Women's Basketball Holds Annual Media Day

by LSUsports.net (@LSUsports)
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Women's Basketball Holds Annual Media Day

BATON ROUGE — The LSU Sports Information Department held its annual basketball media day on Tuesday, October 14 in the 5th floor conference room of the LSU Athletics Department. Women’s head coach Sue Gunter spoke first. She was followed by men’s head coach John Brady. After both coaches finished, players were introduced and interviewed in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

Here is the transcript from today’s women’s basketball press conference

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL COACH SUE GUNTER
OCTOBER 14, 2003

“Regarding our attendance, etc., I want to thank Skip (Bertman), I want to thank Jenni (Peters), I want to thank Judy (Southard) and I thank all the people that really got behind us from the promotional and the marketing area to really establish something and to get us going. I thought as the season rolled on it was absolutely excellent. So I thank Jenni, Judy and Skip and all of our administration, really.

“Last year was a banner year for us, there’s no question about that. I’ve said over and over again I think I have one of the finest coaching staffs in the nation –  no question about it. It starts with Pokey (Chatman). Pokey has been here 13 years. Pokey is our recruiting coordinator and leads us in recruiting. She’s also the associate head coach. Bob Starkey is entering his sixth year. He does an outstanding job in the area of Xs and Os and our scouting film, all the other things that he does. Carla Berry is also with the recruiting part of it. She and Pokey have really established themselves as far as going out and evaluating talent and Carla works very hard in that area, and also in the academic area. Joe Carvalhido, who is our administrative assistant, he does a terrific job for us and is really our Joe of all trades. He does a great job. I think any of us in coaching, if we don’t have a support staff, and I could go on with Brian (Miller) and our trainers and everybody else. I think we at LSU are truly blessed, with our facilities, with our support staff and the things that we gain from that.

“This year’s team… I think last year when I talked to you guys I think everybody was in great anticipation that we were going to have a good year. We had Seimone Augustus coming in. We had great depth at all positions. There were not a lot of weaknesses on last year’s team.  And there really were not. We continued to have to fight the injury bug somewhat but quite frankly we came up short of our goal. I think, overall I can’t say it was a disappointing year, but I think when we went out to Stanford was as gut wrenching as anything I’ve ever had to endure. But, on that given night Texas was absolutely brilliant and we were less than what we expected to be so we came up short.

“This years team, there are a lot of questions. There were very few questions last year, and we do have some this year. I think, to start off with, very briefly, I think our perimeter game is about as good as it gets. When you look at Temeka Johnson at the point, you look at Doneeka Hodges at the two, you look at Seimone Augustus at the three, it just doesn’t get much better than that. These three kids are about as good as it gets at their given positions. Two of them are seniors and Seimone’s coming off of a great year.  Seimone and Temeka gained even more maturity this summer playing internationally.  But I think that part of our game is very, very stable. I think our depth at those positions is very, very good. There’s no question about that.

“When we get to our interior, when we get to our post play, now we’ve got some things that we have to work through and work around, one being an injury problem. Crystal White, who we thought, at the end of last year, we thought we had no problem at all. We knew who our starting five player would be and that would be Crystal White. Wendlyn Jones would probably start at the four. Wendlyn blew out her knee in a pickup game this summer and has been rehabbing very well. We anticipate that we will have Wendlyn back, certainly by the time we get to SEC play in January. In fact, I think we will have her available to play prior to that. The stress fracture that Crystal has is an aggravating-type injury, a very serious one, and it’s one that’s difficult to gage. So we just have to work with Crystal and anticipate that she will be able to part of our workouts starting Saturday. She’s just going to have to be brought along slowly and monitored very carefully. But we do think, and I think the doctors feel like, if we do a good job of monitoring how much time she’s on the floor, that hopefully we’ll be able to get through the season.

“Backing her up, we’re going to have to have some help out of Treynell Clavelle and Tillie Willis. It’s nice to have Scholanda Dorrell back. It’s Scholanda Hoston now, but it’s nice to have her back. Scholanda was one of those people that had a great a great freshman year for us. She is now married and has a child and has come back and she just looks absolutely great. She’s just played really hard and the thing that Sholanda brings is great versatility. She can play a two, she can play a three, she can play a four for us, so it’s really nice that we have her coming back. Flo Williams can also work at the four. Our young woman from Sweden, Hanna Biernacka is going to be an outstanding player for us and we’re all excited about her. She’s really a four. I think she brings a presence to us that will remind some of you that have been covering us for a long time of Katrina Hibbert. She’s an international player that’s just a little bit more mature. She’s got good range and is a very savvy basketball player and I think that she’s going to be a huge help to us.  

“When you look at that lineup and you look at where we are and what we have to do, this team is probably, when you look at the pressure that came in and add that to the group, this group is probably quicker and more athletic than they were last year. And we were pretty athletic last year. We’ve got some kids that can motor. I think you’re going to find Khalilah Mitchell, a freshman for us out of St. Mary’s in New Orleans, outstanding. Khalilah can play a two for us. She can play a little one and she’ll probably play a little three. She gets up and down the floor extremely well. Marian Whitfield is another two guard, an outstanding shooter. We like what she brings to the table. Amber Long is a point guard and will get some minutes backing up Temeka. And then, of course, Hanna is the other freshman.

“I think you’re going to see us a little different. We don’t have much of a power game. I think that goes without saying. That’s really tough in our league, not so much from a scoring aspect but defending the teams that we have to defend in our league. Our league is probably as strong this coming year as it’s ever been and that’s just like recurring story. It never changes.  Going in, you’ve got to look at probably Georgia. Georgia’s big and strong. The’ve probably got the biggest front line in the conference. They’re really huge. Their backcourt is extraordinary — very talented, very gifted.  They had some injuries there last year. Those kids will help them out. I think if you have to pick someone to begin with it would probably be Georgia. Tennessee is always going to be good, as is Auburn and Vanderbilt. And it goes on and on. Kentucky will be better. Ole Miss will be better. Mississippi State will be a little down, but Mississippi State has one of the finest guards in the country. Once we get to January, it’s the same old same old. We’ve got to be ready to go.  

“Talk a little bit about before we get to January; I think our pre-conference schedule is tough. We will be challenged immediately. We go out and after two exhibition games we go back out to Eugene, Ore. I guess we decided we liked that area so much, we’d just continue to go back to the West Coast. We open up in a classic out there against Villanova. Villanova is the only team that beat UConn last year and they were eliminated from NCAA play at Tennessee by Tennessee. It’s a great team. I think they lost three of their starters. We’re jumping right into the fire. If we can get by Villanova we play the winner of Fresno and Oregon. Either team would be a good team. More than likely, I think it would be Oregon. Then, we go from there to Penn State. We’ll come home and then go to Penn State. Penn State did not lose any of its starters. They will return the same five players that you saw play here in the PMAC last year. They’re outstanding. They’ve got probably one of the best shooters in the country. They’re very balanced, and I have a feeling they can’t wait for us to get there.  Then we go to Rice and play a very good Rice team. Finally, we get to come home. We come home to seven games in a row. Included in that, we play a very fine Rutgers team, which was also ranked. We have our WomensCollegeHoops.com Tournament, which is our “Crawfish Classic.” We have Kent State, Richland and Ark. State coming in for that so we’ll be tested again.  Then, we go down and play Fla. State at the Peach Bowl Classic, which I think is going to be a unique setting for us. We play Fla. State and then Georgia Tech. We play Tulane in the New Orleans Arena, which should be interesting. That’s an area that we’re trying to cultivate. We need to play more in the New Orleans area. We’ve got a lot of players from there and I think this is something that we would like to continue to do each year, play at least one game in the New Orleans area. Then on Jan. 4 we’ve got Arizona that comes here–outstanding. I think they returned four of their five starters from last year. On the eleventh of January I think we start SEC play versus Auburn. I think right now that’s probably going to be our Pack the PMAC game. Then we’re into SEC play and the rest is history. 

“That’s kind of where we are. That gives you a quick overview of what we anticipate. Come Saturday we’ll start looking at our players and looking at what we’ve got. We’ll begin to find ways to answer some of the questions that we obviously have to address during the course of the season. I think this is going to be an exciting thing to see. The exposure that we’ve gained this year has been really remarkable after last year. I don’t think that Carla and Pokey and I went into a home this year that we didn’t get there, that people hadn’t watched us play. Every body has seen us play. Not only have they seen us play, but they were familiar with our personnel, were familiar with our style of play and all of those things. I think that’s very indicative of where we’re beginning to finally arrive. I think this team is going to be a team that’s capable of putting up points–a lot of points. Our problem is going to be defending some of the  teams that we have to defend, but I think we’ll find a way to do that as well.

Temeka Johnson (Sr., Guard)

On the off-season and how the competition (at the World Championships) has made her a better player…
“It made me a better person.  I remember going overseas and coming back and it helped me appreciate a lot of things that we have (in America).  Going overseas and seeing the people and how they were living, America isn’t the best place to be, but from the experience I had, it taught me to appreciate a lot of things and to never take them for granted.”

On one particular experience that struck her at the World Championships…
“The playing of the National Anthem. When we won the gold (medal), everybody in the gym had to stand up and listen to our National Anthem.  I don’t think everybody liked that, being that they think Americans are cocky, but that was the best part for me.  Then just living and being alive and just being here and seeing how fortunate we are, I appreciate that.”

On playing in her senior year…
“It’s gone by pretty fast.  During the season, you are like, it’s long, but when I came back from Europe and realized that I’m a senior, then it really hit. I was like you have to do it, everything is in line. You have to come ready because come Saturday morning you have to try everything out.”

On the style of play this coming year…
“I’m pretty sure we will enjoy it because we have Sholanda (Hoston) back, she’s always speedy gonzales.  Then we have Khalilah Mitchell, who’s also from New Orleans, then you have Sholanda, along with me and Seimone (Augustus) and Doneeka (Hodges) in the front court, so it’s going to be very interesting.”