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Coale, Sooners Talk Hoops at Media Day
October 28, 2010
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Video Jasmine Hartman

NORMAN, Okla. -- The University of Oklahoma women's basketball team opened the doors of the Lloyd Noble Center to media and fans Thursday.

Head coach Sherri Coale and the team's captains -- redshirt sophomore Whitney Hand and seniors Danielle Robinson and Carlee Roethlisberger -- opened the team's local media day and discussed the season ahead.

"I've got to tell you, I'm having a ball with these guys," Coale said. "There are six new kids, there is so much to teach on every possession, sometimes my brain can't slow down enough to decide what to tell them first. There are so many things to learn. But they really are genuine and really want to learn. They are all getting better and I've seen improvements by leaps and bounds through eight practices."

Oklahoma introduces six newcomers in 2010-11, including high school All-Americans Aaryn Ellenberg and Nicole Griffin. Much of the work of the initial practices was to teach the methods that have taken the Sooners to consecutive Final Fours.

"What we get in this class is a little bit of every position, which is not common," Coale continued. "So you've got a mixed group and it has, in some ways, actually aided the teaching process because you can put those guys together and everybody fits a spot and they can really work and learn well together.

"In a perfect world, when you have a big freshman class, a veteran point guard can help speed them up a little bit. That makes everybody's jobs a little easier, and obviously I think we're unbelievably fortunate to have the services of Danielle Robinson. Now we have these six new guys trying to figure out how to play, so it's definitely a bonus."

The Sooners begin their season Thursday, Nov. 4, with an exhibition game against Oklahoma Christian. Tip-off at the Lloyd Noble Center is 7 p.m.

"We were sitting here this time last year and everybody was telling me how much we had lost and how were we possibly going to move forward and we ended up going back to the Final Four. And we're here in the same position again this year."

  Head Coach Sherri Coale

On the improvement of Danielle Robinson over four years:
"When she got here she was just fast and feisty. She worked real hard and she beat everybody to the basket. She had this great competitive desire but a lot of rough edges to her game. There are a number of things that she has done, personally, to get herself together as she is right now. Working on her ball handling; watching a lot of film to enhance her basketball IQ; working hard on her ability to lead which is a big part of the point guard position and then this past summer working on her 3-point range."

On Robinson's growth during her All-American season last year:
"I think she did show a lot of growth last year. It's hard for me to say because I saw great deal of growth from her freshman to sophomore year and then the same thing from her sophomore year to her junior year. But I think last year what you saw was that she was a good player all year long, but she figured out how to be a great player at the most important time in games and that's a very difficult thing to do. If we had an opportunity to win a game I knew that she would find a way to make the play that gave us a chance and that gave our team incredible confidence down the stretch. I think that's when they move into that real elite category where there are only a handful of players in the country that fit that."

On what fans can expect from Robinson this upcoming season:
"Her 3-point shot looks really good. She's been the best 3-point shooter in the gym the past couple of days. Consistency -- she's got to get more comfortable doing it in games. She's been doing it in live play when we go against each other now, which is something she hasn't done before. It will probably take awhile to get her comfortable with that in game situations."

On the improvement of Jasmine Hartman:
"It's the way Jasmine is carrying herself, that's the biggest difference. I think that you began to see parts of that last season, especially the latter half of conference play. You began to see a more confident and more poised player, a more aggressive defender, somebody who dictated where the basketball went. Those are things we knew she could do. But it's not really how much we knew she could do it, but how much she knew she could do it. She began to believe that, she worked real hard over the summer and she feels that she's earned the right to be good."

On if not having Whitney Hand early in the season will hurt or help in March:
"It depends on what we do with it, it has a chance to do either. But I think it can really help us. Our young guys are going to get quality minutes. They're going to be depended upon early in the year. They are going to play in critical situations -- situations and circumstances that they may not have been in had Whitney been completely healthy and played in the first half of the season. So those guys will grow."

On Carlee Roethlisberger's role this season:
"She's going to have to perform with consistency, that's the biggest thing. We've had big games when she has been way too quiet. Particularly in the first half of this season, when these freshman are growing up, she's going to have to contribute every night."

On if back-to-back Final Four experiences will pay dividends for this season:
"I think I know what it's worth, it's just like anything: it's what you do with it. We were sitting here this time last year and everybody was telling me how much we had lost and how were we possibly going to move forward and we ended up going back to the Final Four. And we're here in the same position again this year."

On how the newcomers are standing out in practice:
"I heard Whitney (Hand) say that there has been a great sincerity to learn from everyone and, I've got to tell you, I'm having a ball with these guys. There are six new kids, there is so much to teach on every possession, sometimes my brain can't slow down enough to decide what to tell them first. There are so many things to learn. But they really are genuine and really want to learn. They are all getting better and I've seen improvements by leaps and bounds through eight practices."

On how this freshman class compares to past freshman classes:
"What we get in this class is a little bit of every position, which is not common. We've got Nicole Griffin who comes in as a 6-6 post player, Jacqueline (Jeffcoat) who was a five in high school but will be a four on this level, Alexann (Yancey) can play anywhere on the perimeter, Morgan Hook can be a one, two or three, and Aaryn (Ellenberg) can be a combo guard. Then you've got Jelena (Cerina) coming in -- a true post player who has got two years of junior college experience. So you've got a mixed group and it's in some ways actually aided the teaching process because you can put those guys together and everybody fits a spot and they can really work and learn well together."

On if she has figured out a starting five for the first exhibition game:
"I don't really have a feeling for it. We will try a lot of different combinations tonight (at the intrasquad scrimmage). Jelena (Cerina) has had a pulled hamstring so she's been out the last few days of practice and won't participate tonight. We will look at different combinations and hopefully with our depth it won't really matter when the official throws up that ball."

On the new depth of this years team:
"The gym is so crowded. It's been kind of strange trying to get used to it, honestly. It has been crowded but its good. If someone has to take off and go to class we can continue practice. There definitely are some benefits and it's nice to develop that depth."

On this year's team having multiple styles of play:
"I would like to think that we can go really fast, use some full-court pressing and have a really speedy lineup in. Then I'd like to think that if we needed a lot of size and zone on somebody that we could do that. We could play a little bit of smash mouth and go down to the block and maybe somewhere in the middle of those two."

On the freshman growing up quickly with tough non-conference road games:
"Yes, but we have quite a few home games to help prepare them to do that. We do have some tough non-conference road games. We have to go to TCU, Arkansas, Connecticut and to Ohio State and those are really hard games outside of conference play. But we also have quite a few home games. More home games than we've ever had actually."

On the learning curve for the young players versus veterans:
"In a perfect world, when you have a big freshman class, a veteran point guard can help speed them up a little bit. That makes everybody's jobs a little easier, and obviously I think we're unbelievably fortunate to have the services of Danielle Robinson. Now we have these six new guys trying to figure out how to play, so it's definitely a bonus."

On again hosting the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament in 2012:
"Well as I said in the press release, when you get awarded a bid I think it speaks to number one: the level of your program. You have to be in the tournament repeatedly and win some games to have that level of respect from the committee who is making that selection. Secondly, the administration has to do a great job. They aren't making any money off of the first and second rounds. That's a service that the administration provides and it's quite a process to put together the bid to be able to do this. Then the last thing that can't be overlooked is our fans. They have been tremendous. When we play in the NCAA tournament in the Lloyd Noble Center it's crazy, it's the premiere spot in early bracket play in the tournament. But what I think really captured the committee's attention was the year we weren't here for the regional and people still came and provided a great atmosphere. The committee looks very kindly on Norman, Oklahoma, and of women's basketball in the state of Oklahoma."

On the loss of Amanda Thompson and who will replace her intangibles:
"That's a great question -- you hope that you get it somehow, but I don't know if you can look to one kid and say, `You've got to be Amanda Thompson.' There is only one of her. We have to have those rebounds, those clutch plays and the defense. For me it's that toughness, and we've got to get that toughness from some source."

  Redshirt Freshman Whitney Hand

On her role as a mentor and recovery from her ACL injury:
"Obviously, I'm (mentally) ready to play. I'm an athlete and I want to be out there playing. I know my time is coming and I'm as patient as I can be right now."

On what is special about this year's freshmen class:
"That is kind of hard because there are so many of them that do different things. Since we got here, I think that we have a bunch that is going to be really special. I see Aaryn [Ellenberg] as a Renee Montgomery-type in her future. I'm excited to get to play with her three more years. If she plays up to the potential that she is at, she could be an excellent, excellent player."

On what she thinks about the freshmen's ability to progress in her absence:
"I've had a lot of time to sit back and watch, but I really see a true desire to learn from every single one of them. I really see that they want to be great and I think this first part of the season is made for them. I think that it has happened perfectly. They get a chance to step in and compete and it makes me have to compete. It just pushes everyone to a different level. It is feasible for everyone (to earn playing time). I think that only makes your program much greater. It's not about one person; it's about every person fighting for that one spot."

  Senior Guard Danielle Robinson

On what it will take to advance to a third straight Final Four:
"We are just going to have to keep practicing and preparing well every day. We just have to keep getting better. That is what we did the two times that we went, was that we kept getting better. And if we did have a bad day, we turned it right around and we had good days in a row. So that is what we have to continue to do and learn from these past two seasons."

On if there is difficult practicing with so many new players:
"No, we've had a long time with them. Most of the came in June and spent the month here. So we got acquainted with them now. It's easy now. You still call them different names to different people because there are so many of them. I keep forgetting, but it's all right."

On what sets this freshman class apart from the past classes:
"I think that they came in so close already. Most of them came in on their official visits together. From then, they kept their bonds. A big part of a good team is great chemistry and for them to have that chemistry coming in is great."

On what it means to have so many new players and still be considered among the Big 12 elite:
"I think Coach Coale, and the coaching staff, do a great job of recruiting players that they know are going to fit. And freshman that are above the freshman name. I think she [Coach Coale] has done a great job of that. We have taken them under our arms as veterans. We have been working hard and I think people recognize that."

On being considered the leader on the squad:
"It's had its up and downs. Every year I continue to try and grow and lead in different ways. I think that ... I've grown most in my leadership habits on and off the floor."

On maximizing the opportunities of the underclassmen until Whitney Hand returns:
"I think we just practice hard day in and day out. I think our preseason schedule sets us up perfectly to give the underclassmen a great opportunity to play and showcase what they can do while Whitney [Hand] is gone. I think Morgan Hook is going to be a great player for us and a great shooter. Everybody is coming and working hard and competing for each other. That will set us up for what we want to do."

On the improvement of junior guard Jasmine Hartman:
"Jasmine [Hartman] has embraced a defensive type of role. She knows that her defense is going to be what makes her good and what makes us good, and she definitely embraced that. Of course, she has improved her shot and is looking to score now. Her game all around has just improved. We are pretty excited about what she is going to do this year."

On the progression of Joanna McFarland from her freshman to sophomore year:
"The greatest thing about Jo [Joanna McFarland] is that she is such a competitor. She wants to do exactly what you tell her to do. The thing about Jo is that you've got to tell her to slow down, but I definitely think she has improved on that aspect. She is just a fighter."

  Senior Forward Carlee Roethlisberger

On being a senior and veteran leader:
"I think as your years go on, you should expect more out of yourself every year. As a senior, it's not just on the court that I'm going to expect a lot of myself. It's off the court, as well as being a teacher and a leader."

On filling the role left with the graduation of Amanda Thompson:
"Oh definitely, AT was all over the place. It is hard to replace her; you can never be another AT. I think that is what a lot of us on the floor will have to do -- kind of what we did with Whitney [Hand] last year and will the beginning of this year. Everybody's got to split that part and kind of fill and find what your role is, and kind of take over that."

On the growth of Danielle Robinson from her freshman to senior seasons:
"It is hard (to describe) because I feel like Danielle [Robinson] has never been that freshman, she's never been a sophomore. The way that Danielle has played since she got here has been at the level that I think a lot of people have categorized her as a senior, or All-American, which she is. I think that her mental awareness of the game has probably been what has changed the most, just being able to lead. She is an amazing leader. She has developed that over her four years here. She has always had that speed; she's always had that competitiveness, and just love for the game."

On how the team prepares differently with so many young players:
"Coach Coale has really set the standard and the level high for the way we prepare. Even the first practice -- It wasn't coming out and just taking it slow. `Ok, you guys are freshman, just watch and learn. No, you've got to learn as you go; you've got to watch the next person in line.' Upperclassmen come in first, and then those underclassmen, those freshmen, have to step right in and pick it up. If it is slow, then you might get penalized for it but they are going to learn. That is the level we have to play at to get to where we want to be."

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