Sept. 14, 2009
ATLANTA – Under head coach MaChelle Joseph, the Georgia Tech women’s basketball team has produced three straight 20-win seasons and has reached the NCAA Tournament in each of those campaigns. Joseph has led the program to its only two NCAA Tournament victories including last season’s 76-62 win over Iowa in Iowa City.
Known for their stifling defense, the Yellow Jackets have led the nation in steals during the past two seasons.
Entering her seventh season on the Flats, coach Joseph sat down to discuss the 2009-10 campaign.
What can people expect with the style of play from Georgia Tech women’s basketball in 09-10?
“Hopefully, they won’t see a big difference in the way we play. Our system is pretty much in play offensively and defensively. As usual, we want to be an up-tempo running and pressing type of team. We want to score early and often in transition. Obviously, our goal once again is to lead the nation in steals and to be able to convert those steals into points. One of the goals that we have for the program this year is to score more points, be more effective and have a better balance on our inside and outside game.”
Your teams have led the nation in steals the past two seasons. Why are your teams so good on the defensive end of the court?
“I think our team has bought in to our defensive style of play and to our system. They believe in what we do defensively: the different types of presses that we have and the different defenses we play. Basically our defense is who we are. We play aggressively on the defensive end. I believe our kids like our style of play. They love the full court transition game, and they know that we’re going to score points off of our defense.”
You have strung together three straight 20-win seasons and earned three straight NCAA tournament bids. How do you and your team deal with the high expectations coming into this season?
“Interestingly enough, I don’t think our team feels any expectations … we feel hungry. We feel as though we had a taste of what it was like to get to the second round and play a team like Oklahoma, and to be in the game in the first half and have a chance to be successful without our leading scorer and rebounder. If anything, that gave us tremendous confidence, and put us in a position to set our goals even higher for this season.”
Once again, you will be considered a “young team” with nine underclassmen. What do you do to make up for the lack of experience?
“One of the things I think we’ve done well over the last couple of years is player development. We went on the foreign tour for our young kids to get such tremendous playing time and experience in the offseason. The good thing is that our nine underclassmen are very talented. They bring a lot to the table in terms of their athleticism and their ability to score points, rebound and defend. Obviously, we’re very excited about this group. We’re very used to playing with a young team. In the last couple of years, we’ve only had two seniors. So once again, Brigitte [Ardossi] and Tiffany [Blackmon] will be relied upon to provide leadership, but we also have Deja Foster and Alex Montgomery coming back who both have tremendous experience. They have each started several games throughout their careers. We also had two freshmen last year in Sasha Goodlett and Metra Walthour who both started.”
With some extra practices and a few games on your foreign tour, which players took a step forward from these experiences?
“It’s hard to single one or two players out because I feel that it really helped all of us. It definitely helped us as a team. We took the time to work on our zone defense, which is something we haven’t had time to work on because we’ve been such a pressing, running team. It really helped us to add another dimension to our team defense. When I look back on the tour, the thing that excites me is that in every game we had a different leading scorer. I really thought that Mo Bennett stepped forward in that tour and got her confidence back. She was able to score points and get steals for us. It was very similar to what Jacqua Williams did for us a year ago on the defensive end, so that was exciting to see. Chelsea Regins, who came on strong at the end of the year, had a great foreign tour as well. When we played in France, she was our leading scorer and leading rebounder. I thought she had a great game. Her athleticism continues to get better and develop. As her understanding of our system increases, her playing time is going to go up, as is the impact she’ll have on this program.”
What’s your take on this season’s schedule?
“Every year we try to upgrade our schedule and this year is no different. We’ve added two PAC-10 teams at home. We go to Penn State, which has tremendous tradition. That will be a very difficult match-up for us early in December. We’re at Georgia this year. One of the goals for this team in the summer when we put in all of our hours working out was to finally beat Georgia in Athens. That’s one of our goals and we have a tremendous opportunity there. We’re also playing in the Preseason WNIT. That is going to be a challenge and it gives us an opportunity to experience a postseason type of tournament at the beginning of the year. I think it also provides us with a chance to play some extra games. We also have a game against a Big East opponent in Seton Hall. I really feel like this is one of the more competitive pre-conference schedules that we have.”
Brigitte Ardossi seemed to take a huge step forward on both ends of the court last season. What do you expect her role to be in her final season on the Flats?
“This seems to be the most focused and committed that Brigitte has ever been while at Georgia Tech. She’s had some huge games for us, but the thing that has held her back has been her lack of consistency. I think one of the things we’re going to be able to count on her this year is to be consistent on the defensive end night in and night out. She knows our system. I expect her to be successful. I have very high expectations for Brigitte. She came back from the summer in the best shape of her life. She stayed here to work out and develop her skills. I definitely think that Brigitte will have a big impact on the success that we’ll have this season.”
Over the past three seasons, Tiffany Blackmon has been a valuable role player. What do you see her role to be as a senior?
“Tiffany is a team builder. She’s definitely a key component in our team chemistry. She comes to practice everyday and really sets the tone for how the players are going to approach it. She works hard but she enjoys it as well. I think that’s one of the things that Tiffany brings to the table: her personality and her commitment to the program here at Georgia Tech.”
Alex Montgomery is the team’s leading returning scorer and rebounder. What do you expect from your All-ACC player?
“I expect Alex to not only to be one of the best players in the ACC but I think she’ll be one of the best players in the country. She’s one of the best players out there nobody talks about and this year is an opportunity to make her impact not only in the ACC but nationally.”
If anyone on the team made huge strides last year it was Deja Foster, who became a legitimate scoring threat and a top defender. Where does she go from here?
“I definitely think Deja was the most improved player in the ACC last year going from her freshman year average of under two points a game to where she went as a sophomore of becoming one of the better players in the ACC by the end of the season. The thing that separates Deja from everyone else is her work ethic. What she does off the floor, in the classroom and on the basketball court is amazing to me. Deja’s been a Dean’s List student at Georgia Tech every single semester she’s been here. I think that carries over to the floor. If Deja improves half as much from her sophomore year to her junior year as she did from her freshman year to her sophomore year, I think she’s definitely going to be a force to be reckoned with in the ACC.”
Sasha Goodlett showed she can be a real force as a freshman. What has she done in the weight room and on the court to get even better as a sophomore?
“Sasha’s confidence level is at an all-time high. The success she was able to have in the NCAA tournament against Iowa and Oklahoma put her in a different league as far as her confidence level and her approach to the game and the success she knows she’s capable of having. We obviously have very high expectations for Sasha. We believe she’s going to be one of the best post players in the ACC over the next couple of years. Her work ethic has become better and as her condition level improves, her productivity will improve.”
LaQuananisha Adams showed a nice touch from the perimeter, but seemed a little overmatched by stronger bigs on the inside. What has she done in the offseason to get stronger?
“I think the fact that we went on the foreign tour and Nisha was able to get some very valuable playing time has really helped her confidence level. One of the things that I noticed early on in preseason is that her perimeter shooting has improved dramatically. It seems like her foundation, the strength in her legs and upper body have improved from staying here all summer. I believe she is a very versatile post player and is a perfect complement for Sasha Goodlett on the inside. You know, Sasha brings brute strength and size and Nisha adds quickness, athleticism and length, so I think that we’re very fortunate to have a player like Nisha Adams in our program.”
Mo Bennett showed flashes of being an impact player last season. What has she done in the offseason to improve her all-around game?
“The biggest thing for Mo is when we challenged her in the offseason to become more consistent, in her approach to practice everyday, her shooting drills and her individual workouts. I believe the confidence she gained in the foreign tour carried over to her summer workouts and really honestly the best shape of her life. She definitely has improved from last year at the end of the season until this year at the beginning of the season. She may be one of our most improved players at this point, and we all know what she’s capable of. You look at numbers again UConn as a freshman and some of the other games like Iowa in the NCAA tournament. I believe that Mo has the potential to be an impact player at Georgia Tech.”
As the only true point guard on the roster last season, Metra Walthour saw lots of quality minutes. How does she build on this in her sophomore season?
“Metra put in a lot of work this summer. She went to a point guard camp that really helped her understand what the role and responsibilities are of a point guard. She’s now the third strongest person on our team, so I definitely think even though she’s small, she’s powerful. And the experience she gained starting as a freshman in the ACC and playing in NCAA tournament definitely will carry over to her sophomore season and give her a lot of confidence heading into this year.”
Chelsea Regins is an athletic big, who made a huge impact in the team’s victory of North Carolina last season. What do you expect from her in 09-10?
“We really rely on Chelsea for her energy and her intensity. When she comes in the game she gives us a boost, emotionally and if she is healthy this year and is able to participate in practices the whole time, her impact could be huge. She’s the perfect four player for our program and the fact that we like to press and our four player is such a key component in that. Chelsea gives us a different dimension at the four and we really like her energy and intensity level. We believe her skills have developed over the last year, so I’m anxious to see what Chelsea is going to be capable of over the course of this season.”
Once again you brought in a dynamic class to Georgia Tech. What do you believe their impact will be on the program this season and in the future?
“We’re definitely excited about this year’s freshman class. Not only what they bring athletically but what they bring academically. They’re just tremendous student-athletes with size, speed, quickness, shooting ability and we even have a point guard in these four players. You’ve got to look right away at Sharena Taylor, who came to us from Detroit, Mich. Having two true point guards on our roster at the same time gets me excited. I believe to win a championship you have to have a great point guard and a great center. And the fact that Sharena is going to give us that type of quality depth at the point position gets me excited, looking toward the future. She’s big, she’s strong, she’s athletic, she can score and she can handle it. I really believe she has a bright future ahead of her at Georgia Tech. And then I look at Jasmine Blain, who, at 6-1, is a great three-point shooter. I think she definitely will help us spread the floor. She gives us a big guard who can press and run and really fit well in our defensive scheme.
“Dani [Danielle Hamilton-Carter] is an unbelievable talent. The experiences she’s had playing overseas and on the Swedish national team are invaluable. She brings a maturity level that I haven’t seen from an incoming freshman and her ability to score, rebound and defend at this level will definitely be a huge impact for our team. Finally there is Shayla Bivins. She gives us such added size and strength inside. The fact that she’s 6-5 and can run and move the way she can, it gets me excited thinking about the kind of practices we’re going to have with her, Sasha, Tiffany and Nisha in there, because it’s been a long time since I’ve been at Georgia Tech that we’ve had ten players over six feet including four players over 6-4. That gets me excited not only playing against other people but the fact that that’s just going to help our post players get better. Having the opportunity to go up against that kind of size and strength every single day is just going to make us better as individual players and obviously ultimately as a team.”