"Practice is off to a great start. The kids are excited. They're probably in the best condition they've been and the more ready than they've ever been since I've come. The seniors have show great leadership. Our experienced freshmen class are now sophomores. Banks and Anderson, in particular, have grown their international experience. And we're off to a pretty good start."
You said that the practices, they've been better conditioned, since you've been here. Do you feel like the Lisa Stone era is finally starting, I guess in some ways?
"We're excited about it. Our senior class, this is their third year with us, so they understand the drills, the terminology, the language, our staff, the way we run things, the pace of practice, and they're very ready. They're confident. I'm sure you saw that we're picked higher than the past, as far as the preseason ranking, of which I don't get wrapped up in. Yet, I'm excited about the fact that people have respect, and that comes from some success from some young players last year. Certainly, when they bring their best, we're a better basketball team.
"And we have an empty class in the junior class, and so if you look at, not only this year, but then into next year, if you want to call it the Lisa Stone era, maybe it is. So, we're getting some things accomplished defensively. Offensively, some exciting play that is working out, not only individually, but throughout the team, and I'm very optimistic. I'm very excited about this season."
Lisa, you mentioned Jolene. What kind of experience did she gain this past summer? And, I'm sure she's going to be a marked player, so to speak, this year, but along those lines, at what point last season did you start to notice teams were focusing more their attention on her already?
"I think midway through the Big Ten season, truthfully, and, you know, Jolene will this year now have to handle the pressure of double teams, and she can't catch people off guard as much maybe as she did last year. And with all of that, you'll see the completeness of Jolene. She's a great passer, defensively, has improved remarkably. The experience she had this summer was instrumental in playing with very, very good players.
"Jim Foster, he was on the committee as far as the USA team goes, he said there's a not known player on the United States team that hasn't gotten better. The experience, maturity, again, playing where you're not the sole future has helped Jolene, although the kid can play. She can score in some amazing ways. And the last couple days, actually in practice, I was seeing some pretty neat things happening on Jolene. And with that, other players have to step up. So when she practices hard, and she bring her effort on a daily basis, it makes everybody else better.
"We're trying to implement using guys in practice, male players, practice players, to give her a bigger, stronger, faster, quicker defensive presence, so she can try to, again, work on counters, and giving up the ball, and become a better player, that way by continuing to be challenging, but in practice."
What are you hoping to see, what in this first game, and what do you know about Parkside?
"I don't know a whole lot about Parkside at all. In fact, I've got the same blurb that you have, John, and the fact that exhibition, I'm excited about the fact that we can play against somebody different. To me, start, we've been banging at each other for a ways now, and so as you start gearing up for the first exhibition game, you, as a coach, and I personally have sat down to think about how much you want to put in. You don't want to over, you know, put so much in a playbook that you have to have for your first game. "It is, right now, trying to do the things that we've done to this point better, see how they're implementing or passing their angles, or screening, our defensive pressure, our ability to keep the ball on one side of the floor, get up and down and transition against somebody different, that's really what I'm looking for in this game, different combinations of players, who's going to stand out. Even in the men's scrimmage yesterday, you watch to see who wants to make a mark for themselves. Players that have worked hard in practice will identify themselves, and I think against a different team, you'll see that elevated that even more."
Lisa, when you finished last year in the tournament in Indianapolis, and you had a chance to reflect on the season to see where the shortcomings were, what were they, and how much closer are you to solving some of those issues?
"The biggest shortcoming was defense, Mike. And I think if you could go back to the time in Indianapolis and having won a double overtime game in a great fashion is to take that energy and that fuel of being successful in Big Ten tournament is inspirational for this season.
"As we go into the season, and it doesn't take long for me to reflect, even on the Big Ten tournament, but you go back even deeper into the first, my first two years here, we were pretty decent defensively our first season, and again, we had 6-7 and 6-5 inside.
"Second season, we were smaller inside, but we can score. When we wanted to score, we gave up too many. My hope this year is that we can obviously complement both. Defensive has been implemented from a new assistant, Tasha McDowell, who's brought a great defensive mind and presence for our team from her times at Santa Barbara. She was, and for lack of a better word the "defensive coordinator" with them and has brought some great ideas and have players that have really grasped the idea of ball pressure and help in recovery, and hopefully, in the shortcoming of defense, we'll be something that we're not going to look back on this season, knowing that we're a much better defensive team, along with carrying on the offense."
On those nights that may be Jolene is, you know, not shooting the ball well or teams take her out of the game, who's best equipped, in your mind, to carry the defensive load? Is it one person or would it have to be a committee effort?
"I think it'll be everybody, but I also, I'd be remiss in saying that Janese Banks has elevated her game. Banks has become probably the most improved player coming in to season. She attacked Elver Hill like it was flat. Seriously, she really went after it hard. She's come back in great shape. Her performance as well, traveling overseas to international play, as well as attending the point guard camp so it's helped her handle. She's much more confident with the ball. She's a mature player, and it really has elevated her game.
"And it's not just the Jolene Anderson show that isn't on our team, and Jolene will be the first to tell you that. She will make other players better. If they're going to double her or bump cutters and do some things that are going to try to take Jolene out of her comfort zone, Jolene will give the ball to somebody else, and they you better block Jolene out because she's a great offensive rebounder. So, I think we have a few other players that have elevated their game, most noted would be Janese Banks."
t was the catalyst for Janese's off-season work? Was that after the season you sat down and said, okay, this is what you need to work on or did she take it upon herself?
"A little bit of both. We talked about it all year. She's going to have to handle the ball. You meet with players on a regular basis, as well as at the end of the season, and her going to this point guard camp, a ball-handling improvement leadership camp, was all on her own accord. Her father is instrumental in a lot of her individual workouts.
"So throughout the summer, she and her dad, as well as the camp, and again, the international experience, and she played a point guard position on the Big Ten All-Star Team that went overseas. That added experience has helped her."
Lisa, you add more muscle in the middle, more confident with more confident with that you have the post, and how much do you think we'll see of Caitlin Gibson?
"If you want Caitlin Gibson, she's a player right now, little Jefferson High School. She's chasing around the perimeter, and she's having to play outside of the paint, and that's a new experience for her, but she's really been a joy to coach. She asks questions. She's learning. She's catching on. She has a lot to work with, but her feet are great. She's got really good hands.
"Caitlin is going to be a special player, but she's got a ways to go. If you look at her arms, and you can always tell on freshman post-players, she is black and blue, everyday. So she's feeling the pains from her teammates and not just you're in the right spot, but I'm excited about her. She gives us the presence inside.
"Danielle Ward is a much-improved player. Her off-season was spectacular. Danielle Ward is the fastest player on our team at 6-4. She runs sprints with the guards. And now if you can get that speedy 6-4 body down the floor to finish, that's because she can outrun anybody, but that, again, is going to come with timing and experience.
"So Danielle and Caitlin are our tallest players, as far as muscle in the middle, and you can look at Kjersten Bakke for that. And Bakke is somebody right now that is getting noticed in practice. There's no question about it. She's fundamental. She's softened up her game from the standpoint of fundamentals, and feet, and ability to get other people involved. She's becoming noticed. And the team she's on in practice usually wins, and that's a lot of credit to her. So, again, we might be small with some certain rotations, but it won't be due to lack of an effort in muscle, if you will, inside."
With what you want to do on defense and offense, how deep do you think you can go with this team and the young players?
"Well, I'd like to play all the 11 players, you know, 12 players, get a rotation. I would say, right now, we're looking at probably a nine-player rotation. But again, it's early, it's hard to tell. I mean, things don't look real pretty right now. We have a lot to work on. The exhibition game is at two, really three weeks before the first official game, but the exhibition games will be a good measuring stick to find out how deep I can go.
"Right now, there are certain players that don't work well with other players. That's typical this time of the season, and we're trying to iron those things out, find ways to make that potentially work, so we can substitute freely. Because of the tempo of our offense and the type of pressure because we have, our bench has to step up."