March 18, 2006
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Cal head coach Joanne Boyle and several players answered questions Saturday at the Bryce Jordan Center at a press conference held for each team the day before the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The 10th-seeded Golden Bears meet seventh-seeded St. John's Sunday at 9 a.m. PT (noon ET) in the program's first NCAA appearance in 13 years.
Cal Head Coach Joanne Boyle
"We're happy to be here. We're excited to be a 10 seed. We knew we were a bubble team. But having the chance to come in and bring a very young team here to the tournament and to try to showcase Pac-10 basketball, we're quite excited about."
On how her young team is handling the hoopla surrounding the NCAA Tournament
"The hoopla started in the locker room when we got the bid. It was pretty much mayhem. We've settled in to the routine of our practices and trying to get them into the routine of our practices and trying to get them on the East Coast time schedule. We're excited, but we also know what's in front of us right now. Business starts with practice today. I'm trying to let them enjoy the media. They just haven't had access to that. Once we step on the floor, it's business, and they understand that."
On her vision for the Cal basketball program
"We had 18 wins this year with a young team. And, I don't just mean freshmen. Reneé (Wright) is our only senior. People were kind of surprised by us. We finished sixth in the Pac-10. We have some of these players back for two and three years. The future for us is really bright. There's a lot of people who thought we might get too much too soon. What we always try to talk about with the kids is why wait until next year. You're in position. You're a bubble team. Going in to the last two games of our (regular) season against the Washington schools, we knew we had to win those games to even have a chance. People kept saying that if it doesn't happen, you'll go to the WNIT, and it'll be great experience. Our team is more determined than that. No matter how young we are. This is the present. We know we're capable of playing at that level. Don't wait until next year.
On starting four freshmen in the NCAA Tournament
"It's what we've done all year. We learn as we go. You have to go through a full season with your team for them to experience everything. Back in September, nobody thought we were going to win 18 games and being in the games with Stanford and beating Arizona State. This team has grown a lot. The freshmen have had to play 40 minutes, 38 minutes....so they've gained a lot of experience. I don't think they're typical freshmen. To put them on the big stage here (in the NCAA Tournament, we did get some experience in the Pac-10 Tournament for them to understand that it's not a regular game. You have to raise your level of play. We learned a valuable lesson from our UCLA game (in the Pac-10 Tournament) in terms of not understanding what it's like to step on the floor for the first time to play at that level when the jump ball goes up. It'll carry over into this tournament."
Her response to national media calling Cal the biggest surprise pick of the NCAA Tournament
"For us, it only gives us more motivation. It's tough to get access to West Coast basketball, so we're not exposed as much, and I know that. I don't think people have really seen us. I have talked to a lot of committee members and media. We had some really great wins. We had five wins in the top 50. We're a story. We're a young team with four freshmen playing most of the year. We were playing well at the end of the year, beating Washington. That was a national TV game for us. All of the committee members got to see that. UCLA was playing their strongest basketball at the beginning of the year. We beat them and went into overtime with them. We had a big win over Arizona State. They also saw us falter against Arizona and Oregon State, but that's the sign of a young team. I think they took that into consideration. It fuels the fire for us to prove that the Pac-10 is a legitimate conference and that we're a legitimate team. We've worked to get here. We've earned it. We're going to do our best to showcase our team."
Freshman guard Alexis Gray-Lawson
On dealing with the pressure of the NCAA Tournament
"The media attention has helped us a lot. We depend a lot on each other on the court and knowing what we have to do. We try to stay focus and not pay attention to the media and what people are saying about us. At this point, we're leaning on each other and praying and hoping we can make a statement in the tournament.
On what drew her to Cal
"The academics drew me to the school. At first they weren't a very good at basketball team at all. They were the first team to ever recruit me. That was one of the things that brought me to Cal. I have so much fun playing with my teammates. I love hanging out with my teammates. We have great coaches. They're great people all the way around. This has been a great experience for me so far. I'm happy to be here."
On playing with Devanei Hampton since before high school
"We know where each other is on the court. That's probably Devanei's and my biggest advantage over a lot of team. I know what's she going to do and what she's thinking at certain times. That's a great thing, but I take into consideration that we have great teammates. Everybody is so focused on me and Devanei because we're supposed to be somebody. But, our teammates really make who we are. We have great people who people don't see behind the scenes. We have Keanna Levy, Reneé Wright and Krista Foster, to name a few. When you have great people around you all of the time, that makes you a better player. That makes you want to do great things."
Senior forward Reneé Wright
On the pressure of being the only senior on Cal in the NCAA Tournament
"I don't feel any extra pressure on me. Our team is very supportive. Coach Boyle is doing a great job letting everyone know what their role is for this weekend. There hasn't been any pressure to this point, and I don't feel like there'll be any later. I'm really excited. This is a great team with a great coaching staff."
On her leadership role
"As far as a leadership role, I don't think I've had to do as much only seniors have had to do. I've been stressing that our freshmen are only freshmen in name. They're very mature, very smart people. It's been an easy transition playing with them."
On playing in the tournament as a senior
"It's probably one of the most amazing things that could happen to me in my life. I'm trying to live each day, but at the same time, stay focused with it."
Sophomore forward Krista Foster
On having to travel this far for the NCAA Tournament
"It's an incredible feeling to be able to come out here. Most of our team hasn't been to the East Coast. To be able to come here is exciting. We've enjoyed our trip out here, and we're ready to play."
On whether preparing for tomorrow's game against St. John's compares to any other basketball game in your career
"We prepare the same for every game. We're more excited. It's an incredible feeling to be in the tournament. We've worked hard to this point. Like Lexi said, I feel like our team is ready. We all lean on each other in hard times and good times. I think it's going to be fun and enjoyable for everyone to watch."