the roster Jolene, what do you think…. made you stand out, as far as your strengths, what you brought to the team?

Anderson: I don't anything really stood out. I just did everything that I did so well during the season, I tried to do out there too. The little things I did, I think, helped me a lot."

Jolene, what was the difference in the level of game… how different was the level of competition… for you out there (in San Diego)?

Anderson: It was a lot different, very physical. You'd have to just body up with somebody a lot bigger than you that you're guarding. And a little bit quicker. You have to be in shape to run up and down the floor with the rest of your teammates and your opponents."

Jolene, you talked about nerves. How did you overcome that and at what point do you think you finally got past the jitters and felt comfortable just playing?

Anderson: I just finally realized that there was a lot of people who wanted to be in my shoes — just make the 15 cut to go out there. And so if I didn't make the (final) team, I just knew it was a great opportunity, a great experience and hopefully go back next year and try out again.

Lisa, in your experiences with these type teams… have you seen players go on to play on the World teams, the older players? Is that something where Jolene could participate for consecutive years (with Team USA)?

Stone: I certainly would hope to say that once your foot's in the door with USA Basketball — and it's a wonderful organization. It's extremely organized…. Once your foot's in the door and Jolene can do what she can do: abide by the rules, toe the line, compete, battle, remember that. And now obviously it says USA. It says it on her T-shirt. That means a lot right there that you want to wear those colors to the best of your abilities, go performer well this summer, be invited again next summer. And I would fathom to say that Jolene's goal in life is to play for a gold medal on the Olympic team.

Now, are there any guarantees? No. There's no guarantees with anything in life. But she has put herself in a tremendous situation at this point.

Lisa, you are always looking for every positive you can get to try and build a program. What do you hope this kind of moment will have or impact, not only on Jolene but on your program as you continue to try to build it?

Stone: It's awesome, it really is. To have the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, a member of the U19 World national team… I'm a big believer in team and Jolene knows that better than anybody… Her modesty, her ability to be a role model is certainly something that we can sell to recruits. She meets recruits. We have camps going on right now. Those kids just want to touch her. To have the celebrity-hood of Jolene Anderson certainly is something that we're very proud of. On the other hand, there's pressure with that. And Jolene knows that. And she's overcome that from the moment she stepped on our campus. And that's what I'm so proud of her for. She has overcome any critics out there, about her abilities. Now, she'll be the first to tell you that she wants to get better. We all can get better. Where our program is going, to have a special player like a Jolene Anderson certainly is something that we can use to help in recruiting, to sell the program. The fans, they want to see what Jolene is all about and they should come and see her because she's pretty special.

… Jolene, do you follow the Olympics? Did you watch Diana Taurasi and Dawn Staley in 2004 when they were in Athens playing basketball? Is that something you've thought of that really interests you and that you maybe have a desire to do in the future.

Anderson: I've watched Diana Taurasi every since she was in college. That's a person, that's a player that I look up to. She had goals in mind too. And especially in the Olympics, when her and Dawn Staley played and Lisa Leslie and stuff like that, I watched every game that came on TV. I saw them and I've been following them and hopefully I'll be in the same shoes as they are.

So is that (competing in the Olympics) one of your goals?

Anderson: Yes, one of my long-term goals. I have a lot of work to do before that, but hopefully Coach Stone and her staff will help me get there.

Jolene… do you feel that in some ways this experience has already made you a better player? Do you feel like this experience has changed you as a player right now or is it too soon to kind of tell what impact it's had on you?

Anderson: It's had a major impact right now. Just going out there in Trials out in Colorado and in California. But through the summer I think it's going to impact me majorly more, and I'll be ready to play in October (when the Badgers' formal practices start).

Jolene, this seems to be the next great thing that's happened to you over the last year… do you have you a chance to step back and reflect? Is this what you expected… all the different awards and accomplishments that you've had this year and now a member of Team USA?

Anderson: I didn't expect any of it when I first came to campus my freshman year. But I knew during the season when we started practice and stuff, Coach Stone and her staff were getting on me, telling me to work harder and stop slacking off. They were just pushing me all the way through practicing. I knew at the end of the year that once I went to go tryout that I knew I had a chance if I worked hard.

Do you like all the attention that you are getting with everything you are accomplishing?

Anderson: It's okay. (laughs) After a while, I don't know. I don't mind it though. It's something for little kids, like Coach Stone said, to look up to and stuff. I like being a role model for little kids.

In the Trials and playing San Diego… was there someone on that team… that just especially impressed you?

Anderson: Nicky Anosike from the University of Tennessee. Her wingspan is very long. She can run the break for a post player. She has good handles for a 6-4 post player… And she plays on top of our 1-2-2 zone. She was one of the major players that stood out in mind. And I can see why she went to Tennessee.

Stone: She also was Jolene's roommate throughout the trials and in San Diego.

Jolene, I'm guessing it was a thrill to put on a cardinal and white uniform for the Badgers. What's it like putting on a USA jersey?

Anderson: Wow. Just to represent the United States overseas is something that I'm very proud of. But yet I don't know if it's really sunk in yet…

Is there anything you are looking forward to especially about, I think you mentioned to me before that the only place you've been is Hawaii as far as the farthest you've traveled. Anything you're looking forward or you're nervous about?

Anderson: Not really, being that we'll travel all together and so we'll all go through the same thing. But maybe some of the players have gone overseas already. But just to see Africa, I don't think I'd pick to go to Africa. I'd rather go to Europe or something like that. But just to see what Africa is about and I can say I've been to Africa.

Have you been cleared to train again after you were injured that last game? Are you okay to do that the 28th?

Anderson: Yeah, I'm good to go.

And what did your dentist have to do?

Anderson: I just had emergency root canals out in California. They just put temporary teeth on and said come back in August and then I'll get permanent ones.

Lisa, what kind of coaching will she get while she's over there?

Stone: Tremendous coaching. With USA Basketball, the coaching staff are all head coaches… Gail Goestenkors (the U19 head coach this year) is the head coach at Duke and a special friend.. she had Donna Freitag on her staff; Donna and Gail knew each other way back when Donna was here the first time. Gail is a great person, a great coach. It will be intense. Jolene knows that. She will tell Jolene what needs to be done… And the rest of the coaching staff, certainly (Mississippi coach) Carol Ross is a special person. They have a quality, quality staff. When you are selected as the head coach of a United States team, you can pick your assistants. They have to be Division I head coaches. And there's a reason why Gail put here staff together. She'll do a great job, and I'm sure Jolene's already learned a great deal about… about Duke basketball maybe a little bit. It will be fun….

And I would just like to talk about the fact that I'm hoping that Jolene stands on that medal stand, because talk about sinking in, wearing USA. When you stand on the medal stand… it is an amazing feeling. It's not the Olympics. It's the U19 World Championships. But there's nothing that feels like that. It's an experience I'll never forget and I hope that we have that same common thing to share when she's done.

Lisa… now that this full year has come since she arrived here, did you expect that you'd be sitting here today… (with) everything that she's accomplished?

Stone: Like I said, she has overcome everything. I couldn't be more proud of her. Was it expected? I don't think anybody expects that. I expect to win every game, that's just the way I am. But as I look at this, I get excited for next year. These accomplishments and notoriety that Jolene has brought to the University of Wisconsin is something that I'm very proud of and something to build on. It makes me want to — I'm in basketball camp now so I'd like to start practice right after this press conference…

I really want Jolene just to savor the moment. This is a special opportunity. Enjoy the moment, every bit of it. I'm going to encourage her to keep a diary while she's over there. When are you ever going to go back there? You just don't know…

Lisa…. what things are you referring to that Jolene has overcome?

Stone: Just talking about people saying this little girl from Port Wing, Wis., playing in the Big Ten. The doubters. She's proved them all wrong. The kid can play. She can flat out play. She can play defense at the Big Ten level, she can play offense. She scored a lot of baskets for us but she did a lot of other things too. When you look at her running mate, Janese Banks, and you look at the rest of our class. I think she made our team better. And there is not a person in this room that doesn't believe that.

Jolene… a year ago at this point were there ever any doubts in your mind, in terms of being able to succeed at (the Big Ten) level of basketball?

Anderson: I knew that if I fell down my teammates would pick me up. So I had no doubt in my mind that I couldn't play at this level. But I think most of the credit has to go to my teammates. They went through every practice, every game with me. Every road trip... They just did everything, the same thing I did every day. They helped me out a lot.

Lisa, I know you can't work with the players during the summer but oftentimes they play together during unsupervised workouts. How much does it benefit Jolene and Janese? They'll be gone this summer. Does that outweigh them playing with your group?

Stone: Obviously, in a perfect world you'd want your whole team to be traveling together. But everybody's here working out. Jolene is doing workouts now too before she leaves. Janese likewise. They'll come back and work with their team. They are a team. Everybody is proud of what Jolene's done and will proud of how Janese represents herself on the Big Ten team. But when it comes to being gone, I think is a an opportunity of a lifetime. And it's not just basketball. I think Jolene is more mature than when she came in. I'm not saying she was immature but she's grown a lot as a person, as an individual and these experiences will maybe in some ways outweigh her not having the opportunity (to be here). There is no question. This is a great opportunity and she'll make the best of it.

Jolene… you went to San Diego, there were 12 spots for 15 players. After that last game, especially after you weren't able to play (most) of that last game because of the injury. Did you think you were in? Was it a tough time? Where did you think you stood after that last game before the team was announced?

Anderson: I don't know what was going on through my mind. Going to the dentist and stuff and not going to the medal ceremony with the rest of the team. I just had to wait until that night for the team meeting and then when they announced the team, I don't think anything really sunk in through my mind until coach Goestenkors came in and started talking to the 12 of us that were sitting there and that's when I finally realized I would be traveling this summer and going to see some awesome places.

So it was one of those deals where… Did they set it up all dramatically and call off the list of names of the people on the team? Was it like that or was it just a list posted? … How did you learn the news, how did they break it to you?

Anderson: Well, all 15 of us went into one room and then they called out three of them and they talked to them separately. And when I wasn't one of the three, I knew I was in.

Did you know that was what they were calling out the names for? Did you think maybe they were starting to call out the names that did make it?

Anderson: Nobody really knew what they were doing. But once they stopped after three and then the coaches came in and then you kind of had a feeling.

Have you talked to Janese at all about just that the two of you are going to be gone this summer overseas and how that's going to help out the team and yourselves?

Anderson: Janese and I talk every day about something. I just wished her good luck and told her…. to come back next year ready to play.

Jolene, do you have anything specifically you want to work on now in your game once you go back to this training in Colorado and in Washington D.C.?

Anderson: A little bit of everything. I don't think there's anything that really sticks out in my mind. Well, besides ball handling. I'd like to get a little better in that for next season. But I just work on everything.

More information

Jolene Anderson USA Basketball player page

Anderson named to U19 squad (BadgerNation.com)


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