Nov. 4, 2010
COACH BLUDER: Well, election day is over. The fertilizer ads are back on and here it is exhibition season. So it's amazing that it's already here again. We're starting another campaign. It just seems like we've just rolled from last year into this year so easily because of all the players that we have returning. And when you have five starters coming back, it makes things a little bit easier for you as far as teaching, as far as implementing the things that you want to have with your program because they already know. And so it's been a pretty easy adjustment for us in the preseason. I'm really pleased with the development of all of our players. I think everybody has improved from last year, which is what you want. And I think we've accomplished that. The one person that maybe hasn't shown her improvement yet is Kachine, kind of the key player on our team, but Kachine that was pretty major surgery that she had last spring where she had a titanium rod put through her shin. She couldn't play all summer, first week of practice she sprains her ankle, she misses the first week. She's really been in action for only about two weeks. She's not in early season form, mid season form, end of season form. She's not really there yet. I know she will be. I have faith in Kachine. I've got complete trust in her in getting herself back, but she's not there yet. So that is the one person that everybody is watching that probably won't shine as much as we all expect her to this early in the season. But there's obvious reasons why that's happening. I really believe that every other player on our team has made improvements, and that excites us as a staff. It's what you want your players to do in the off season. They've gotten stronger. They've developed on their weaknesses of their games, so I feel like we're in a good position. We're all anxious to start the season. This is a year where we started earlier than we have ever started. We started practice October 4th versus October 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th sometimes even, so it's an earlier start for practices. So believe me, the players are tired of hearing my voice, they're ready to have some real officials, they're ready to go against somebody else, and we're looking forward to that against Concordia on Sunday. Concordia comes in as the reigning champion of their conference. They're picked to finish third in their conference this year. They do return three of their leading scorers from last year's team. Some interesting tidbits about this team that we're supposed to play. Their assistant coach is Drew Woods. He was Kachine's AAU coach, so if anybody knows how to defend Kachine, it's it person coming in as the head coach of Concordia. Another interesting note is that Zoraa Quoie, who played for us for one season, was academically ineligible transferred to Concordia, so she is in her senior year at Concordia, so a former Iowa Hawkeye on the roster of Concordia. So kind of interesting personalities about this team that's coming in. I know that Kachine is pretty excited. She's pretty fired up to go play against her former AAU coach, and again, we are all excited about just being able to have a real game. We need somebody to show us our deficiencies. That's what we want to get out of this game is we don't want to come in and we don't care about winning or losing. This doesn't count on our record. We always want to compete to win, but we want somebody to show us where our weaknesses are so we have a week to work on it before we open up against Southern in Texas Corpus Christi next weekend.
Q. I know the polls don't mean anything, but what does it mean to show up in the preseason polls for the first time in a while?
COACH BLUDER: It hasn't happened for us in the preseason, so it's a credit to our players for what they did last year. It's recognition of a job well done last year. And it's recognition that all five of our players are back. And that's what it means. Now it's up to our players and our staff obviously, working hard to maintain that and to keep climbing higher in those polls. But it's great recognition, but it doesn't mean anything. We want to be there at the end of the year.
Q. How about the new kids, Kalli and Jade, how are they fitting in?
COACH BLUDER: Well, Jade is going to be backing up the five position. We had anticipated Jade to back up both the power forward and the five for us, but it was too much, and so we're really trying to let her concentrate on one position, and we feel like she's better suited to back up the five right now than the four. So Jade will be playing in that position this weekend. Unfortunately, Kalli Hansen will not be dressed for the game this weekend, and that's a blow for our depth. She has had back pain, and we've ruled out a stress fracture, we've ruled out disk problems, and so we're going to have she's going to have an epidural on Friday which doesn't allow her to play for three days, so Friday, Saturday, Sunday she will not be able to participate. But the good news is we'll have her for next week in preparation for our first real game. So Kalli again is that depth for us at that two, three and four position that we really need because with Theairra out, we don't have that depth. Hannah Draxten will back up all two, three, fours. She does a great job for us. She's playing pain free from last year.
Q. Kachine you talked about not improving, but is she making smaller steps improvement wise since October 4th or were you talking generally she hasn't
COACH BLUDER: She's not the Kachine of last year yet. She will be. There's no doubt in my mind that she's going to get there, I just don't know when she's going to get there. But I just don't want people to be disappointed because she really has only been practicing for a couple of weeks. So since she didn't get to start practice October 4th, she really didn't start practice until about October 12th or 13th because of the sprained ankle, she's gotten a little bit far behind, but again, she'll get there. She's not there yet.
Q. Preseason has kind of been bad luck for your guard court a little bit. What is it like moving forward now?
COACH BLUDER: I've probably become an expert at something I don't want to be an expert at, and that's how to deal with injuries. But we really have gotten quite good at it. We're lucky in that we're not lucky, it's by design. We're fortunate that we run a system that doesn't require a lot of sets, and so kids don't have to memorize a lot of numbers; in this play I'm in this position, in that play I'm in that position. We run an offense so it's the same. It doesn't matter if you're the one, the two, the three, the four, you do the same thing. So I think it's beneficial for us that we run an offense like that.
Q. How fortunate is it that you have your two and three guards that can handle the ball?
COACH BLUDER: Oh, very much so. It makes us harder to press when you have that many women that all three of those guards have played point guard at some point in their life, so it's beneficial for us as far as we feel like we're going to be more up tempo this year. We want to push the ball more, and I think when you have three guards with that mentality, it helps, and that they are all able to handle the ball as well as they are that we don't have to get the ball to one person's hands in order to initiate our offense.
Q. Can you talk about Morgan getting a little stronger? Can you see that in practice and games?
COACH BLUDER: Absolutely. Morgan has gotten stronger. Again, I think I saw the biggest jump in the weight room with Morgan and Jaime. Those two players over the summer made the biggest jump for us. It's going to help her. It's going to help her battle in the paint a little bit a lot more than it was last year, but I think it also gives her confidence. We all know that so much of this basketball game, and she's really worked hard at her right and left hand hook shot, and it's paying off for her.
Q. Showing the deficiencies you mentioned, is this a case where the staff knows the deficiencies and you want the players to see it? Can you talk about what you want to gain out of the exhibition?
COACH BLUDER: I think it's good for the players to know, and it's good to be able to have film to document it because it's one thing for me to say it. It's another thing for me to demonstrate it in practice, and it's an entirely different thing when I can pull film clips and say, this is where a problem is. It just makes such a bigger impact on them. So definitely to have the film clips I think will be beneficial, and they need to see the deficiencies, absolutely. We want to recognize our strengths and we want to recognize our weaknesses. We're going to do everything we can to showcase our strengths and do everything we can to hide our weaknesses and to grow and bet better with our weaknesses.
Q. With Jade still earning a five and Morgan needing a breather, I assume you're still okay with four and five out?
COACH BLUDER: Absolutely, and again, I think that's the beauty of our offense, as well, is that we can play a five out. Kelsey will be our first substitute at the five and Jade will be the second substitute at the five.
Q. Will Kelsey play the four, too?
COACH BLUDER: Kelsey will play the four, as well, along with Hannah Draxten.
Q. Hopefully Kalli comes back all right, but what happens to your guard depth after Hannah?
COACH BLUDER: We don't have a whole lot. Megan Considine is there, and Megan you know, Megan doesn't look very athletic, but she gets the job done. There are some times where she scores a lot of points for our second string. Don't let Megan fool you, either. Megan can contribute for us in minutes that we need her to rest players or to give somebody a break because of a foul situation. She'll be able to dispel some people, as well.
Q. What about Trisha? Any more on her timeline, as well?
COACH BLUDER: No, it's just totally up in the air. It's almost frustrating because if somebody breaks a bone, okay, you're going to be back in four weeks. But with this injury there's no way to predict that. She had a cast on for two and a half weeks. They took it off yesterday so now they have her in a different kind of a removable cast so she can do some pool workouts and get some conditioning workouts. But as far as coming back from the injury, we still don't have any idea.
Q. How frustrating is it? I know you guys came in thinking you'd have a bench to work with.
COACH BLUDER: We thought we had five legitimate a backup at every position is what we felt like we had.
Q. And now I know you have to deal with what you have to deal with, but what do you do in terms of how you play people, minutes?
COACH BLUDER: It's frustrating because we went through this last year and now you figure you're not going to have to do it this year and we are having to deal with it this year. So that's hard. But you know something? You come here as a 20 year old, you put on the Iowa jersey, what do you want to do? You want to play. You don't want to sit on the bench, you want to play. That's the psyche of every player that we have in our system. So they have opportunities, so they should all be happy. That's the one good thing about it. This year we started with 12 people on our roster, and through injuries that's depleted down to nine, possibly eight, but next year we should have 15 full ride scholarship players or 15 players on our team. So that's going to be a big benefit.
Q. What are some of the improvements you've seen from Jaime Printy in the off season? Obviously she was a freshman last year.
COACH BLUDER: Right. Defensively that's where her main focus was was strength and defense, and she's done a good job in both of those areas. Offensively she shot the ball well for us, she penetrated, she got to the free throw line well, so she did a lot of good things offensively for us, but she had to round out her game defensively, and she has.
Q. Can you put Jaime at the point and Kamille at the two to take the pressure off Kamille from bringing the ball up?
COACH BLUDER: We certainly can, but Kamille wants the ball in her hands. She wants to be the point guard. So it's not like if teams are pressing, we all get involved in breaking the press. It's not that Kamille is asked to bring up the ball against the press on her own. She's not asked to do that. We all are involved in breaking a press when people press us.
Q. Did you guys seek out Concordia because of the ties or is it just happenstance?
COACH BLUDER: No, they asked us to play and we knew the situation with Kachine and Drew, and so we thought that would make an interesting match up.
Q. To go back to the preseason polls, how have your players reacted to the high expectations that everyone has for them this year?
COACH BLUDER: I think that they get kind of excited when they hear the news, and then it's gone. That's what you want them to do is to recognize it and then it's okay, okay, let's go on, business as usual. I think they're happy, but at the same time they've been told many, many times that it really doesn't matter.
Q. You talked about the competition in practice. Even though you're a little bit short handed does that still keep up the intensity then?
COACH BLUDER: We have the best group of gray squad players I've ever had. We have 12 guys that are committed to being here. They volunteer their time and their effort. They are very coachable. They do anything we ask them to do to help us, and this is the best gray squad we've ever had.
Q. Just to be clear on the injury situation, Kalli has an undiagnosed back problem?
COACH BLUDER: Correct, and they think it's more muscular now than anything else.
Q. And Kachine is over her ankle?
COACH BLUDER: Right, and just making her way back.
Q. Obviously the two that are out for a while, but anybody else dinged up?
COACH BLUDER: No, that would be it. Am I forgetting anybody? I think I've got everybody, yeah, I think that's it.
Q. You said 15 scholarship players. Do you know something that we don't?
COACH BLUDER: No, we have 15 committed kids coming in next year. We have a walk on, a gal that's coming to us that's a recruited walk on that will take us up to 15 if we had Megan Considine returning. We have the gal, I can't say her name, but she turned down scholarship offers from top 25 programs to come to the University of Iowa and walk on. That's a huge compliment to our team and our players, that she wanted to be a part of this.
Q. Kamille was All Big Ten last year. She picked up some first team votes this year leading into it. For lack of a better term, is she poised for a breakout season this year?
COACH BLUDER: I do believe that. But I think sometimes kids have breakout years when there's not a lot of people around them because that's when your stats are inflated. We're a team that's very balanced. We're a team that we love to have balanced scoring, very even scoring. Sometimes on those type of teams your statistics are not reflective of how good you are because you don't have like some teams only have one or two key players and everything goes through them. We are in the luxury that we don't have to do that.
Q. I think Kelsey said this was the best chemistry she's been around in her four years, and when you go through the tough times that's got to be nice to know that they're behind each other.
COACH BLUDER: Yeah, you go through tough times it goes one way or the other; either they all go their individual ways or they band together. Last year we banded together. When the times got tough, we banded together. And I anticipate that happening this year. I agree, this is a fun group to be around, they get along with each other so well. So it's enjoyable. I think that intangible, that chemistry is what wins us close games and what allows us to beat teams that are much deeper than us, much more talented laden, have All Americans on their roster. We don't have those on our roster, and yet we're able to beat those type of teams.