NORMAN -- Nine days in advance of its exhibition opener, the Oklahoma women's basketball team met with reporters during the program's local media day Monday at the Lloyd Noble Center.
Oklahoma head coach Sherri Coale and her team previewed the upcoming season and discussed where the Sooners stand since beginning practice on Oct. 5.
"It's hard to believe it's basketball season," Coale said. "We start with an exhibition next week then we open the season the week after that. We've had fantastic workouts up until this point. We have what we call 'experienced youth', which is a coach's dream when you have young, hungry players that are still eager to learn and full of energy. Yet, they have some experience so they know what they are doing."
The Sooners open the 2015-16 season Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. in a home exhibition game against Southwestern Oklahoma State. OU's first regular season content versus Winthrop is set for Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. inside the Lloyd Noble Center.
Here's more from OU's local media day:
Managing Expectations and New Rules
The Sooners were recently tabbed the No. 3 team in the Big 12 Preseason Poll and four players earned recogntion on the league's all-conference preseason team. The high preseason expectations are rather familiar for Coale and her team. The four-time Big 12 Coach of the Year said it will be interesting to see how her versatile squad handles them.
"The experienced versatility helps us more than the versatility itself," Coale said of her squad. "The fact that we can put guys in different positions; Maddie Manning can play the one, two, three or the four spot. It doesn't matter where we plug her in, she has the comfortability and the confidence in playing those positions. From a coaching standpoint it gives you a lot of different options which is exciting."
The other major topic of the day was the new rule changes that have been inacted for the 2015-16 season specifcally for women's basketball. Playing 10-minute quarters, live music during dead balls and new rules on fouls are just a few of the reforms that the NCAA passed during the summer.
"I think it's going to be a lot of fun for fans. All the rule changes have been put in place for the fans and to speed up the pace of play," Coale said about the new rules for the 2015-16 season. "I think the game is going to be more enjoyable for fans. Now at dead balls they are going to let us play live music whether its the band or a DJ. Plus not having as many timeouts, which gives us less stoppages in play will make it more fun for fans."
According to senior forward Kaylon Williams, the transition from 20-minute halves to 10-minute quarters said it might be different for players at first.
“The 20-minute halves is what I’m used to playing with and I’m actually really curious to see how that’s going to go. I see it on the WNBA because they play with [four quarters], but watching it and doing it is probably going to be the weirdest thing. Also getting adjusted to the new rules and the fouls, it’ll take a couple of times to get used to it. After that though, I think it’ll be a lot more fun and help women’s basketball get more interest in it, which I’m really excited about," Williams explained.
Players Ready for Exhibition
The Sooners play their only exhibition game of the year Nov. 4 at Lloyd Noble Center. With just more than a week until the season begins, the team is ready to show off their hard work on the practice court against an opponent not clad in crimson.
“I’m ready for all of us to get on the court and showcase everything we improved on during this offseason," redshirt junior guard Maddie Manning said. "The whole team put in a lot of work and really made some improvements in some big areas. It’s going to be fun to show.”
For freshman forward Ijeoma Odimgbe, she's ready to begin the season and see her first collegiate action as a Sooner. Since the Savannah, Ga., native is the lone newcomer on the roster, she's excited to put it all together on the floor.
“At first, it was kind of tough because being the only freshman you don’t have anybody to go through it with you," Odimgbe said. "You don’t have anybody to be like ‘oh man’ with you. It was kind of tough starting out, but I’m learning pretty fast and I have all of the girls to help me and the coaches help out a lot. They don’t ever knock me for my mistakes or anything and they know that I’m still learning. They do a good job of pushing me and letting me know that it’s okay to make mistakes. I just want to do well for the team and do what I can when it's my time.”
Head coach Sherri Coale
On the new four-quarter format:
"I like it. I think it makes our game a little bit seamless with the international game. I like that basketball is our universal game so let's play it all the same way. I like the oppurtunities for strategy that four quarters gives you and plus I think it will be great for our fans. I'm for anything that can rejuvinate our sport right now."
Senior forward Kaylon Williams
On the team dynamics and Ijeoma Odimgbe:
“This year is actually really interesting because we have one senior and one freshman. EJ (Ijeoma Odimgbe) is our new freshmen and it’s funny because the same things she’s struggling with now, [the rest of the team] literally went through the exact same thing. We try not to laugh when she gets frustrated because we can say it now like ‘she’s going to get it later.’ She just can’t see it right now, but [you just have to] take it day by day. She’s doing a really good job of learning every day. Today actually, I saw she took a really big step forward and has put things she’s learned the past couple of weeks into her game and I just got really excited for her. I’m just really excited what she does later on.”
Junior guard Maddie Manning
On the season outlook:
“I’m ready for all of us to get on the court and showcase everything we improved on during this offseason. The whole team put in a lot of work and really made some improvements in some big areas. It’s going to be fun to show.”
Freshman forward Ijeoma “EJ” Odimgbe
On her being the only freshman and transitioning into collegiate basketball:
“At first, it was kind of tough because being the only freshman you don’t have anybody to go through it with you. You don’t have anybody to be like ‘oh man’ with you. It was kind of tough starting out, but I’m learning pretty fast and I have all of the girls to help me and the coaches help out a lot. They don’t ever knock me for my mistakes or anything and they know that I’m still learning. They do a good job of pushing me and letting me know that it’s okay to make mistakes.”
Sophomore guard LaNesia Williams
On what she worked on in the preseason:
“I’ve been definitely trying to work on my outside game. I’ve been trying to attack more. For part of the preseason I was out, but I didn’t miss too much of the running or anything. I got to work on my form shooting when I was out because that’s all I could do. My biggest improvement is trying to open up my outside game.”
Sophomore center Vionise Pierre-Louis
On what she is trying to change from last season:
“Last year I felt like I was lost. I didn’t know terminology because I hadn’t been playing basketball long at all. Really this year I’ve focused on terminology. Last season I felt like I passed the ball up a lot when I had opportunities to score, and my team needs me to score more so I’m trying to do that.”
Junior guard Derica Wyatt
On the team’s depth:
“Our goal is to win the Big 12. All of our players can play. There isn’t one person on this team who can’t play. All of us know that if someone gets tired somebody else can come in and play. We have an expectation of playing fast and smart basketball. We have very high expectations.”
Sophomore guard Gabbi Ortiz
On the excitement of starting a new season:
"We’re just anxious. We are super excited. It’s a new year. We have a lot of talent coming in. I think our bond is something special. And we’re just super ecstatic to get started.”
Junior guard Peyton Little
On Nov. 4's exhibtion game:
“I’m just excited to play. I mean I think it will be good to get everybody in. It’s going to be a fun atmosphere. Personally, I’m just ready to play. We’ve been playing each other all summer, all preseason. So it’s time to play some different competition.