April 29, 2003
BERKELEY - Cal women's basketball head coach Caren Horstmeyer sat down with the Cal media relations office following the conclusion of the season. Here are some of her comments on the 2002-03 campaign.
Q: The team improved from 2-9 in games decided by 10 points or less in 2001-02 to 6-7 in those types of games in 2002-03. What do you attribute the team's improvement in close games to?
A: Experience, no question. The experience that Leigh (Gregory) and K.I (Iwanaga) had in Pac-10 level games. Then you bring in the quality of player like Nihan (Anaz) and Timea (Ivanyi), and overall, they make the team better. Then, I would add that Jacqueline Sanchez, Sarah Pool and Renee Wright all give us added depth, which helps us in the close games in terms of having players on the floor playing at a higher level.
Q: What area do you think your team improved the most in throughout the season?
A: Defensively. I take some responsibility there. We struggled offensively a year ago, so I felt it was important to get our offense going so much that I put too much emphasis on that area. Hence, our defense lost focus. About a quarter of the way through the Pac-10 season, I said that our defense needed to improve for us to be successful. Opponents were shooting 49 or 50 percent against us. I went back and looked at the stats in games we were successful and when we weren't. I came up with a number. If we hold teams below a 43 percent field goal percentage, we're going to win the game. All but maybe one time that held true. I think the one time was the Stanford game when we lost 53-50. Once we let our offense come more from our defense, our offense was better. But, ultimately, we were able to win more games because our defense was better, and we basically doubled our wins in the Pac-10.
Q: How were you happy with your team's offensive performance this season, and how did it fall short of your expectations?
A: We have better scorers on the team than we had a year ago. Not only do we have more experience, we have better scorers. On any given night, Nihan, Timea or Leigh can post 18 points. Ultimately, the disappointment was our lack of consistency through the year. Not one time during the year did we show that we were capable of playing two good games in a week. We need to show next year that we can play two games in a week.
Q: What can be done during the offseason to help the team's offense continue to improve?
A: Individual work is key. We're working quite a bit on shooting technique and footwork. Playing as much one-on-one as possible is also key, to be able to score with a defender in their face and working to develop moves for when they're one-on-one, and they know they have to be the scorer. I really feel that that's how we're going to help our scoring. I'll take it the next step and say that we have to be a lot better passers. And, we have to continue to recruit scorers.
Q: Which game in particular did you think illustrated the team's overall potential?
A: The Arizona State win in the Pac-10 Tournament. We showed composure, confidence and showed that we thought we were the better team and went out and did what we had to do to win that game. We had control of that game from the beginning. We maintained control. We built a 19-point lead on a team in the Pac-10 Tournament that was seeded above us and a team that had been in the NCAAs the last two years and a WNIT team this year.
Q: How important was the win over ASU in the conference tournament?
A: Absolutely huge. That was one of our most important wins. Instead of going into the spring on a downer, we're going into the spring on a high note. We're going into the spring with some confidence, feeling better about ourselves and feeling motivated about next year.
Q. What have you told the players about your expectations for the offseason?
A: I want to see the commitment to help the team move in the right direction in terms of wins - extra shooting, stuff on your own...make yourself a better player on your own in the offseason in addition to what we are doing.
A: Amber's athleticism. When you see a player improve as much as Amber did off the court as well as on the court in terms of her grades and her confidence, that's exciting. Coach Burkes challenged her academically, and she really did a good job. She earned honorable mention All-Academic honors. She's our best defender. She's been defending the best player, whether it's a post player, inside player or outside player. Clearly, her ability to defend and her size at the three will be missed.
Audrey is emotional. Her fire. Just being Audrey. She was always someone extremely valuable to have on the team.
Lu's work ethic and her ability to inspire and stay focused and going hard all of the time despite not playing in many games. That's not easy to do, and I thought she came ready for practice every day ready to challenge and make her teammates better. That was her role, and she did a good job of it.
Q: Talk about the contributions Nihan and Timea made to the team this year.
A: Their contributions were enormous. First of all, they play well together. Second of all, Nihan is clearly an elite athlete. She obviously can score. We just need her to be more consistent. Nihan is also an outstanding defender and will be our best defender next year. Timea needs us to get her the ball as much as possible. She probably has the best hands of any post I've ever coached and some of the best hands of any post I've ever seen. Her shot isn't pretty, but it goes in. She's shooting over 50 percent.
Q: What type of improvements did you see from Leigh Gregory and K.I. from their freshman to sophomore seasons?
A: Experience, confidence, ability to adjust to the Pac-10 level of play. I thought the two of them had more confidence against Pac-10 caliber competition the second year. Leigh in particular learned how to do a better job of scoring in the Pac-10. K.I. is so critical to our team. Any time we get rattled, she calms things down. She doesn't lose the ball. Her value is extremely high because of those things. She did a much better job of that in the Pac-10 this year.
Q: Who was the most improved player this season?
A: We had a number of most improved players. Khadijah (Coakley) made great strides. Part of it was confidence. Her footwork improved tremendously. We've known she was a great rebounder, but in terms of her offensive skills, she slowed down and stopped rushing. She took her time and made baskets and made different moves to the basket. Timea improved quite a bit in different ways - her footwork, being able to pivot, being able to get muscled and handle that better than she did early in the year. That was key. Sarah Pool made huge improvements from the beginning of the season, especially on the defensive end of the floor. She became a good defender. She got her hand on balls. She kept people in front of her a lot better than she did earlier. From an offensive perspective, she started shooting the ball when early on she didn't shoot it as much as we wanted her to. Sarah's overall game made improvements. Lexie (Helgerson) improved a lot, as well.