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Q: How is it coming in with a team this year that the expectations are very high? Is it any different then it has been in the past for you guys?
A: Arriving into this year obviously we know we have an experienced team coming back, but each team is different. Our expectations really haven't changed. We expect to get better each day. We want to make sure this team reaches its full potential and that's really our focus; each day to progress and improve in the areas that we feel that were more then capable of succeeding in.
Q: Can you talk about the new additions of Dara (Taylor) and Candice (Agee)?
A: Dara, as you know, transferred from the University of Maryland and sat out last year in her red shirt year. This year she'll be available to us for the games. Dara is lightning fast. She will continue to enhance our transition game and help us to attack. In the open court she is a phenomenal passer, so I think our fans will definitely be pleased with some of the easy opportunities she will be able to create for the guards as well as the posts. Candice, we call her Big Baby. She arrived from California. She had a great opportunity to participate with USA Basketball this summer, and that has been a springboard for her. She adapts to our style, learns our terminology, and things of that nature. She's doing a great job. Candice is a very gifted scorer at 6-6. You don't really come across kids who have an act for putting the ball in the basket like she does. As she gets in better shape you'll really start to see a lot of her skills both offensively and defensively come to the forefront.
Q: Kia, were you coaches pleased with the way the team came back, and is everyone healthy as you head into the preseason?
A: We are very, very pleased. One thing, I think Coquese says quite often about the team, is our kids work extremely hard. Anything that we ask them individually to work on in the off-season they attack that area of weakness and turn it into a strength. Health wise, we're doing really, really well right now. Mia has worked herself back into being 100% healthy. At this point the only injury or person that's not in practice is Marisa Wolfe. She had some concussion issues last year and we're working her back in slowly because this has occurred more than once. We want to be very sensitive and careful with what we do in terms of her activity level. Other than that, we're full go.
Q: What have you seen from Maggie so far and has she done anything this summer to elevate her game this year?
A: What you'll see of Maggie is she is a kid who loves to get better and loves to be challenged. So what you'll see from a skills standpoint is that she's continuing to enhance her attack to the basket. She has some combination finishes around the rim that she has added to her game. But I think the one thing you guys will probably notice even more so than the skill is she has taken a step up in the leadership role being more active and more vocal on the court. Really helping everyone know where they need to be and what were looking for from a coaching staff is she's helping our captains echo that sentiment. She's really elevating her game and her confidence level is always high. Maggie always has a few tricks in her bag and I don't want to give them all away but she really has done a great job in the off-season.
Q: We talked about high expectations for the team this year and a tough conference schedule, like going to UConn, Texas A&M, and Miami. Do you think it will help prepare the team later this season especially for the tournament at the end of the year?
A: Yea that is our hope. We wanted to challenge the team and really put them in some NCAA-atmosphere games early on. Obviously going into Storrs, Ct. will provide a challenge in that regard, as well as going to College Station for Texas A&M. They get a phenomenal crowd. It will be a great opportunity to get Nikki (Greene) playing in front of her family and friends but also really to challenge our team for NCAA tournament atmosphere.
Q: Can you talk about the senior class, it was kind of special when they came in as they received a lot of accolades. They have taken the program to new heights since your coaching staff came on board. Can you talk about this class?
A: Wow this class of kids has been very, very special to the program. In terms of when they came in highly recruited kids, they really didn't have a compelling reason to take a chance on Coquese, our staff, or the program. They bought into her vision and they knew where Coquese wanted to move the program to and they wanted to be a part of it. I think if you go back and you look at each season, the thing that the class has been able to accomplish individually, collectively, obviously they are the strong force that propels our team forward. They are the majority of the team in terms of the senior class make-up. They've definitely left their fingerprints and footprints all over this program. It's our hope that we can have a phenomenal senior year and really send them off in the way that they can be really, really proud of what they have done in four years.
Q: What's your take on the way the program has maybe changed a little since you arrived and can you talk a little bit about how its developed?
A: Well the program has definitely developed since we arrived over five years ago. Just in terms, I can talk about one aspect; it's easier to get a coach to call you back now when you're reaching out to find out about some kids. Across the country, Penn State's been on television a number of times. They've watched some of our NCAA tournament games. They understand the brand of basketball that we like to play and it's appealing. Like I said its easier to get a call back. Recruits are receptive to what we have going here. The fan support has increased each year as the success has continued to grow. I think overall each year is a bit more positive and we just hope that it will continue this year.
Q: Is there any specific from either the regular season or the tournament run last year that you guys will bring in to this season as you try to get even further this season?
A: I mean we will definitely bring the experience into this season in terms of what it's like to play in those atmospheres. The race last year for the conference championship was tight, neck-in-neck. You know you had the performance, the high-level both at home and on the road. I think those experiences will carry over but beyond that this is a new year. Every team in the Big Ten is gearing up to try to win the Big Ten championship for 2012-2013 and we're no different. We did gain a lot of experience, have a lot of kids play in key minutes last year and we want that to carry over.
Q: The football team won't be playing in the post season this year for the first time in a while, and unless it's a pretty big surprise, you guys will be. Is winning maybe even more important this year by the fact that the football team has been sanctioned?
A: I don't know that it is more important this year in terms of our success and our goals. Again, what we focus on each season is really just helping our kids to grow and develop in the way in which they need to for our team to be successful. Sanctions or no sanctions that wouldn't change. I don't think there is any special significance on our performance this year versus in the years past.
Q: How is it different being a favorite as opposed to a team that is hungry and trying to grow, if there is any difference?
A: I don't know that there is a difference from our standpoint. I felt like last year every team gave us their best shot. In non-conference teams did because we were highly ranked to start the season and then throughout the season. So I don't think there will be much of a difference. Well continue to get everyone's best shot and we need to be prepared for it and we need to be able to give them our best shot.
Q: How important is it this year for Nikki Greene to stay out of foul trouble because you kind of know what you're going to get from your guards, but last year that kind of startled you guys sometimes.
A: Nikki is a big part of our defense game as well as our offensive game. I think what you'll see this year is a more mature Nikki with a better understanding of how to use her strengths and when to take risks and when not to take risks. It is very important she stays on the floor for us and it is our hope that a year of maturity will help her recognize those situations.
Q: Any particular conference game you guys are looking at or is it all equally weighted?
A: I wouldn't say that there isn't any particular one that stands out more so than the other. Like I said before, every team in the Big Ten comes at you whether you're on the road or at home and we just need to be prepared to give them our best shot.
Q: How did the trip to Europe go, how did it help you guys?
A: The trip to Europe was a great opportunity for the team. It gave us, as the coaches, an opportunity to experiment with a few things offensively and defensively, and test it out versus other competition. So that I think has given us a little sneak preview of things early on then normal that will need to tweak if we intend to add them in. Overall the experience educationally for the kids was a great experience. I think if you talk to them individually they can recount to you the things they enjoyed the most about the trip. I think that, in speaking and referring back to the last question, I think that Nikki in particular, she had a phenomenal time overseas in terms of her play, very dominant offensively but also she was able to play extended minutes without picking up those fouls. I think it will be very, very helpful for her.
Q: What are you looking for from Ariel Edwards this year? Her role on the team last year was she came off the bench and started. What are the expectations for her for you guys to go big and start her maybe versus Dara for your match ups?
A: In terms of who starts and who won't that hasn't been determined yet. In terms of Ariel and her strengths, she is a very gifted player. She's one of the players who can really have a strong impact on our team, both offensively and defensively. I think what you'll see from Ariel is she has improved her three-point shooting accuracy. She is also doing a better job of attacking the rim, transition, and finishing. We've challenged Ariel this year to get up and really take on the assignment of when she's on the floor maybe guarding the other teams best offensive player and really making it tough for them. That includes getting more deflections, rebounding more. We want her to be a stat stuffer. Across the board we expect Ariel to put up positive numbers in each column.
Q: You lose Zhaque Gray, anyone in particular that is going to fill in for her role this year?
A: I think we'll have to do it by committee. Zhaque was a great three-point shooter for us and to have Zhaque on one wing and Maggie on the other really put the defense in a tough predicament. Well have Gizelle Studevent, Ariel and Dara come in and play opposite on the wing and they all offer something a little bit different. I don't know that our team will look exactly the same but we will definitely be able to take advantage of some of the strength that these guys will provide for us.
Q: In August Coquese said that Dara Taylor's going to play a lot of point guard, and exclusively be a point guard. Do you know right now how often we can see Alex Bentley in the two spot as a shooter?
A: That's something that we're experimenting with and we experimented with it a little bit overseas. Exactly how much you'll see that I'm not sure. We recognize with the two of them on the floor that were definitely very speedy. We always want to utilize our strength of having team speed. You will see that some. I don't have a definitive number or how much.