Coale, Ellenberg and Hand represented the Sooners in Dallas Thursday.
Oct. 25, 2012
-- University of Oklahoma head women's basketball coach Sherri Coale, junior guard Aaryn Ellenberg and senior guard Whitney Hand took center stage in front of the national press Thursday at Big 12 Conference Media Day.
Watch video from the American Airlines Center and view behind-the-scenes footage and photo from the day.
The Sooners are gearing up for the big football weekend as well. The Lloyd Noble Center is home to the Friday Night Tailgate with OU Women's Basketball presented by Arvest Bank. Members of the Sooner women's basketball team will greet you as the doors of the Lloyd Noble Center open at 5 p.m. CT before participating in a one-and-a-half hour scrimmage on the court beginning at 6 p.m.
Admission is free and OU concessions will have three locations open on the concourse. Fans are encouraged to arrive early and park east of the Lloyd Noble Center as RV parking west of the facility will expand beyond its usual capacity this weekend.
Head coach Sherri Coale will be mic'd up for your entertainment and pause periodically to provide details on the instruction and techniques her team uses on the court. OU Athletics Marketing will have a bevy of contests and promotions that fans may enjoy, including the distribution of free t-shirts for the first 500 who enter. Local band Banana Seat will also be on site, covering an array of hit songs.
The Sooners were picked in the Big 12's Preseason Coaches' Poll to finish second behind defending national champion Baylor. Ellenberg was named to the five-member Preseason All-Big 12
First Team and Hand was an honorable mention.
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. OU introduces 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.
Follow @ou_wbasketball on Instagram for behind-the-scenes photos from Big 12 Media Day and the upcoming season:
|| Head Coach Sherri Coale
"(It's) Great to be back. Great to be in Dallas. Very
excited about Dallas being the host city for the
conference championship tournament this year.
Looking forward to a unique year in the Big 12,
welcoming two new members who I think will add a
different twist and a special flavor to the
competition this season. I really like my team, and
I can't wait to get started."
On Baylor as the conference title favorite:
"I think, obviously, they're the favorites. Obviously, (Brittney) Griner makes them special and unique. They come off an undefeated season last year, and certainly they're the team to beat in our league. But they're human. We all put on our jerseys every game, and we play the game. If we had to play five out of seven, it might not go our way. But you have to be better for 40 minutes one night, so, yeah, yeah, it's possible."
On TCU and West Virginia joining the Big 12 Conference:
"We've had a nice rivalry with TCU, just because we've tried to play home and home with them in our preconference schedule, because we love playing in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Jeff (Mittie) does a tremendous job with his kids, and they always find a way to find themselves in the NCAA Tournament at the end of the year.
"West Virginia, Mike Carey does an incredible job with them -- very tough Big East conference -- and they have a great reputation as a very tenacious basketball team. They have talented kids, and that will be a tough place to play. I just think there will be a different flavor and different twist to league play this year."
On the Big 12 Conference men's and women's tournaments splitting locations for the first time:
"Well, I think it's a positive move. I think if you factor in all the things our league has done for the past 16 seasons -- we've led in RPI, we lead in attendance. 9 out of 10 teams last year in the NCAA Tournament, and the other one in the NIT tournament -- you just think about where we stand on the global landscape of women's basketball, and we can stand on our own. I think it will be a period of growth as the media and the public gets accustomed to having those two tournaments separated.
But at the end of the day, I think it makes a lot of sense. I think we'll be able to build some equity in what we do as a group and a specific brand being the women's basketball portion of the Big 12 Conference."
On facets of the game the Sooners have improved in the offseason:
"Yeah, there were about 20. I'm not sure you have time for me to list them all. We were young last year. Sometimes the best thing that can happen to youth is it just gets a little bit older, and that will solve a lot of your problems.
"I think we'll take better care of the basketball. I think we'll have a stronger inside game. I think our interior guys have probably improved the most, and maybe it's because they have the furthest to go. It's hard to see great leaps of improvement in a kid like Whitney Hand or a kid like Aaryn Ellenberg, but those guys have gotten better as well. I think the big jumps most quickly perceived by the public will be production from the inside and just our sense of sureness with the basketball because we're older, more confident, more experienced, more relaxed. All those things that happened when you played a few games in Division I."
On the experience of OU's perimeter players:
"I'd put my guards against anybody in America. I really would. They're talented, they're earnest, and they're conscientious. I think our groups always have strong chemistry and this group has an extraordinary vibe about them. They understand one another's strengths and weaknesses and how to play off of those. Any time you have a kid with the intestinal fortitude of Whitney saying, 'I'm coming back as a fifth year senior and leading the team,' you have to feel pretty good about things."
On Geno Auriemma's comments that the rim in women's basketball should be lowered:
"Oh, my heavens. I really do think his team must be so good that he didn't have anything to rant about, so he just started talking about lowering the stinkin' rim. Here's what I think about it. I think a basketball goal is a basketball goal is a basketball goal. One of the unique and fabulous things about our sport is you just need a ball and a goal and nobody else, and you can get better. You can walk out to any neighborhood park and take that ball and shoot on that goal and get better. You can go to the rec center, and can you go to an elementary gym, a high school gym, you can go to an arena like the American Airlines Center and the goals are 10-feet tall, and you can shoot on them and get better. I don't think we want to put ourselves in a situation where we have to find a women's goal, so we can get better as players."
On having Whitney Hand for a fifth year:
"It's been a blessing to be able to coach her for five years now, as you say. She came in as such a high achieving freshman that I think sometimes it's difficult to see maybe from an outside perspective how much she's grown.
But from inside, which is the view I get all the time, her growth and maturation has been remarkable. It is her attention, her diligence, if you will. I think that's a word we don't count as a virtue quite as often as we ought to, but that diligence to daily get better at everything. Whether it's going left, or a defensive dig step, or a blockout, or leading her team, or holding people accountable, whatever it is. She just has and continues to have an intense diligence about her, and I think that makes her special. I think it separates her in ways that words are difficult to describe."
On if the addition of TCU and West Virginia make the Big 12 at tougher women's basketball conference:
"There is a nuance there because we're very unfamiliar with West Virginia, particularly.
But as I've said before, West Virginia will play a style of basketball that is a little like Texas A&M, so it's not going to be that much of a culture shock for anyone. Though going there to play in Morgantown might be.
But I just think again, we're going to be sitting here next year talking about 9 out of 10 teams were in the NCAA Tournament. That is the story for this league. Every night, you better show up."