OU head coach Sherri Coale and the Sooners met with the media Monday.
Oct. 15, 2012
NORMAN, Okla. -- The Oklahoma women's basketball season officially began Monday as the Sooners held their first official practice and media day at the Lloyd Noble Center.
Head coach Sherri Coale and the team met with the media from inside the Chesapeake Energy Courtside Club to discuss the upcoming season.
The Sooners were recently voted second in the Big 12 Preseason Coaches Poll. Sophomore Aaryn Ellenberg was named to the five-member Preseason All-Big 12 Team while Whitney Hand was an honorable mention.
OU hosts a scrimmage Friday, Oct 26, at 6 p.m. and begins exhibition play against Oklahoma Christian Thursday, Nov. 1, at 7 p.m.
Oklahoma returns its starting lineup, as well as Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year Sharane Campbell, from last year's squad that finished second in the conference standings and reached the NCAA tournament for the 13th consecutive season.
The Sooners also introduce three newcomers -- junior college All-American Portia Durrett, WBCA High School All-America Team MVP Nicole Kornet and Iowa's Gatorade Player of the Year Maddie Manning.
|| Sherri Coale
"I'm just really excited to get the year under way. It's just been sort of a unique preseason for us because of the Australia trip. But we were able to learn a lot about our team in a short amount of time, then sort of work backward from what we learned. It's been a very productive September and October leading up to today's first practice and I don't think I could have asked for today to have gone any better actually. It was a really productive two hours."
On the advantage of taking a preseason trip to Australia:
"I think the time that we got in Australia was especially critical for those three new guys. They have to understand what a thing looks like when it's right. This is the pace you have to go at. You're in a foreign country, nobody really cares -- win, lose or draw -- what's going on. So you take guys out, talk to them immediately, tell them this is what you have to change, and put them back in. The thing that I discovered about all three of them when we were there is what learners they are. They really would take that one thing -- maybe they weren't running their lane hard, or maybe they weren't blocking out or moving off dribble penetration -- whatever that might be, they would go back in and try to correct that and make a change. And that's a thing that you can never ascertain in recruiting. You don't know how a kid is going to learn until you get them. All three of those guys were learners, meaning they changed their behaviors. So that was huge and I think also the fact that they got all that one-on-one time with teammates, all that bonding time that you have when you're not on the floor. So when you come back and you start the player breakdowns whether its guard/post or however your breakdowns are in September, there's that familiarity across the board. You just sort of relax around one another, which makes an environment that's healthy where you can make mistakes and grow and learn from them. Without all that pressure that sometimes exists when you don't really know everyone very well."
On what to expect out of the newcomers:
"You know all three of the new guys are very different and yet very much needed in their areas of specificity. They can all do a lot of things and yet each one of them seems to have a thing that they can do like no one else. For Portia [Durrett] I would say that is going after rebounds. Just an explosive, relentless, offensive rebounder. She can shoot. We learned in Australia, she can really pass and I didn't really see that much in junior college. Primarily because she was the one they were trying to get to shoot all the time. She really has nice vision and a clever way of delivering the basketball, but her deal is go get the rebound. And she can make that happen. For Maddie [Manning], there are lots of things that she can do. She can score; she can get to the rim. She has a fantastic first step. I think she's going to be a great defender because of her length. But her deal is delivering the basketball. She can look east and drop a dime due west, so that's her thing, if you will. And then [Nicole] Kornet, while she didn't defend very well in Australia, and I wouldn't say she's necessarily a great rebounder, she did both of those things. She has the capability to do both of those things on a consistent basis. What's her deal? She scores the basketball. She puts it in the basket. And it doesn't matter if you're up by 20 with 15 minutes left in the game or you're down by two and it's a one possession. She wants the basketball; she knows what to do with it. So each of them has sort of specialty and yet very versatile players."
On having Jasmine Hartman and Lyndsey Cloman back:
"You know what, Jasmine has really shocked me. She didn't get to play in Australia. She had a little scope knee surgery in the summer and didn't feel comfortable yet playing in Australia. So we didn't know how quickly she would bounce back. But I tell you, if you were down in practice today, you would have no idea that jasmines recovering from an ACL. Unbelievable, her lateral movement, going full speed, stopping, starting. She just really looks good. Lindsey's knee looks good. Her back is sort of day-to-day. So we're not sure about that yet."
On Jasmine Hartman:
"Jaz, being a fifth year, has a ton of knowledge. You can put her in situations because she understands this is what we're trying to accomplish here. Defensively I think that's obviously her ace -- being able to get in and guard the ball. That's the thing that she worried about with the ACL surgery, but I tell you what, she is looking fantastic the last few weeks."
On the "Campus Dives":
"We're trying to dive in to the culture of our campus. There are so many fantastic things that the University of Oklahoma offers. Sometimes for student-athletes, you get so wound up with lifting and individual workouts and tutoring and study hall and, obviously, going to class, you have so many responsibilities that sometimes you don't get outside and get the benefits of all those things that our university offers. We would like to pick a whole lot more, but we don't have a lot of time. So we've chosen four and we're just trying to dip in pieces of our campus that are extraordinary. We went to the Fred Jones Museum a week or two ago and it was unbelievable. Our players loved it. They learned a lot. They walked away sort of awestruck like, `This is on our campus at the University of Oklahoma?' So really neat deal, we're enjoying it. It's important for them to have an opportunity. They are students here, too."
On the confidence of the team:
"I think that mindset comes from experience. We have enough guys who have been through it and they understand what it takes. And I think what they're sensing there is that we have quality depth, that everybody on the basketball team understands the commitment that is necessary to reach the level of excellence that we're striving for. They just get it. They know that and those guys sense it, one to another. Chemistry off the court is fantastic. You can't tell where one stops and another begins. They are really close and on the court they have very complementary skills. I think, too, that there's an extra punch that comes from the arrival of these three new guys in knowing that they fill some gaps that we have."
On the extra punch the newcomers provide:
"They're all three ready. They're more ready than most guys coming into a Division I program for the first time. Portia coming from a junior college -- she probably has the greatest learning curve, ironically, just because the junior college game is so different from the Division I game. There are a million possessions; you go a million miles an hour. There has to be a different sort of focus. She understands the sense of urgency figuring that out because she only has two more years here. And that may be speeding up her learning curve. These other two, Maddie [Manning] and Nicole [Kornet], just have great basketball sense. They're junkies, they understand the game; they've played a lot. They've been around really good players. They've been coached well, so they're ready. And all three, I think the one characteristic that ties them all together is they're all three extremely competitive. They don't want to lose a shooting drill. They don't want to lose a 3-on-3 game. They don't want to lose if we play Monopoly. They don't want to lose. And that speeds things up and helps accelerate that extra punch I was talking about."
|| Aaryn Ellenberg
On her outlook:
"I'm excited so far. We have a really good team and I think we all have a good vibe together, so everything's looking pretty good. I'm just excited to get it started and see what we can do together."
On the freshman class:
"They are two fun girls. They've got some great personalities, but they can play some basketball. I think with just not having to bring them along so much, to teach them -- they're really smart and know a lot of things already -- that makes it easier for us older guys, too."
On the Navy SEAL training experience conducted in the preseason:
"It was pretty brutal. I think it was good as far as structure and learning discipline and all of those things. It was really great, but all the stuff was tough and nothing was easy. It definitely made us have to really work together and really pay attention and listen, not just rely on our physical abilities, but also our mental abilities, too."
On what is different about this year's team than last year's team:
" It feels different; it looks different. I'm really excited about it. I can't really explain that. I feel like everybody is focused and on the same page."
|| Whitney Hand
On her outlook:
"We're all really excited. It's one of those seasons where I'm so excited that I don't want to be too excited. I don't want to have all these crazy expectations but their genuine. And I think that's really fun. It's fun to play with all these girls. I feel like we say it every year, but it's rare to get to play with your 11 best friends."
On the team's optimism:
"It feels different. It just does. You walk in the gym and there's a different look in people's eyes. Not that we haven't had it in the past or that some people haven't had it in the past. I just feel like you can tell when the feeling of your growth and the feeling of your group is different. We're really talented. That's a big one. We don't have one person where I think, `They're OK; they'll be there in a couple years.' Everyone's there, everyone's prepared and, again, that's very exciting. The potential is extremely high.
They don't take themselves too seriously. Where as a freshman I felt very overwhelmed, and I'm sure they do, too, they can laugh at themselves and make a mistake and it's not the end of the world. I think that's really important."
On the depth and experience of this year's team:
"We carried a lot of the load last year and I think everyone is going to have to guard everyone. I don't think (opponents) will get to face guard Aaryn all game. You're going to give up something. Our five's have come a long way and I think that's what I'm probably most excited about. Nicole [Griffin] and Kay Kay [Kaylon Williams], just how far they've come. They look aggressive. They want the ball."
On the Navy SEAL training experience conducted in the preseason:
"I think the one thing we took out of it was to be in the moment. That's kind of our theme this year - the 12 inches in front of you. If you thought about how cold you were or how miserable you were or that you wanted to be in your bed, then you weren't going to make it and you were going to fall on your face. It was a cool kind of tag team applied to what we're trying to do here. It worked out very well."
On the team's goal:
"Our goal is to win a national championship and I can say that with full confidence this year. That's my definition of success. Our tradition here is to win conference championships and we haven't done that in a while. Me, the seniors and everyone on the team, that's the goal. I got to do it my freshman year and we haven't done it since. We've had a little bit of a drought, so we're going for it.
"When it's your last year, that's it. It's do or die. We've got some pretty strong personalities as seniors. So that's a driving force."