Lexington WBB Regional: Saturday Quotes
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us for the press we're joined by Mike Neighbors, Kelsey Plum, Talia Walton, Chantel Osahor, Katie Collier, and Alexus Atchley. We'll begin with questions for the student- athletes and turn it over to questions for the head coach.
Q. You come all the way back east, you get to play Stanford yet again. What about this match-up has you excited for tomorrow?
KELSEY PLUM: Well, Stanford's a phenomenal team, they're coached by Tara VanDerveer, obviously, one of the greatest coaches in college basketball, men's and women's, they're going to have a great game plan, and they're going to have players that are trying to execute that game plan, so we have our work cut out for us. We're really excited about this opportunity, and we're going to go out there and continue to try to do what we've been doing this whole tournament.
Q. Talia, you've played Stanford twice before, very different results. Other than one game being at Stanford and one game being in Seattle, what was the difference in those two games that caused you all to play so well one game and lose the other?
TALIA WALTON: Going there, obviously it's hard to go to that arena and play, they did a great job against us.
And I think a lot of credit goes to them. But I don't think we played our best basketball there. And coming back to Seattle, it was tournament time, and that's when everybody rises to the occasion. So we're going to try to do the exact same thing out here. Again, it's another tournament. But just like they're going to have a great game plan, we will have one as well.
Q. Chantel, Rebecca Lobo was tweeting about you last night, saying, "Watching Chantel makes me smile every time I watch her." I'm curious, you have an unorthodox game. I don't think anybody would dispute that. What are some of the different ways people have described your game over the years? Anything that stands out?
CHANTEL OSAHOR: I think people try to be nice. They say my game, my shot is interesting. It is unorthodox. So it's like whatever. If it goes in, it goes in. But I think people like it because it's not something you see every day.
Q. How would you guys describe the way Chantel plays?
KELSEY PLUM: I would say she's kind of a mix Draymond (Green) meets Boris Diaw from the Spurs. That's kind of the only way I've thought of it. Yeah.
TALIA WALTON: She's definitely unlike any other player I've seen or played with, but I like it. I'll take it any day.
KATIE COLLIER: She's so passionate and always herself out there. She's our hype man. Yeah, our hype man. Have you ever seen her go boom? Oh, you're missing out.
MIKE NEIGHBORS: She's a chess player playing basketball. I've said that before, and I haven't come up with anything better than that yet. She's a step or two ahead of the rest of us. It didn't take long to see that from the first time I saw her to what I see on a daily basis. It doesn't cease to amaze me, and it does make you smile. I think Rebecca nailed it on the head, it brings you joy.
I guess people don't watch film on her, I don't know. This is what she does, she's been doing this now for three years, and people are yet still surprised. I've had a number of coaches say to me, We show our kids film, we tell them, we tell them, we tell them. But they don't believe it until they see it for 19 (points) and 17 (rebound) and 5 (assists).
Q. Katie and Alexus, something about that game down at Stanford, on paper it seems like it's themost disappointing performance of the season. Does it make sense then that you guys have been, I don't know, say a different team, but you've obviously played a lot better. Is there something about that performance down there that changed anything for you guys, if you think back a little bit at that game and what happened that night?
KATIE COLLIER: I don't know if it was a turning point for us, but we recognize it wasn't our best game. I don't think we're stuck on that game, but we saw the next game, kept playing better, and we showed up and played really good in the tournament.
MIKE NEIGHBORS: Do you remember that game? That was the game that Lili Thompson went off on us? It was my fault, it was my fault. We said we weren't going to guard Lili Thompson, bad plan. She had five 3s in the first quarter. That was the difference in the game. It was even from that point on. There was no turning point. They had scored 31 points in the game before at Arizona State. They weren't shooting it well. We were going to take a calculated risk, and I looked pretty dumb that night after the first quarter.
She was Player of the Week that week, by the way.
Q. What role have Chantel and Kelsey played for this program in terms of when you took over and setting the tone on the court and just shaping what you want UW to be?
MIKE NEIGHBORS: Yeah, both of them had the opportunity. They had their letters of intent given back to them by the university that week when Kevin left to go to Ohio State and the transition was being made. My first two, and Brianna Ruiz was coming in as well. I reached out to all three of those kids. I had different conversations with each of them. Kelsey's was pretty cut and dry.
I actually went to see Chantel and make sure that she understood that our plan was the same, that there was going to be no change in what we had seen in her future. So them sticking with the new coaching change, it gave me confidence that we were headed in the right direction. Then for them to stick through the mistakes I made as a first-year head coach, a lot of kids will transfer in this climate and these days and they just stuck around and stuck around just kept digging in, battling, and getting to know each other better.
It takes you a little longer to get to know Chantel. She's not as open with her feelings, so it took a little longer. But we developed a relationship through her freshman year that was really, really solid. Obviously what she brings to us not only on the court but the off- the-court stuff that these guys are talking about, the team, the great teammate that she is, how hyped she does get, and how they rally around her. They really take care of each other, and those two guys are a huge part of that that came in in that first class, along with Brianna who is not here because of her injury and just had surgery.
Q. When this regional was announced the teams that got attention, Notre Dame and Maryland, had Final Four streaks going on, Kentucky looked like they might not have to leave Lexington to get to the Final Four. Not a lot of people are talking about yourself or Stanford. Did you think from the start this was a potential match-up in the regional final, that you might see Stanford again or are you surprised by the match-up we have here?
MIKE NEIGHBORS: I think all those teams deserve the credit that you're talking about. They've certainly earned that in the past. I think we kind of did fly under the radar out west. I think when I looked at the bracket, the first thing I noticed was we were in there with Stanford. It was going to happen. Anytime you get multiple teams, four or more teams in there, you're going to have somebody in the same conference in the same bracket. It ended up being us, but that did jump at me, that would be great if it was us and Stanford, and that would guarantee a Pac-12 team in the Final Four.
As it played out, obviously you don't look at it and go, oh, yeah, we're going to win it at Maryland. I didn't look past Penn first of all, because that team had a really, really good team and really good season. I didn't look that deep at that point in time. But as it started to shape up, it seemed conceivable. And after we won last night, it didn't surprise me one bit that Stanford played as well as they did. They've been playing really well.
Our league was balanced this year. A lot of different styles to get you ready for tournament play, and I think that 18-game schedule that we played really prepared everybody in our league. I think we've got a few teams sitting at home that beat each other up in the middle of our league. I think Oregon's still alive deep into the NIT. And I think had they not had just a devastating injury to one of the greatest players in the history of our league, I think they would be in this tournament as well.
Same thing with USC. Had a couple unfortunate things happen at their place, where I think we could have had multiple -- as many as seven teams in the tournament this year.
It's not a surprise to me that the league is having success. It was a concentrated effort from about, four, five years ago where we really sat in a room and developed a plan and all the coaches had great thoughts on it and the league really, truly did care about trying to raise our profile. It's kind of fun to see happening.
Q. You know the pulse of the locker room. Given what is possible tomorrow, is this something that you kind of have to try to put into context for them?
MIKE NEIGHBORS: Not with this group. Some teams I think you would have to try to kind of explain things to, but this group, they're pretty into it. They understand the gravity of the situation and they're students of the game. You can just tell by the way Chantel and Kelsey talk, they know what's going on around all of basketball. So they certainly get it.
I'm not sure the moment's hit them yet. It hit me this morning for the first time answering a couple text messages that you're a game away from playing in the Final Four. As coaches we make all these plans, hey, let's get together at the Final Four, let's talk at the Final Four. Somebody said, if we don't get a chance to talk because you're playing, that's when it hit me. It's one game away from that.
So I think these kids probably get it. So the worst thing I could do is screw it up by giving them my opinion on it. So I'll get out of their way and let them figure it out.
Q. What is different about short prep time when you know a team as well as Stanford?
MIKE NEIGHBORS: For us, that's how we're kind of built. We're built around terminology and language in our system. We don't do a whole lot of tweaking. So we could literally talk through this. We wouldn't even have to walk through, if we don't need to. And with the Pac-12, we play Friday-Sunday, so we're used to having a day in between in prep.
So it's business as usual. We'll talk about it a lot more than we'll run today. If you came to our practice, it would not look like a practice. But it's what we've been doing since January. So there will be a very routine feel to it, and I think that's an important part of these kids being in a routine that they're comfortable with and trying not to get too far away from that to magnify the situation, because in all reality, it's just another game like we've been playing.
Q. Based on what happened last night we're guaranteed two teams seeded 4th or below in the Final Four. Obviously this game has one team going for its fourth national title. What's it say for the improved depth across the game that there could be two four seeds, could be two seven seeds in the Final Four?
MIKE NEIGHBORS: Yeah, I think it's happening in our game in the year -- has there been an upset in the men's Sweet 16 yet? I don't think there has. I don't think there's been a lower-seed win. But I still don't think there's a lower seed. I think the higher seeds have still won. In the round of 32 there were some, and obviously some in the first round, but in the Sweet 16 I don't think there has been. You'll have to check my exact math on that.
But I think it's great for our game to have some new faces out there. We've all read it's the UCONN Invitational, and I have no problem with that. We all marveled at what Jon wooden did back in the day at UCLA. So I think we should embrace what's going on with UCONN. Somebody's going to be the team eventually that stops that, I think. But I do think it's good for our game to have some conversations going on with some new faces, some new players and new programs. I think it helps raise our profile in recruiting on the West Coast, and if we can continue to keep those great players on the West Coast and give them a reason with our Pac-12 Networks going now, the TV is available, and I think it gives us the profile that we need to continue to recruit the athletes to compete with the teams on this side of the Rocky Mountains.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us for the press conference for the Stanford basketball team. We're joined at podium by Head Coach Tara VanDerveer, and student-athletes Erica McCall, Karlie Samuelson, Kaylee Johnson, Briana Roberson and Lili Thompson. We'll open it up with questions for our student-athletes.
Q. Karlie, ESPN interviewed your dad during the UCONN game, and I don't know if you saw it, but he lifted up his UCONN hoodie and he was wearing a Stanford shirt. What kind of relationship do you guys have? And number two, do you or your sister ever talk about or joke about you're going to see each other in a National Championship or the Final Four?
KARLIE SAMUELSON: I have a great relationship with my dad. I got a bunch of texts and pictures, "Your dad was on ESPN." I texted him, "nice interview," and he was like, "How did I do?"
But, yeah, as far as my sister and I, we don't joke about that. We talk about how well we're doing and I tell her how well she's doing, and we're just really happy for each other.
Q. Lili, you all have had some Final Four experience and you're accustomed to being on this stage. Washington has never played in the Final Four. Do you think that can have any advantage for you going in or doesn't matter?
LILI THOMPSON: I think in terms of experience and being at this level, it's good for us to be able to look back as freshmen at the Final Four, but I also think it's just one game and we're focused on this particular game. Once we win that, then we'll be excited.
Q. Briana or Lili, Marta had 11 points last night. She seems to be growing. You guys played with her. What do you see in terms of her growth, and how important she is to you guys in moving on?
BRIANA ROBERSON: I think she's definitely been aggressive more, which is what we're asking of her. She does a great job passing the ball. She's just doing a really good job of fulfilling the point guard role and doing her job and being aggressive. So we're excited about that.
LILI THOMPSON: Yeah, we all have confidence in her, and I think that she's seeing just how well she can play on this stage, and she's contributing. I mean, everybody saw last night how well she played.
Q. Erica, Mike Neighbors was saying earlier that it takes a while for people to figure out that Chantel's for real. When you look at the stats or you see her in person, can you guys speak to that? How long does it take to figure out that Chantel can play and what do you have to do to stop her?
ERICA McCALL: I knew she was good in high school. We played her when we played for the Arizona Warriors, and everyone looked at them and thought they're a regular team and we're going to go out and beat them. And just like she's doing to everybody else out there, she did the same thing to us: Knocking down 3s, attacking the basket.
So I knew from the beginning that she was a great player. I think she's definitely grown as a player. It will be exciting to see the match-up that we'll have tomorrow.
Q. Erica, you all played Washington twice already this season, two very different results. Aside from the court difference, what caused the difference in the results?
ERICA McCALL: I think we came out aggressive enough. I think we were stagnant on offense and it took us a while to definitely get going in the game, and ultimately it was too late for us to come back. So I think we're definitely going to learn from that and come back and come out as an aggressive team.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach.
Q. How much of a stress does it put on the team defense when Washington has three players, obviously, that can light up the scoreboard? How much of a stress does that put on you? It's not just three guards and two forwards, it's kind of a mix of guards and forwards and different things.
TARA VANDERVEER: I think if you're playing at this level all teams have those kind of weapons, that's why they're here. Last night we had to deal with a lot of offensive weapons. South Dakota State, we had to deal with a lot of offensive weapons and they were similar in a way to Washington in that their post players can shoot 3s like Osahor or Walton at the 4.
That's the challenge of playing at this level is you're going to play against great offensive players. Washington, they're skilled players. And Kelsey Plum is a terrific point guard. It's great that the country has seen her. I don't know, you said maybe people look at Osahor and they might look at Kelsey Plum and they don't realize how good she is.
Mike has done a great job with their team. They really execute extremely well. To beat Maryland at Maryland and Kentucky at Kentucky, they're a hot team. Tomorrow will be who is the hotter team? I think we're playing hot basketball, too.
Q. To follow up on Osahor, Mike was saying opposing coaches will come up to him and say, Listen, I've told my players watch the film, look how good she is. You don't understand. Like she's going to surprise you and they never listen until they're actually on the floor and see what she's doing. What is your experience with that in terms of trying to prepare for her and then actually seeing what she does on the court?
TARA VANDERVEER: Well, don't let the frame fool you. She really has point guard skills in a post body. Look at her assist numbers. She is a fantastic passer. Her three-point shot is unorthodox, but it goes in. So you have to guard that. She's a lot faster. She has very, very good hands and very quick feet. But it's really a non-issue for our team, to be honest with you. Like Erica said, she is great and when a player is saying, hey, look out, the girl can play. So it's better when -- they believe it more when they hear it from a player than they do when they hear it from a coach.
Q. In the few games against Washington was there a lasting memory from those two games? Are there any trends you can apply to now?
TARA VANDERVEER: Washington, I think we played them at Stanford in January. They're not the same team we beat in January. They're playing very confidently. When we played them in Seattle I thought we had a really good game. It's a two-point game at the end of the game; we came back. And I would say there were some controversial plays at the end of the game. But we have to be more aggressive.
You have to do things correctly. You have to rebound, you have to play defense, and you've got to take care of the ball and run your offense and knock down shots. So it's not like it's rocket science or a big secret. But we did not do those things. We didn't play with maybe, I don't know, maybe the first game of the Pac-12, and we did not have the intensity. But I know that we'll have it tomorrow.
So I call this the rubber match, being a bridge player. It's like this is for all the marbles. I think people are going to see a great game.
Q. Given what's possible tomorrow in terms of what's at stake, do you feel like you have to keep this moment in the context with your players?
TARA VANDERVEER: First of all, I'm really excited that a Pac-12 team is going to go to the Final Four, so I love that because we've had the No. 1 RPI league all year. So I'm excited about that. I want that team to be Stanford.
I think it does help that our team -- like I've been through this and we know kind of what it's going to take. The biggest thing is not to have -- both of us have had big games to get here. So we're both riding this emotional high, and you've got to come out ready to play and you've got to be extremely aggressive. I think it's going to be a great game.
Q. I know you followed Kelsey Plum closely in high school, too. Could you have foreseen the kind of player she's become now? She's on pace early to shatter the Pac-12 scoring record at some point next year. Obviously she's a very talented player, but did you see her blossoming into this?
TARA VANDERVEER: She went to the same high school that Candice Wiggins did. And her coach kind of told us about her as an 8th grader. It's hard to ever know because you just don't know what's inside them. You can see that she's a really good high school player, but I think that her success is not so much that, but it's her work ethic. And she's playing in a system that fits her very, very well. And I think she's a bona fide All- American and should be this year. She's just playing great.
I don't know if I -- I think my assistant coach who recruited her more did see this, yes. Amy Tucker watched her play and was like, wow, we were really disappointed that it wasn't a fit for Stanford. So I would say maybe I didn't but she did.
Q. Fair to characterize it as a miss for Stanford? That might be overly simplistic, but what went into that?
TARA VANDERVEER: No, it wasn't. I mean, we wanted her.
Q. Just the Final Four experience. I know you all don't have many seniors playing big minutes, but you have a lot of Final Four experience having coached in so many of them. Washington's never been here. How much of an advantage do you think that is for you all if at all?
TARA VANDERVEER: I mean, I think that there's probably some experience that sometimes can be an advantage. But it's really going to boil down to just getting it done on the court. So we're really excited to be here and we know that there could be a lot of other teams sitting right up here, not us. South Dakota State, Notre Dame, they're both great programs. Combined we beat them both by 8 points or even it might have been 7.
It's really -- we're really fortunate. We do feel like we know what we're doing at this point and we're going to get our team ready, and then it's going to be a quick turnaround tomorrow. I think it's going to be kind of like the pick-up game at the gym where the kids know each other. They've played against each other a lot. They know each other.
Again, I think it will be a great game. I hope that Lexington and fans of basketball at Kentucky, the great tradition of basketball come out and support a great game.
Q. Obviously the way UCONN is playing today and the way they played all season, they're the clear favorite in this tournament. But beyond UCONN, do you sense there is more parity in the women's game with all lower seeds winning last night?
TARA VANDERVEER: I think so. I don't think that's ever happened. Maybe somebody knows what I don't, but I don't think that's ever happened. It does feel like there's in some ways more excitement because that is happening. Closer games, more interest, more talk about it. I mean, that's the direction that we're going in, which is good and bad. It's just going to give me more gray hair. More great teams, more great players.