March 28, 2009
TRENTON, N.J. -
California Head Coach Joanne Boyle
"I'm just excited to be still playing in the sweet sixteen and just trying to prepare to play UConn in what will hope to be a great game."
How have they stepped up the level and how they carried through the tournament?
"Throughout the Pac 10 to the NCAA first round, we started off the season and Hampton was injured. It really took her half the season to kind of get into her form. Gray-Lawson got injured a little down the end of the stretch but Walker has been that consistent player the entire season. It's been great that they all kind of regrouped and have really gotten the minutes together and they kind of found their flow probably like the last 3 or 4 games. Again, if you are going to be playing in this level to have two big's playing really well and have a guard playing really well it's good timing for us."
You guys are the newbie's here, UConn has been 16 straight regionals and this is your first experience what did you tell the players to get ready for this set of games?
"You can't prepare any differently than you did the first round, I mean obviously they know UConn and their history and level of basketball. You pay attention to other teams and details. It's a big stage for them but they're not fearful of it. You don't have to play a perfect game but you have to play a really smart game. For us, we do best when we are in a routine and we just kind of stick to that routine and minimize the bigger picture and just look at things in small segments. Whether its 4 minutes with the 2 minute time out, just try to minimize all of that. They are very respectful of Connecticut and what they've done and it's a new stage for us. We have played in big arenas with a lot of fans and all that kind of stuff so you try not to get outside your comfort zone and try and keep them in the flow of things."
What is it about Connecticut that impresses you the most? Since you played Stanford they play at the same level as UConn twice a how hopeful is that in preparation for this?
"Geno's done a great job of this. He has his team always going in the Tournament in time playing their best basketball and they have the mentality in terms of just approaching each game like end all to beat all. I think what they do really well is they're a great transition team and great rebounding team and they go to free throw line a lot. They have their big three and like to score early in possession you got to be able to just slow the game down a little bit. One of the best things about doing this is we all have injuries we all deal with it. What's so special about this team is they've gone 35-0 basically playing 5 players which means you got to keep 5 players out of foul trouble and he's been able to do that day in and day out. I think that's pretty special in itself. But playing Stanford, and we were in the Oklahoma game we've played some big games and these kids played 40 minutes a game for four years so they have playing experience. And being able to play in front of 10,000-11,000 people which we have in our arena have somewhat prepared them to come in an environment which I believe we're going to see tomorrow."
How fortunate did you feel when Alexis Gray Lawson injury wasn't as serious and are you concerned at all about a 9 a.m. local time tip-off with them being a little lethargic in the beginning?
"When Gray-Lawson went down, we were at the other end of the floor so it was hard to see from that angle that people saw on TV. When she went to the training room I thought there was a possibility For her not to go through that, one from a standpo9int for our team and what we get to do in post season but more so just for kicks not to do deal with an injury day in and day out. Just to do it once and to get back in the flow and do it again. It's just a mental grind ion them and its just a shame we have to deal with that. It was a relief not only for our team but more for her personally that she didn't have to deal with that. The time change- we came in a day earlier than most teams on Thursday we got an earlier flight which got us here at a good time where they got to bed early and got in that routine they were a little tired but we played on the East Coast my 1st or 2nd year when I went to Notre Dame. It was a 12:00 game with a 9: am start for us. We kind of are used to that, we've been through that before so as a coaching staff I'm just really trying to get them on the body clock as quickly as I can. And hopefully that extra day will help us."
Do you have a favorite upset in sports history? Would you draw on that today or tomorrow when you're talking to your team?
"There are a lot. You have the Harvard game and the Stanford game. But there are some of those under dog teams that come in and are taking care of business. The best thing about our team is we are just focusing and this is a great experience for them to just get through it and all the fans here and all the talk about Connecticut and that's great. We're going to do what we've been doing day in and day out and not change our routine. I think as a coach, you have to have a pulse on your team and understand what works for them. Every team is a different, and this team is just good with routine, they're really good at keeping things minimal and that's what I'm going to do, that's where we see success."
Can you talk about this team's commitment to community service? Why did you choose to go to Africa? What did your ladies learn from that?
"We do a lot of community service, obviously Cal is in Berkeley we work at homeless shelters just like a lot of other teams do. We had a special idea a couple of years ago, we have a girl on our team (Rama N'diaye) and she's from Senegal. She has had an incredible journey in her life she left her family when she was 15-16 left and studied in Japan to better herself. She hadn't been home in 3-4 years to see her family. It was a 2 part reason, to partly go back so her family could see her. And our team and what Rama's life was going to be like for four years playing with us. The other part was you're allowed to take that foreign trip every 4 years and if you really want to get to Italy, Australia, you'll get there but there's not a lot of kids 18-19 years old that get to go to Africa. I thought it was really important for this group of kids. We have a lot of kids from Oakland, inner city kids, and we talk about blessings and gifts we've been given, and I think society in today particular in this generation, you can be inner city and welfare but you have not seen poor until you've seen Africa. It was a big community service trip.. We did a lot of camps and clinics for kids over there and visited orphanages we did all that kind of stuff. Basketball is kind of second nature, we only played 3 games there. It was a great 3 games to experience what poverty and third world is. You have to be thankful for everything you have. When we came back the season was about giving back to Africa but we didn't want to let it go, to let us experience something significant, and come back as a 20 year old and forget about it and move on with your life. I didn't want that to happen. I wanted hopefully to plant seeds in our kid's heads and hopefully take on non profit work when they get older and that's really important. Social work or not social work, profit or non profit work. We wanted to carry that mission into the season. The kids wanted to make a statement and not forget about their trip to Africa."
Last week the Temple coach was saying that their team would practice at 6 in the morning; do you have practices that early? Would you characterize your team as morning people?
"I would not categorize us as morning people but if we get in that routine for 2 or 3 days we are pretty good. Have we had morning practices yeah, I don't want to change their body clocks to the enth degree. We've tried to get them up a little bit earlier every morning with breakfast and trying to get them right into that routine when we walk out. We've played noon games before on the east coast and 11:00 games as a matter of fact so it's always a concern in the first 5 minutes they may be like `oh my god I cant catch my breath.' I was actually surprised in practice yesterday we went out and we went hard. In the first 20 minutes I thought they were going to be like `whoa I cant catch my breath', but they were actually good. I've really tried to do a lot of five on o and not kill them. We've tried to use the regional games in Virginia as our tough tough practices. We're trying to do it that way and not kill them with the 6 am times and we're trying to balance that."
Can you talk about your personal injury that you suffered eight or nine years ago at Duke?
"I mean I've said it a lot; my life has probably been more fulfilling in the last eight years. I've lived more in the last 8 years than in the first 38 to be honest. (She is 45 years old). There's a lot that went along with that and as a coach you get older. When you're younger everything is you kind of process that as you get older. It's about the journey with your kids, and the year, and it's not about one win, it's about finding yourself. Going through the brain aneurism kind of put that in perspective for me, its not that I don't lose it at times, and may fall back in that track of day to day grind and win. But for me, it gave me the courage to leave Duke, a team that it's easy to go to the Final Four every year. At some point you wake up and you say `I just want a different challenge in my life.' And that gave me the strength and courage of saying, ` you no what if you can live through this, then what's so hard about being a head coach if you fail you fail you'll figure out something else.' It really got me kind of kicked out the door and it was great in terms of encouraging me. People thought I was crazy for that particular year. But I was ready to say I want a new challenge in my life and not be fearful of it. My life is just taking on a different journey from Richmond to Cal, the Africa trip, the journey with these kids, nothing's ever given, and none of us are guaranteed tomorrow, and I try to live my life like that and just live in the moment and I try and tell my kids that too."
Arizona State's ability to regroup and get to this point- is it surprising?
"Charli's a great coach; they run a different system if you watch them practice and all that. It's a really unique system with the pressure and man-to-man. They have older kids, they run a lot of people at you, but I think Charli's done a great job of saying," one piece of our puzzle's gone and we can adjust." She's always played 12 or 13 kids so those kids have a lot of experience with minutes. So being able to kind of re position people a little and gather herself in the tournament IT took a game or 2 for them to kind of a find a new identity without Dymond Simon and the timing on that just worked out for them. Obviously match ups in the tournament helped, things like that. They're just a mature team, she does a great job, she's always done a great job with her team and I'm happy for them. It's funny that we're both here."
It's your 4th year, and your seniors have been here a long time, can you express the bond you share from the time they've come onto the team to where you are now?
"This group I didn't recruit that freshman class because I came in April, and they were already coming to Cal. Your first year is always an adjustment, they didn't know me I didn't know them. I was from the east coast, we were just trying to find each other and sometimes I feel like we've been together for 10 years, and I turn around and I cant believe they're walking out the door already. But it is a journey, and the reason I think we've seen the success is because they're really able to buy into understanding that we have to do this together and we had to get on the same page. We had to be selfless at time, we also had a group of freshman come in and play major minutes, 40 minutes a game. We started 4 freshmen that year, and sometimes I coached them like seniors, and I was tough on them. They had to carry a load for a really long time. They're the group that laid the foundation for Cal basketball, they also had to take it to the next level, and now they're trying to lead their legacy. And the same group is trying to do that, when normally you have upperclassmen and seniors. You kind of have this rotating thing, by the time they get to be juniors and seniors of figuring it out and this group has had to do all of that in 4 years. I think that's been unique and very special, I think that's help bond us together."
Senior forward Ashley Walker
The last 4 years, you came in as freshman how has the coach brought the program to where it is now?
"It's been amazing. In the last 4 years we have accomplished a lot. We've gotten to a lot of our goals. She has instilled a lot of great morals and values within us, and I think she's a great coach. She has taken a program that was not a premiere program, and made it what it is today. This group of girls, they're very special that have been with her on this ride have had a lot of fun. It is amazing that we have made it this far."
Your coach mentioned the trip to Africa and your experience. What did you take from that?
"The trip to Africa was amazing. We learned so much. Rama N'diaye tore her ACL at the end of last year, and the reason why we went there was to see her home and her family and experience another country. She actually didn't get to play in the games out there, so that was kind of sad for us. But to see how she lived and meeting her family. We went to an orphanage out there, and got to hang out with amazing babies and children and they were so excited to see us. I think one thing I took from them was that the littlest things matter to them. The most thing they were excited about was Obama being president. That's all they talked about. That was really cool. All they really wanted was pens and paper from us so they could write us letters, and they've done that. We've sent money back to them. We've raised money through an Assist Program at Cal. For every assist money is donated and we send it to an orphanage. It was an amazing experience. You learn a lot about yourself and what you take for granted here everyday. Seeing how they lived fuels us to be better people."
How does the team deal with UConn being undefeated and beating teams by such large margins?
"They are not the first team that has done that. If you look into history, other teams have done that same thing. We just think you just go out and play your game and the outcome is the outcome. We hope to play Cal Basketball. Work hard on both ends of the floor and we want to cherish every possession, especially this group right here sitting in front of you, we're all seniors. We don't want to be done playing. Just getting another chance to play together would be amazing."
How is everything coming together after 4 years?
"It has just been an amazing ride. I guess after 4 years you just kind of get it. It took a minute but we finally figured it out. I think this group just does not want it to end, and does not want to be done playing. All of us have worked extremely hard on our games. I went to "Big Man Camp" and worked really hard. We've all worked really hard and it has all accumulated together. We are at a point in time when we are just saying that we are just going to go out there and just play. We're going to play with our hearts, with our minds, and just play smart, play hard, get in our defensive stance and just roll with it."
In Regards to the loss against USC:
"It is a let down when you tie a game and it takes fifteen minutes to overrule a call. We kept our minds in the huddle, our coach kept us calm. We knew what were going to do in the 5 minutes but we didn't actually get it. Same thing happened to us last year in the tournament when we lost at the buzzer. Those kinds of things you remember as a basketball player. You remember the hurt, the pain, that bad feeling, that grittiness in your mouth, that horrible feeling. It just resonates in us and we just say lets just go out and play. At the time it was just get another 5 minutes. Then (at the start of this tournament) we got 40, and another 40 and moved on to another site. And that's kind of like our mindset right now, how many more games could we put back to back to back?"
How does the team feel about playing a game at 9 o'clock in the morning in California? Would you classify your teammates as morning people?
"We've been here for a couple days now and we are definitely getting used to the time. Coach has had us up since 8 o'clock this morning. We are definitely used to the time by now. We've had bed-checks at 10 o'clock so we've gotten a lot of sleep. We'll definitely be ready. Obviously we're playing a great game tomorrow, and anybody can be up for that game. I don't know about our parents because it is 9 o'clock in the morning at home. Hopefully everybody will be watching at home, and we're just excited to play."
In regards to Africa trip:
"A trip like that teaches you about life, and how you should be thankful for the things you have and the opportunities that you have. The trip definitely brought us together as a team. We've shared the same experiences. We can't talk to everybody about those experiences but we can remember them."
Going back to March 1st, describe your emotions leaving the court after your knee injury. Do you appreciate the fact that you didn't have a serious injury and that you are able to go through this?
"I tore my ACL my sophomore year so I wasn't able to be in the NCAA Tournament that year. I had to sit and watch my team play against Notre Dame, and I'll never forget that game. I'll never forget that feeling of not being able to be with my teammates. When I went down in UCLA game and in the back of my mind I was thinking 'Oh, Lord please don't let this happen again.' My teammates definitely kept my spirits high. We don't know until we get back and obviously I found out it was just a sprain. I'm definitely blessed. My family and friends reminded me to be mindful of every opportunity that you get and every time you take the floor. Just being on the floor and giving everything that you have because nothing is guaranteed for any of us. Any of us can be hurt at any given time, and I think for me it was to know that."
Talk about your mindset and what you are going to need to do to win tomorrow?
"I think we're in a great place right now. We are definitely excited about the game. Obviously we are going against a really great team. I think it all comes down to heart and desire and we definitely bring that as a team. It is a part of who we are. We're going to put everything up that we have. Hopefully a great outcome comes from that. Obviously they have players. They are great in transition. They are a great rebounding team and we have to take those things away. I think it really does come down to desire and heart and what you bring to the table because you can have the best scouting report in the world and come out and miss every shot and not play like you want to be here. Definitely playing like you want to be here obviously means a lot. The Virginia game, everybody brings that up. We put everything on the floor. We played our hearts out, and it came out to a great outcome so no complaints."
Dymond Simon's injury just occurred after you played them last. Did you talk to her since then, and what are your feelings about what happened to her?
"Actually we were playing at the same time they were. I actually heard about it after the game and I was really hurt especially because I know how it is. I know how it is to have an injury and then go back out and have another injury. I was at a lost of words because I know how she felt. Obviously in the Pac 10 there have been a lot of second injuries. It's just really hard. I have talked to her and sent my condolences. I know she's in a situation where her team is playing right now and playing really well, and I know that she's thinking that "Wow this was a great opportunity." I was able to come back when I tore my ACL and experience my whole sophomore year over again whereas she doesn't have that. I know how much that could probably hurt. I really do send my condolences, hope for the best. She's a great point guard and I really wish her the best."
In regards to the loss against USC:
"It was definitely a hurtful feeling. We just take this game and roll with it. Everything happens for a reason and we were taught that. I think when you think about those type of games and put yourself in certain situations we use those games as mental blocks and say we can't let this happen again, and we push a little bit harder. I think it puts us in a situation where we do not want to put ourselves in that situation ever again. So we just go out there and play."
Senior forward Devanei Hampton
Are you calling on any sports upsets in history as motivation? Do you have a favorite upset in sports history?
"No. For this game tomorrow, we are just going to come out and play Cal Basketball. UConn is an unbelievable good team. We just want to go out and play Cal Basketball as a team."
In regards to trip to Africa and how it will influence you in your future:
"Seeing those kids out there not having a mother because their mother died of HIV, it is similar to what we see at home with the homeless. These group homes the kids just need parents and guidance. When Alexis and I go back home, we take it upon ourselves to reach out to little girls who want to be athletes. We try to be inspirational to them. Alexis and I did not have girls' basketball we played on men's team. I just want to help everybody because people helped me and Alexis. I just want to reach out and give a helping hand to anyone who needs help."