Oct. 18, 2011
TUCSON - University of Arizona Wildcat women's basketball hosted its annual Media Day event on Tuesday. Below is a full transcript from fourth-year head coach Niya Buttsand select players.
Head Coach Niya Butts
"As far as practice goes, practice is practice. Obviously, we're getting better. We feel good about where we are today. We didn't feel that way yesterday but that's how it goes. Day one to day 12, there's a huge difference, and our team is really starting to gel. I thought our scrimmage this afternoon was much, much better than I expected. I think we had a lot of leadership on the floor. Davellyn Whytewas a key part in that. I feel good about where we are so far, and I think only time will tell, but once we get to our first couple exhibition games, and moving forward with the rest of the season, I think you guys will still see a team that likes to get up and down the floor. I think you'll see a team that is much more aggressive defensively than we have been in the past. Hopefully, that doesn't mean more fouls called, but we'll see. Some of those I'll take if we're being more physical. Other than that, I'm excited about the season starting and can't wait to get the show on the road."
On the possibility of getting complacent in practice:
"As coaches, we never get complacent. Sometimes at practice you're going to love what you're doing, and there are going to be other times where it looks like we haven't been working on much. It's all the little things that are going to make the huge difference. Our goal this year is to make practices a lot tougher than it's going to be when you play. Our staff, we get really intense during that time, but I think it's going to help us during games. I think our team is going to be much more prepared to go out there and play in a tough environment. We're hoping it works out. They get reminded constantly that we can't get complacent, so I think they won't."
On the team being more aggressive than in the past:
"Defensively, we've changed some things a little bit. We don't want to give too much away, but we're doing some things differently, and trying to get much more disruptive to our offensive opponents. We're hoping that it will speed them up a little bit, and we're also hoping that it creates a little bit more offensive production for us. Obviously, with losing a lot of scoring from last year, we know we're going to have to pick up that somewhere, and we're hoping to create some of that with our defense."
On who will be there to pick up the scoring slack:
"Everybody. It's going to have to be a team effort. We're not going to ask Davellyn to go out and score thirty, but if she wants to she's welcome to it, but it's going to have to be each player individually stepping up, maybe a couple more points here, a couple more rebounds there. Again, we're looking for our defense to create some of our offense for us, which is why we changed it up a little bit."
On the new players:
"Hopefully you're going to see them all, and that's our goal. We want everybody to be able to contribute. Obviously it's basketball, so sometimes some people are going to play a little bit more than others, but overall we feel really good about our big, Aley Rhode, who is a true freshman. We think she can give us a lot. We just have to keep everybody healthy, keep her healthy, got to keep her out of foul trouble. Aley is going to be a key asset for us. Layana White plays extremely hard. Sometimes we'll find her out of position, but she goes so hard that she makes up for that. She's out there working. Erin Butler is also going to provide some outside shooting for us. She's going provide some steady play. Cheshi Poston is from Chicago, she's a post player. She's really long, really athletic. When the light comes on for her, it's going to mean trouble for a lot of people. She's a really good player in transition, can rebound the ball. Cheylene Harper, she is really physical. She's going to add some toughness to our team, I believe. We just have to figure out ways to incorporate everybody into what we're doing. Lindsey Fearing, she's a great outside shooter. We're penetrating and kicking that ball, we expect her to knock that thing down, and she knows she has a green light. Hopefully we'll see a lot of those shots going up and in. I think overall everybody brings something, and I think they bring enough so you're going to see them bring a little bit of everything."
On what Shanita Arnoldbrings to the table:
"Our goal is for her to bring some leadership, some consistency to that position. Someone who is going to be able to direct our team, calm us down when we get a little scattered, and understand the game a little bit better. I think she will provide that for us. I think she's going to have some help in doing that. We have a couple guards this year that can take on that position, so I think it's going to free a lot of things up for us."
On what the team needs to improve on:
"As a coach, I think we need to improve on a lot. The easy answers are rebounding and defense. It begins to be repetitive a little bit, but that's what wins basketball games. I think we need to take care of the ball a little bit better. There are a lot of things we need to do. We need to talk more, not to say we aren't doing those things now, but we certainly need to improve on them."
On the benefit of a veteran backcourt:
"It's very beneficial. Any time you have veterans on the floor, it adds to what you're doing, especially on the perimeter. You win with good guard play, and if you can stay healthy in that area, and they're all on the same page, then I think you can do anything."
On Aley Rhode's ball handling skills:
"I think she's a good passer. I think what Aley has to get better at is anticipation, and anticipating when someone is going to pass it to her. Coming from high school, where you don't have a whole lot of guards that were going to get you the ball in the positions that we can now, it is at knowing that the ball can come at any point if you're open. They don't have to be looking at you to pass it to you. I think once she understands that and understands the tempo which that may happen, then she's going to be pretty tough to handle."
On coaching changes within the Pac-12 Conference, and how that affects Arizona:
"We're trying to do Arizona basketball, no matter what's going on anywhere else. Certainly, with a lot of coaching changes, you don't know what to expect from a lot of people. I think the door is open for anybody. We have six new players on our roster; we're going through changes as well. The one thing we have to do is stay consistent in what we do, and I think that will make all the difference, regardless of what everyone else does."
On where the team is compared to where it was when Butts started coaching at Arizona:
"In terms of where we were, when we arrived, I think we're probably on schedule. I'm very competitive, obviously I want it a lot sooner, but I think we're certainly making strides in our program. Everyone who has been following us over the last three years can see that. It's not an easy thing to do. We're not where we want to be, but we're not where we were either."
Junior guard Davellyn Whyte
On what stands out to her so far:
"The pace that everyone's ready to work at so far this season. We've only been practicing for a couple weeks, but you can just see the difference in how much more it seems that everyone wants it as a team this year. I think we're just ready to go."
On missing the NCAA Tournament last year being motivation for this year:
"I think about it all the time. My freshman year didn't go as well, and last year, we almost got there, missed it by a few games, so it's definitely in the back of my mind. I don't want to go almost again, I want to get there."
On Aley Rhode:
"I grew up playing against Aley, so I kind of knew what she had, and when she signed here I was really excited because we have a big girl that you know is going to work hard and she really does work hard, so I'm excited for the season."
On the changes on defense:
"Like Coach said, I think our defense is going to make our offense run a little better. If we do have a lot of pressure and are all over their guards, it's going to lead to a lot of fast break points, and fast breaks are kind of the easy way to win games."
On conveying the motivation to go to the NCAA Tournament to the new players:
"I think we kind of told our story about the feeling we had when we were watching TV and we didn't make the tournament. We told them that they're new, but we have a goal, and they just have to ride with it."
Junior forward Cheylene Harper
On the team's strengths:
"The fact that we are cohesive as a team, for one. Another strength is that we are all athletic."
On the newcomers and how they are adjusting:
"I'm a newcomer, so I think we are picking up on things pretty quickly and we are just as big of a part of the team as the returners are. I really have a good feeling about it. I have never been on a team where we gelled so quickly."
Senior guard Shanita Arnold
On what they have been focusing on in practice:
"Defense and rebounding. Every day we do a drill where we get butt-to-butt for a whole minute and we just push up against each other and go right into transition, boxing out. We are also working on transition."
On what she worked on in the offseason:
"I worked on everything. My movement, shooting, defense--just tried to keep my body in shape and get ready for the season."
Sophomore forward Erica Barnes
On what she worked on this offseason:
"This offseason I worked on dribbling and being more physical."
On things to look forward to this season:
"This season I'm looking forward to the tournament in Hawaii and playing Syracuse and BYU. That trip will tell us where we are as a team before we start conference play."
Sophomore guard Candice Warthen
On strengths of the team:
"We are really athletic, we still have to put it all together, but overall we have a very athletic team."
On what she emphasized in the offseason:
"This offseason and even now, I work on my three-point shot."
On focus points in practice:
"The most important things to us in practice are rebounding, transition and defense."
On what newcomers bring to the table:
"They bring a lot of athleticism, that's the biggest thing. But really, each person brings something different, like shooting, defense, size, they just contribute a lot. Aley Rohdeis big so she brings a great presence to the floor. Cheylene (Harper) brings a lot of athleticism and physicality to the team."
Junior guard Lindsey Fearing
On what she emphasized in the offseason:
"I worked on getting better defensively and just improving all aspects of my game."
On fitting in with the veterans:
"I feel really good about working with the returning players. They help us a lot with things we don't understand, which is nice. Also, the coaches really welcomed us with open arms."
The Wildcats open the season Nov. 2 at the McKale Center with an exhibition against Western State College. The regular season will begin with a contest at Georgia Southern on Nov. 11. For tickets to the Arizona Wildcat women's basketball games, call 800-452-2287.