2012 Spartan Women's Basketball Media Day Coverage
Oct. 8, 2012
On Monday, Oct. 8, head coach Suzy Merchant and the Michigan State women's basketball program held its media day at the Breslin Center. Coach Merchant, the assistant coaches and the student-athletes met with the media for over an hour to discuss the upcoming 2012-13 season.
Below is a transcipt of Coach Merchant's press conference:
COACH MERCHANT: Hi, everybody. Welcome back to another year. We're really excited about our team and our program. It's a very youthful group, and on some days that's very exciting and on other days that can make for a long day.
But we've had the opportunity to speak to you all right now with a little bit of something in that we've had some practice time this week. As many of you know, we have a little different rule than the men. We went to it two years ago where we have 30 practice opportunities in 40 days from our first game, if you count that back. So for us it allowed us to practice a little earlier. We began on October 2nd. So we've had four practices in right now. So I feel confident that I have a little more insight than just a generic this is what we think is going to happen. We can actually see a little bit on the court what our kids can do and talk to you a little bit about that.
I think our program is in a really good position. We're excited about our freshman class. We've got some high, high level talented kids that are going to see a lot of minutes early. That's obviously a really good thing, and that can certainly keep you up at night on the other side of it. But they're talented, and we're thrilled with what we have with the options we put on the floor.
The biggest thing for us right now, quite honestly, is to get everybody healthy. We're pretty banged up right now. We get people back at different times. I can share with you some of the injury reports as we go and you guys ask questions. But that's a big concern right now. We have some nagging things and some things where people are completely out and will have time to come back hopefully sooner rather than later. That dictates a little bit sometimes frustration in practice because you don't always have everybody going.
But we are excited about the season. We're very athletic and long and lean, and we can do a lot of different things defensively. We need to stay healthy, particularly Madison Williams inside. She's paid her dues, in my opinion. As a coaching staff, we've paid our dues waiting for her to get out there and our fans. And we're doing everything we can to make sure she stays healthy for the year. With that I'll talk a little about our schedule briefly and open it up for questions.
We're playing a total of 15 schools that were in the postseason. And the Big Ten success was one that we were all really proud of with seven teams in the NCAA Tournament. Obviously, a very good representation in the NCAA Tournament, which is the first time that it's ever happened in a with seven teams. We're really excited about our brand of basketball in the NCAA and nationally. So we want to continue to capitalize on that.
Who will take over at point guard over the first nine games?
The positive thing is we don't have to make somebody a point guard that isn't. The back up situation where we have a couple of kids. Klarissa Bell is going to play back up for us as well as we have a walk on, Anna Morrissey, that plays the point guard position if need be. So we have three people. Certainly we're going to rely heavily on Jasmine Thomas, but as a fourth year senior and kid that started to play a lot of minutes, she's ready for that role.
You go into this season minus your top three scorers. Can you talk about offense and how you see that working this year?
I thought Klarissa Bell came on last year. I think she's had a tremendous off season as a scorer, and we'd like to keep her in that position. Aerial Powers has really shown that she can score the ball, and Branndais Agee as a freshman was one, too and she's recently injured, and I'll talk to you about that. So we won't have her early in the season, but she's a talented offensive player. You know, Becca (Mills) is someone that I think is a match up problem at times because she can face up and post up. But it's really going to have to be a collective effort. I don't see anyone stepping up out of the gate.
Really, Lykendra (Johnson) wasn't a great scorer. She just found ways to score. But if you're asking me, we are missing that Porsche (Poole) type player that can get you 12 or 14 a game at this point just because it's unproven. Not because we don't have it. Just because we haven't been in a situation to see some consistency there.
Not sure how much you can address the situation with Kiana (Johnson) and Akyah (Taylor). Can you talk about the emotional decision to give Kiana the captainship and take it away from her?
It definitely hurts our depth because Branndais Agee is out for the first six weeks with her injury. So there are three kids right there. I can tell you two of those three were starters, and it definitely changes your depth chart out of the gate for the first nine games.
Yeah, the captain thing is what it is. You can't make poor decisions and think you can still lead. It is disappointing. She understood it, and really to her credit, she has an opportunity to earn that back based on some of the things that she does, and holding herself accountable in all areas. I expect her to be able to do that.
But that wasn't easy, and she learned a lesson and so did Akyah. It does give opportunity. We've opened things up. I've always been someone that believes as a coach that you name your captains. I don't like popularity contests with voting. I've done a lot of different things in my career, but over time I figured out I need to go to the kids that I think can lead us to a championship. So obviously, Courtney Schiffauer and Kiana at the time were the two that came to me.
With Kiana's situation, I opened it up to the team in a team meeting after we were informed of some of the penalties and what the situation was that I was going to take Kiana's captainship from her. She was very good about it. Then opened it up to the team. Had a couple of days with a very intense kind of team building thing for the next couple of days that forces adversity and leadership through adversity. It gave people an opportunity to see who they might want to step forward. When that happened, it was unequivocally Jasmine Thomas and Klarissa Bell. So they're going to join Courtney Schiffauer this year as captains.
What is the involvement the two suspended players can have? Can they travel with the team, practice with the team? How does that work?
Can you talk about the change depth chart. Does that along with the youth you talk about change expectations for your team as you've finished near the top of the conference the last couple of years?
You stood here a year ago and talked about how exciting Madison Williams was, and two weeks later it was all over. So is she at a 100-percent? And when she is, how much do you worry about the reinjury factor?
I'm thinking positive. I feel like that kid has paid her dues. I think this coaching staff has paid its dues. Our fans have paid their dues. It's her time. It is her time. Right now we're just trying to manage her ability to get back on the basketball court, where she has been not pain free, certainly. But just trying to find a way for her to get her confidence back, and she can be effective. Watching her in practice, she can change things. I mean, she is a difference maker, a program changer in a lot of ways, even injured just because she can block shots and rebound. I really don't care if she scores a point, she can do a lot of things for us and make up for a lot of mistakes, especially defensively for us. My hope and prayer is that she has a chance to play an entire season in the next four. She's earned it. She's paid her price. She's a great kid and a harder worker. I'd like to see her complete an entire season. Really, the next four.
With the other two girls as captains, Klarissa (Bell) and Jasmine (Thomas), talk about what makes them complementary captains and what Courtney (Schiffauer) brings as well in terms of on court and off court?
Jasmine Thomas and Klarissa (Bell), it's probably good for them a little bit because those are the two kids that have to step up the most for us given the depth issue. So any time someone's a leader or put in a position to lead, certainly their expectation is higher, and it should be higher of themselves. So we have confidence in each one of them. I think it's good for Klarissa little bit, because it showed her that her team has confidence in her, and the same thing with Jasmine Thomas. As I mentioned, I put that in front of the team. It was their choice after the situation. So those are the two people that came out without question. It was clear. It wasn't kind of sort of a captain. It was through and through those are the two kids that everybody wanted and needed to see step up. So I think it gave them some confidence.
Jasmine Hines gained more playing time last season with the injury to Madison Williams, how has her development been this offseason? Also, can you talk about the other freshmen?
Becca had knee surgery in the offseason in May that stemmed from the Indiana injury when she was a freshman. You saw her go down. She was starting for us. She did not play in the Michigan game after that. It's always been bothering her. But they did a nice job of getting that put back together, and she's been off most of the summer. But she has kind of joined the conditioning piece this fall, so she's not out of shape at all. But I don't know if she's a hundred percent, especially from a lateral perspective.
You asked me about the other freshmen. I think the two out of the four that stick out the most are Aerial Powers and Branndais Agee. Those are two kids that are special players and competitors, and create their own shots and have a high IQ for the game. Mariah (Harris) and Cara (Miller) are two kids that I don't know if you call them program kids, but I guess that's probably the best way to describe them. It's about the best way to develop them, and hours in the gym. I think the best we've had of a program kid is Taylor Alton. Just worked, worked, worked hours in the gym, extra shots, lots of reps, and built that into a really positive, junior and senior year, and ended up on national TV at the Men's Final Four shooting for a 3 point shooting contest, and is in England now playing professionally. So it's about development and investing and those are two kids that their time will be coming. It might not be as impactful as the other two.
If you had a game tonight, who would your starting five be?
Annalise Pickrel's coming back, and we're moving her to a four. She had shoulder surgery in the offseason, and she's not able to practice right now. So as I said, I tried to warn you, we're a little banged up, and it's a lot of different things. We've had all different kinds of things. It's not the same injuries. Those are the three guards I'd start. I'm not sure about the other two yet.
Where do you see the biggest area this team needs to improve before the season? Does this team strike you being similar to last year in terms of having young player that's can push veterans like Klarissa (Bell) and Kiana (Johnson) did?
I guess is that what this team needs to experience is time?
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