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Penn State Women's Basketball
Media Day -- Head Coach Coquese Washington
Oct. 25, 2017
Q: What is the latest on Teniya's [Page] health?
CW: Teniya's rehab is going very well. There is no time table on her return, but we are really pleased with her progress and she is coming along. Whenever she is healthy she'll get back out there, but her rehab is going really well and we're happy with her progress.
Q: With Teniya [Page] being out, Amari [Carter], I would assume, moves into that spot as the point guard, what about depth at that position?
CW: We have a little bit of depth at that position. The good thing with Amari is that last year she played both on and off the ball. She and Teniya kind of switched back and forth so it's not much different for her, her role isn't much different. Sarah McMurtry has had a really good spring and summer and offseason so we feel really confident about playing her and getting her some minutes at the point guard position. We're pretty young at the guard spot, when you talk about Sarah McMurtry who hasn't had a ton of minutes, and our freshmen Kamaria McDaniel, Siyeh Frazier. The great thing is they have put in a ton of work in the offseason and we are really pleased with where they are, so we have a lot of confidence in our guard as Teniya recovers and gets better.
Q: You guys have lost a number of starters from last year and you have three new freshmen coming in. What do you expect for the freshmen?
CW: Well I expect them to become sophomores really quickly, that's the biggest thing. Our three freshmen Kamaria [McDaniel], Sam[Breen] and Alisia [Smith], one of the things I've really enjoyed about coaching them so far in the limited time that they've been with us is their attention to detail and their willingness to ask questions. They've progressed really well because they're go-getters, they play with a lot of confidence and I think they'll be able to be impactful for us pretty early. They expect to be able to play on this level right away, there's no hesitation, there's no fear for them.
Q: Coming off of last season what you guys were able to do in that postseason, getting that run, how does that help you guys moving forward? What impact does that have on this season?
CW: I think one of the things it did was wet our appetite and wet the kid's appetite for more. They enjoyed the experience of playing in postseason, a lot of first time opportunities for many of them, so it wet their appetite to have that experience and to do even better and go even further. I think it fueled their work ethic in the offseason and we're excited about what we can do. Knock on wood, we stay healthy, and we continue to grow and progress as a team.
Q: At the end of last season we talked a lot about the speed and energy you want to see in this team, how has that cohesion been put into play in this offseason so far?
CW: I think that is one of the things that I've liked so far, is our team speed is better. We're just a faster team, we've been a faster team at practice. Getting De'Janae Boykin back gets us a lot of speed in our post; Alisia Smith is playing really fast, so the speed in our post is really helping us. I have to say our freshmen guards are playing really well, so I just like the speed that we're playing with right now.
Q: Coach we really saw this team grow up throughout last season, the speed is one thing, but overall retention, have you seen that a lot from the players so far in the early practices here?
CW: Yeah I have, we've tried to go slow because we do have a lot of freshman and sophomores, a lot of player who just don't have a ton of game experience, but they are competitive. We track and we have statistics and analytics for days, and all the things that were tracking and the way that were preforming on a day to day basis is really positive. I think the speed that we're playing with, we're shooting the ball pretty well, Amari's [Carter] doing a great job of running the team from an assist turnover ratio perspective. Sunday just needs to get here, we need to play against somebody else, that's the biggest thing.
Q: For you what is the biggest challenge when you have a young team that played a lot of minutes last year, but is still a young team moving forward. What is the challenge for you to balance that with players who are eager to get out there who have been playing this level and the freshmen who have to get worked into it?
CW: I think the challenge is to not go too fast and throw a whole bunch of things at the wall and nothing sticks. The challenge is to move them along, challenge them, but move them along at a pace where we can be affective on game day. That's the challenge, not just rushing through to do things just to say we did it, but they haven't comprehended and they haven't really truly embraced it and understand it so that they can do it without thinking. As coaches, we want to put in a lot of stuff and the challenge with a young team is you have to move at a pace that is challenging for them, but that doesn't outpace what they can perform. That is something we have to be very mindful of as coaches.
Q: I would think that with [Teniya] Page out it has to be a little bit frustrating, she is one of the leaders on this team, but is it at all a benefit to have her out before the season and see other ladies step up to that level?
CW: Exactly, I would say it's not been challenging at all. In some ways it's been really good because we've gotten used to playing without her and it has allowed some other people to really flourish and step up. Amari Carter is certainly one of those players. But, also Jaida Travascio Green has really stepped up and shown her growth on the court. De'Janae Boykin has really stepped up and shown how she can impact the team. Jaylen Williams, she has been a pleasant surprise for us, and how she is playing with a lot of confidence as a junior, and her impact on the court. When we add Teniya back to the mix we'll have three or four other kids who should be playing with a lot of confidence. That will help ease Teniya's transition back onto the floor.
Q: Coach, is there any one specific goal or expectation you have for the team this season? A number of them?
CW: Win as many games as possible. I think I say this every year, we just want to get better as the season goes and play our best basketball at the end of the season. Right now, it's the end of October and this team is still trying to find its identity, we are still coming together. I am pleased with where we are, but certainly we have a lot of room for growth, a lot of room for improvement and we've still got a long ways to go in terms of cohesion on the court. Some of that only works itself out through playing games and developing gameday roles. We've got a little bit of an idea of what we want to do, but we've got to play some games and see how people play with the lights on. I love the freshman in the practice gym, but I have no idea how they are going to respond to gameday. As long as we just keep improving, going bit by bit and playing our best basketball at the end of the season, that is how we look at it.
Q: Coach, you touched on Amari [Carter] a little bit there, can you tell me what makes her such a special player, I mean obviously to come back from injuries that she has had, what makes her a special talent?
CW: I think the first thing, is that she has really incredible court vision and passing acumen. She makes some passes and plays, in practice and in games, that you just can't teach that. She has a great feel for the game as a point guard. She has a great feel for making her teammates better by putting them in positions where they can be great. She is really athletic, but I think the thing that makes her special is her feel for the game and her passing ability. She can score at will and that is one area we are trying to get her to be a little bit more aggressive in. She is much more comfortable and would rather make plays for others than herself. That is the balance that we've got to get her to get better at is making plays herself and her teammates and keeping teams off-balance.
Q: How would you describe her [Amari Carter] personality off the court, because she seemed kind of reserved when I talked to her?
CW: I think if I had to describe Amari [Carter] it would be cool. She would be very at home in the 1940s Jazz Era. She is just cool as a cucumber, just so cool.
Q: Coquese, what about leadership? With a young team sometimes leadership needs to be developed, have you seen some good leadership so far?
CW: Yes, I think Jaida Travascio Green, Teniya [Page] and Sarah [McMurtry] have really tried to step up their leadership with the team. The good thing is this team is a pretty easy team to lead, because they are going to follow. They are eager to do what the leadership asks. The players, the captains and the leaders on the team are eager to do whatever is needed to be done. It's not a hard group to follow. They are doing a good job and we will continue to grow their leadership. Really happy with what they are doing right now.
Q: Coach, you guys were able to do some stuff in the community over the summer, I know the Leadership Academy and some different things like that, how important is that for the team to be active in the community and what do you see out of events like that?
CW: Well, our team is a team that those things are important to them. They are calling me and talking to me and texting me all the time about different things they can get involved with off the court. Whether it is THON or SAAB or the Leadership Academy that we did. That is a part of who these kids are. They are competitive on the court and they want to be impactful off the court. What we try to do is just provide opportunities for them to have to do the things that they want to do. Make sure it fits in with our schedule and things of that nature. But, it is a great group of players to coach in the sense that they are very conscientious about impacting the Penn State community, about impacting the Centre County community in any way they can.