Oct. 20, 2009
Head Coach MaChelle Joseph and junior guard/forward Alex Montgomery of the Georgia Tech women’s basketball team sat down with members of the local media Tuesday to discuss the 2009-10 team and the upcoming season.
“First of all, I want to thank you for the opportunity to be here to talk a little bit about our women’s basketball team. We are coming off three straight NCAA tournament appearances. We’ve had three of the best seasons in the history of our program. Starting out this season we’ve already had four practices and I can tell you that this is probably the deepest and most talented team that I have had since I’ve been at Georgia Tech. We’re very young and inexperienced, but what we lack in experience we make up for in size and athleticism. It’s obviously the biggest team that I’ve ever had. I think we have three players under 6-0 and we have four players over 6-4. Top to bottom I feel like we have a chance to compete at the very top of the ACC and across the country. Athlon Sports ranked us as high as 9th in the country in their preseason poll and another magazine ranked us in the top 15. Needless to say, expectations are very, very high. I don’t think our team, our staff, or our players expect anything less than finishing in the top three in the ACC and want a chance to not only advance in the NCAA tournament, but to get into the Sweet 16. Our goals are very, very high. If we can stay healthy, then I think that the sky is the limit for this team. I’m very excited.
“Alex Montgomery is an All-ACC returning player. In the last game of the ACC Tournament last year she tore her ACL. She’s been rehabbing all summer. She’s back. Without her we went in to the NCAA tournament and beat Iowa in their arena. That was without our leading scorer and leading rebounder. So that was a tremendous confidence boost for our team. This past summer we took a foreign trip to Africa and Paris. We were gone for 12 days. The players had a special opportunity to grow, build chemistry and come together. Obviously, with Alex back, a top-20 recruiting class coming in and virtually every player returning from a year ago, we’re excited for what the future holds for Georgia Tech women’s basketball.”
On the chances for the freshmen to make an impact:
“It’s not a matter of `if they have a chance’. We are counting on it. They have to. Sharena Taylor is a point guard from Detroit, Michigan. We’re definitely counting on her to be an impact player at the point position. We are expecting Sharena to get quality minutes early on because can play multiple positions. I look at Jasmine Blain, a 6-2 shooting guard from North Cobb High School here in Atlanta. She’s been tremendous early on. She’s giving us another shooter on the perimeter, and that will add some depth there. With Alex’s injury, we’re going to take it slow bringing her back. We probably will not play her until early December, so Jasmine will get a tremendous amount of experience. Another true freshman, Danielle Hamilton-Carter, is from Sweden is a 6-3 four player that is just a tremendous talent. If everything works out with Danielle, then she’s going to be a huge asset to this program. She is one of the better players that we’ve had in the last couple of years. We also signed a 6-5 freshman out of Jacksonville in Shayla Bivins who I think will definitely add depth inside.”
On the value of the WNIT for experience:
“I am really excited about having this kind of opportunity to play in a tournament setting with a young team. We’re going to be going into that preseason WNIT without Alex Montgomery. So technically we’re going to go into the tournament with only three upperclassmen and 11 underclassmen. I’m excited about them getting that kind of experience. We open up at home on November 13 against Winthrop. If we were to advance, then we could go to Oklahoma State, which would be a tremendous opportunity for us. They have six- to eight-thousand fans there at every game. This kind of experience early in the season gives us something to build off of. It also gets us ready, not only for the ACC Tournament, but also for the NCAA Tournament.”
On the highly-ranked competition this season:
“Well, I don’t think that you can live in fear of anything. I tell our players that they can’t play this game afraid. I’m not afraid to say that we have a tremendous amount of talent. I put a lot of pressure on myself, because we have everything at Georgia Tech that we need to be successful. I have no excuses. We’ve gone out over the last four years and signed top-20 classes and we’ve worked extremely hard to develop that talent. I’m confident in standing here and saying that we want to challenge those top teams and have a chance to win the ACC and advance in the NCAA tournament. Last year, we got to the second round of the NCAA tournament and we were one win away from the Sweet 16, playing against Oklahoma. We were the only team last year, besides North Carolina, to play all four No. 1 seeds, so obviously we’ve gone out and we’ve played the very best. That is not a fear of ours. We were in the game against Oklahoma without Alex [Montgomery]. Again, that was a tremendous boost of confidence for us. I’m not afraid of taking on those kinds of challenges. Over the next two years we’re adding Connecticut and Tennessee to our schedule. We can’t be the best if we don’t play the best. I have high expectations and I know that our players have high expectations. I have no problem with saying that I want to win a championship because that’s what I said seven years ago when I took this job. I feel like we’ve advanced our program to a point where we’ve put ourselves in a position to do just that.”
On the roles of Sasha Goodlett and Deja Foster this season:
“Deja went from averaging two points as a freshman to being our second leading scorer at the end of last season. She is the hardest worker I have ever coached. She gets after it every day and goes 100 percent at everything. When she practices free throws she goes 100 percent. So she can’t help but get better. She’s improved at least as much from her sophomore to her junior year as from her freshman to her sophomore year. We’re very excited about her and her leadership. Obviously, she’s the key to our defense. We have a pressing, running and trapping style of defense. And with Alex out early, Deja is going to have to take on a bigger role.
“When we played against Oklahoma in the NCAA tournament, Sasha Goodlett’s confidence went to a whole new level in that game. Basically, she had success against the Paris twins, who were two of the best post players in the country last year. The fact that we went overseas, she got that much more experience and confidence. I think as she continues to get her conditioning level to where it needs to be to compete at the highest level in the ACC, then the sky is the limit for her. She’s a special player. She’s definitely going to be asked to do a lot of things early.”
On which teams stand in the way of an ACC title:
“I think that North Carolina has got the most talent of anybody in the league. They return virtually every player from a year ago. They lost one player, but they also had a top-5 recruiting class come in. Jessica Breland was diagnosed with Hotchkins Lymphoma in the offseason so she’s gone through chemotherapy and rehab. Depending on her recovery, then I think that they’re going to get the nod early. I think Duke has a tremendous amount of talent returning and another top-10 recruiting class. Then Georgia Tech. We’re right there. We’ve got a great recruiting class, we return a lot of players and we have one of the top five players in the ACC in Alex Montgomery. I don’t see why we wouldn’t be considered in the top three of the ACC and as a contender.”
On the need to go deep into the NCAA tournament in order to build up a program:
“I definitely do. I think that the next step for this program is to get past the first – you know we’ve been into the second round–we need to get out of there, get in the Sweet Sixteen, have a chance to build some momentum and get some excitement behind the program. We need to get some national attention and exposure. You know, you get out there and you’re playing in the Sweet Sixteen or the Elite Eight and have a chance to advance to the Final Four. That’s what it’s all about. I’ve had an opportunity to coach in the Final Four and there’s nothing like it. You know, that’s the thing I’ve tried to let our players know: that once you get there, you don’t ever want to not be there. Just like the NCAA tournament three years ago, we got a taste of it, and then ever since then we’ve been like, `We want to take it another step.’ We could not allow ourselves not to be in the NCAA tournament and now that we’ve had a taste of winning that game twice in the first round, two times out of the last three years, first two wins ever in the history of our program. You know, we’ve never been there before. We didn’t know what that looked like, we didn’t know what it tasted like and we didn’t know what it felt like. Now we do and now we want more. I honestly believe that if we can advance to the Sweet Sixteen and beyond then the momentum will continue to grow behind our program at Georgia Tech.”
On Alex Montgomery’s motivation to get back on the court:
“Alex actually didn’t even travel with us to the NCAA tournament. She was having her surgery during that time. I can imagine coming from that to having to sit and watch your team play in the NCAA tournament and not knowing what to expect from this kind of rehab. I think that’s what she’s saying when she talks about being overwhelmed. Now she’s out there doing the things she did before she was injured and for a while she wasn’t sure if she was ever going to get back to that place. If you watched us practice right now, then you wouldn’t even realize that she was ever injured other than the brace that she’s wearing on her knee. You can’t tell. She should be proud of herself because it’s seven months from surgery and she’s in a very good position. We could actually play her now, but we’re holding her back. She goes so hard, and we want to make sure she’s completely rehabbed before we put her out there.”
#22 Alex Montgomery, Jr. G/F
On being satisfied with the way ACL rehabilitation has gone:
“I am very satisfied. I’m just overwhelmed really. I don’t know what to do, but I’m very proud of myself and where I came from to where I am now.”
On team’s performance during NCAA Tournament motivating her:
“Looking back, I remember thinking, `They made it without me.’ With me, I know they can make it. Without me, I was very excited for them to actually get there again. It was very excited.”