Oct. 18, 2012
NEW ORLEANS - Despite not having practice, the Tulane University women's basketball team still held court - just not the hardwood kind - as head coach Lisa Stockton, senior Olivia Grayson and sophomore Danielle Blagg addressed the media during the annual Green Wave Media Day on Tuesday morning in the Hertz Center.
With 10-of-12 letterwinners returning from last year's squad, spirits are high around the Tulane program and the Green Wave were picked as the preseason favorite to win the 2012-13 Conference USA regular season title based on a vote of league head coach. A complete transcript of Thursday's presser is below.
Last year, Tulane went 23-11, finished tied for third in the C-USA standings with a 9-7 league mark, made the C-USA Championship title game for the third straight year and advanced to the second round of the WNIT. Among the 10 returning players, five -Grayson, Blagg, senior guard Tyria Snow, senior forward Janique Kautsky and sophomore forward Adesuwa Ebomwonyi - started at least 17 games.
Grayson and Blagg - who claimed first-team All-Conference USA and C-USA Freshman of the Year honors, respectively, in 2012 - headline the list. Grayson led the team in with 470 points (13.8 ppg), 119 assists (3.5 apg) and 78 steals (2.3 spg) while ranking second with 200 rebounds (5.9 rpg). Blagg, meanwhile, paced the squad with 54 3-point baskets while finishing third in with 286 points (8.4 ppg). Snow was second on the squad in assists (3.3 apg) and steals 70 (2.1 spg), Ebomwonyi finished second on the team with 193 rebounds (5.7 rpg), and Kautsky finished with averages of 3.2 points and 3.4 rebounds per game a year ago.
The Green Wave will also welcome the talents of three true freshmen to the squad in center Chinwe Duru (Round Rock, Texas), guard Tierra Jones (Madison, Ala.) and center Morgan Rogers (Shreveport, La.).
Tulane will open the regular season on Friday, Nov. 9, when the Green Wave play host to Louisiana Tech at 7 p.m. Season tickets for the 2012-13 Tulane women's basketball season will cost $100 for floor seats, $85 for reserved courtside and $50 for end-court general admission. For additional information, contact the Tulane Atheltics Ticket Office in person on the first floor of the James W. Wilson, Jr. Center. Information is also available over the phone at 504-861-WAVE (9283) or via the Internet at www.TulaneGreenWave.com.
TULANE HEAD COACH Lisa Stockton
"First of all, what a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, we talked about how many questions we had and how much uncertainty we had because we lost so much of our offense and our rebounding (from the 2010-11season). A year later, it's great to be in a position where we've earned the kind of respect to be preseason No. 1 (in the Conference USA poll). I think our players did a tremendous job last year with a very, very young team of showing up every day and having some big wins, but also finishing the season on a high note by getting to the finals of the conference championship and really trying to make a good run there at the end. That's something that we looked at in trying to get some momentum into this year because of how we finished last season. We still have a young roster. If you look at it eligibility wise, we have 10 players of our 14 that are freshmen or sophomores so it's still a very, very young team. We're excited about this year and we're excited about our future."
On if Conference USA is a multi-bid league or if Tulane needs to win the C-USA Tournament to advance to the NCAA's
"I think we would know that a little bit more as we go forward. We've got a lot of young players in the league, so I think that's yet to be determined. Last year, we were in a great position going into the conference. I think our RPI was 35 or somewhere around there going into conference play. We just had a part of our conference season where we lost some games with some inconsistencies. If we hadn't done that and if we had maybe lost two less games, I think would could still have been in even if we didn't win the (C-USA) tournament. So a lot depends on what we do non-conference, the consistency we show within our conference, and obviously in the tournament it's going to matter (how we play). Hopefully we're just not in a position where we have to win it."
On redshirt-sophomore Whitney Bibbins' return after sitting out last year with a concussion
"First of all, I think Whitney can make a great impact. She's an all-around player for us. During her freshman year, I think she did some great things. We're bringing Whitney back slowly. She's been in practice a lot. She's actually been out of practice these last couple of days, but we're really trying to re-integrate her back in slowly. With that kind of injury, we just want to make sure that she doesn't get injured again. We expect to have her. That's our plan right now. She's versatile. She's going to play the three and the four, so that definitely could be a piece that we didn't have last year that could be important for us."
On losing Brett Benzio to graduation and still earning top billing in the C-USA Preseason Poll
"That's a great question. I think when you get ranked preseason No. 1 and you lose a 1,000-point scorer and a 1,000-rebounder, we've got some players that have to make up some ground. The two things you said - her rebounding and her defense - are the two things we really need to replace. We've got some freshmen who can make a difference in that as far as the defensive side of it. The rebounding is going to have to be a little bit more by committee. When you talk about making up nine rebounds (per game), I don't know if we have anybody on the roster right now that we can count on for nine rebounds a game. But I think we have some players who are capable. We're pretty athletic, and whether it's from the wing or from the four position, we've got some players that can put up some numbers for rebounding. That's an element that we've really got to work on. The other thing I think we can get from this group that we did do a bit last year is with steals. We can make up some of that a little bit by stealing the ball, pressing and having a little bit of a faster pace this year. We've got some work to do to make up for Brett's absence."
On the biggest difference from last year's freshman class as they become sophomores this season
"Experience. I think the game experience is the most important thing. You look at Danielle (Blagg) sitting there, we played against LSU and she had the shot to win the game. That kind of experience that you can't simulate in practice. They've had a lot of minutes, and you look at those four (true) freshman and the redshirt, Katye Magee, a lot of them have been on the court. It's two things. Coming into the season, I thought they knew more of what to expect in the preseason. It wasn't such a learning experience every day. And I think the intensity level has increased in all of them just because they know that's what they have to do every day. They have to show up and be ready to compete. Getting this team, as young as they were, to the finals last year I thought was really, really important because they know what it's like to be there. I thought we played a very good game in the finals. It's a team that is ready to compete."
On preseason All-Conference USA guard Olivia Grayson
"When I look at Olivia's game from last year, I think we put a lot of pressure on her. In some ways, I think it can be an easier season for her this year because her teammates have been out there and they have that experience. I think she'll be able to play a little bit more of her game. She's really elevated her game. She's in the best condition I've seen her in. I think she's really ready to play so I'm excited about what Olivia's going to do this year."
On who has been the most improved player so far during the preseason
"That's a tough one. Our staff has kind of gone back and forth with who that is. I think the season will kind of tell that. This summer, our players have spent a lot of time together and this is the hardest I remember a team working over the summer. Janique (Kautsky) has come in in the best shape that she's been in and I see a big difference in her. I think Jamie Kaplan is someone who has advanced her game. It's hard to tell right now, but I think you can look at the entire freshman class from last year, look at them now and look at the maturity now, and they would probably all be candidates for that most improved label. That will be determined once we start the games. It really shows up in those games and the competition."
On if she feels this one of her best teams at Tulane and if the preseason C-USA poll got it right
"I guess both of those questions are ones that I can answer better at the end of the season than I can now. I think by the way we finished up last year, I can see why they voted us one because we're returning so many players that put up some good numbers last year. Where this team ranks depends on how we develop. We're really deep. I like that in this team. We're really deep and we've got a lot of options. We can go big. We can go fast. Probably our biggest question is our center position. We talked about losing Brett Benzio. What's going to emerge there, does that dictate the kind of system we run? I like our options there. It's just a matter of how we develop. That's going to be the question to see where they go and where they can rank."
SENIOR GUARD Olivia Grayson
On being sort of a senior citizen on a young team
"It's different from my freshman year. I had a different role my freshman year and just came in and tried to contribute wherever I could. Being a senior now, you're looked at more as a leader and to set the tone for the team rather than to follow the seniors. It's a good feeling, honestly, to be the senior citizen."
On which guard position she is going to play and her role on the team
"Which position I'm going to play, we really don't know. We haven't figured that out. It mainly comes down to who's guarding me and what type of team we're playing. As far as other people contributing, we have a lot of options scoring wise and ball-handling wise. We have to other point guards in Tyria Snow and Jamie Kaplan that are very capable at that position. We just have athletes, really, that can score from the guard position, from the post position, and from anywhere on the court."
On if this is the best Tulane team that she has been a part of
"I can say that, yes. I feel that from the point guard position to the center position, this is the most talented teams since I've been here."
SOPHOMORE GUARD Danielle Blagg
On how much more she expects from herself this year after earning C-USA Freshman of the Year honors in 2012
"Last year, I wasn't expecting much. I wanted to come in and contribute, but this year I'm definitely expecting a lot more of myself. Shooting wise, free throw wise, defensively, I just need to take it step by step and improve my game."
On if she has learned not to put too much pressure on herself
"I'm getting there. I need to start. There is going to be that pressure and I can feel it coming. But like I was saying, it's a step-by-step kind of thing. You take it one game, one practice at a time and just keep going and hopefully improve."
On if she feels largely responsible to improve her rebounding ability
"Rebounding, yes definitely. I need to do a lot more rebounding. Coach tells me every day. It's something I need to improve among a lot of other things, but since we lost Brett, it's something we need to improve on as a team."
On how her experience last year will help her this season and beyond
"Last season, being a freshman, I really wasn't sure what to expect. High school experience doesn't compare to what college brings to you. I think whether it was the LSU game or the conference finals, each game we had just brought that experience and it kind of brings it on to this year. It helps me, personally, to be prepared for what's to come."
On who she feels has improved the most from last year
"I would have to say Janique Kautsky. I just think she's doing everything, whether it's defensively, rebounding. Olivia, of course, is a great player all around but I've just noticed a huge change in Janique from the beginning of last year to this year. I think she's going to be great."