Oct. 11, 2011
MaChelle Joseph Press Conference
Obviously we’re very excited about this upcoming season. We’re coming off of our fifth consecutive 20-win season and fifth consecutive NCAA tournament. We lost Alex Montgomery, a top-10 draft pick to the WNBA, and Deja Foster, who were tremendous players throughout their four-year careers. We’re bringing in a top-20 recruiting class in the country, including TJ Gortnar, who was ranked tenth in the country, and Sydney Wallace, who is a top-25 player from here in Atlanta. We’re getting geared up, we’ve already had our seventh practice and our first scrimmage. We’re really excited about the depth of this team. We have five seniors this year, four of whom have started throughout their careers. We have 12 letterwinners back, and it’s a very exciting time in our program. We’re obviously a little disjointed because we’ll be playing all of our games out in Gwinnett this season and don’t really have a home court, but we’re excited about the changes and the new facility that we’re going to have here in 2013.
On practicing at Gwinnett:
We’re actually working for men’s and women’s basketball to get a chance to go out there to practice next week and in the coming weeks to have a practice there. We won’t practice there a lot, but we will have a chance to go into the gym and get a feel for it.
On the disadvantages of playing at Gwinnett:
Obviously, it’s not ideal, but we understand that change is progress, and to get the kind of facility that we’re going to have in a year, we’re going to have to sacrifice something. Again, we’re excited about getting to go to Gwinnett. We feel like there are a lot of women’s basketball fans there. Girl’s high school basketball is very strong in that area. Our thought process is that we’re going to go out there and gain some new fans and bring them back here the following year. We’re excited about being in Gwinnett. I think it’s going to be a unique opportunity. Fortunately, we have five seniors, so if I had to do it with one group, then I’m glad that it’s this group that I’m doing it with.
On complacency from recent success:
Looking at this group, I think they kind of have a chip on their shoulders. They don’t want to be the class that allows us to go backwards. Every year for the last five years, we’ve set the record for the most wins in the history of our program. I think these five seniors have the goal to continue that trend and not go in the other direction. And also, I think a lot of people underestimate this group because we lost Alex Montgomery. Anytime you lose a player that’s considered one of the top-10 players in the country, you expect to face some adversity and take a step backwards. But after the first seven practices, if there’s any indication where we are with this program, this is in my mind the best team we’ve ever had top to bottom; the most talented, the most depth, the most speed, the most quickness. We have a lot more weapons than we’ve had in the past.
On Metra Walthour:
We played a 40-minute scrimmage the other day against our gold squad guys and we had six turnovers. This early in the season that’s kind of amazing. But when you look at Me-Me Walthour, who is a senior that played almost 40 minutes per game last year and realize that she was one of the leaders in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio, you expect things like that out of a senior point guard. She just continues to improve. One of the things that has been great is having her as a mentor to Sydney Wallace, and with Ty Marshall on the wings we have some of the most speed and quickness that I’ve ever had.
The great thing about Ty is that she’s put on about ten pounds of muscle in the offseason, so she’s a lot more physical than she was a year ago. She can take more of a beating than she could a year ago with the physical play in the ACC. That wore her down towards the end of the season. But I think she’s more physically ready for this season and she’s really improved her perimeter shooting. Last year she was more of a slasher where she would get to the rim or pull off a jump shot. In the preseason it seems like she’s looking for her 3-point shot more, and looking for a perimeter shot off of the pass instead of going to the bounce so much. A year ago that’s how she played. She got her points off of penetration. That’s one of the improvements I’ve seen in her. She’s become a very vocal leader on the floor for a sophomore. I think she understands her responsibility now as a go-to player to replace Alex [Montgomery].
The thing that I think helped Dani was going over to China in the summer and playing with the Swedish national team. I think that was a great experience, playing against other countries’ best teams. To be a part of that, I think she’s now much calmer and more experienced. You can tell that she really gets out there and demands the ball. It gives us another weapon inside, because she’s a great perimeter scorer, not only with her back to the basket but facing up as well. We’re looking for big things from Dani.
On having a veteran team:
The most important thing I’ve seen early on is that I don’t have to teach effort. I don’t have to coach effort on the court because our seniors make sure that we’re playing at a high level all the time. We have tremendous communication as far as verbal leadership and placing demands on each other and on themselves. I’ve been able to do a lot more teaching and less motivating this early on in the season. I also think that the transition from conditioning to practice has been very smooth because those veterans have been in the NCAA tournament every year that they’ve been in this program. They know what the expectations are. They know that we’re not playing for November, we’re playing for March and April. I think that’s one of the things that this veteran group has been able to demand from everyone on the team, from the freshman all the way up to the juniors and seniors.
On replacing the top rebounders:
You first have to look at Sasha Goodlett. She’s one of the top players in the ACC. I definitely think that she’s one of the top players in the conference and we’re hoping that she’s going to be a first round draft pick. So she’s going to have to step up her rebounding. The other person that I felt really came into her own was Chelsea Regins. She’s a tremendous competitor and our highest energy kid. I really think she has to opportunity to do some special things this year. What we’re lacking is perimeter rebounding, and that’s always been a strength of our teams at Georgia Tech. We’re not as big as we were on the perimeter as last year with Deja and Alex, but we’re quicker and we have better one-on-one scorers. I honestly think that what we’re giving up in size we’re gaining in speed, quickness, and scoring.
On conference expansion:
I’m excited that the ACC got out in front. The conference took charge and control in this conference expansion that’s going on across the country. I was pleased about that. The ACC seemed to have an idea of what they wanted and where they were going. It seems a little odd to add teams like Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC, but like I said, I think it’s only going to make our conference stronger in a lot of sports and a lot of areas. We’re looking forward to it. I know that they’re talking about going to 18 league games for women’s basketball, so that’s a huge change for us. A year ago we were at 14 league games, this year we are at 16 league games. To go to 18 league games in two years is a huge jump, so it really effects our nonconference scheduling.
On freshmen acclimation and rotation:
Having these upperclassmen has made that transition for the freshmen that much easier. You only have three players on the floor that haven’t been a part of your system and you’ve got 15 total kids. So it’s made that transition very smooth. I’m not the only one to correct them. I’ve got 12 other coaches on the floor telling them what to do. It’s been very smooth as far as that’s concerned.
I don’t really look at who’s a freshman and who’s a senior. I’m going to go with the best players who are going to help us win. That’s the thing I tell our players at practice. They’re going to earn their playing time in practice. Ever since I’ve been at Georgia Tech for nine years I’ve always started a freshman. To me, basketball is a game of mistakes. You have to learn from your mistakes. I don’t have any problem playing a freshman, I don’t have any problem starting a freshman. I’m going to go with the best players that are going to help me win.
On replacing Alex Montgomery:
You don’t replace a player like Alex and the impact that she had on this program in a lot of different areas. It’s not just her 3-point shooting, and a lot of times she carried us in that area, but she led the ACC in defensive rebounding. She was one of the best defensive rebounding guards in the country. So those are two big areas that we’re going to have to address early. But we have Sydney Wallace, who’s a tremendous scorer. She’s freshman coming in who has really surprised me with her ability to create shots for herself. Then we have Frida Fogdemark, who was recruited here to be a 3-point shooting specialist. She’s another player who played internationally this summer with the Swedish national team. She led them in 3-point field goals and 3-point field goal percentage. She has really stood out to me. And then Me-Me Walthour, who was our second best 3-point shooter last year. And Tjasa Gortnar is a 6-2 post player who is a great 3-point shooter. So we’ve added some other weapons. There won’t be one person replacing Alex, we just don’t do that. She’s going to be replaced by committee.