Nov. 3, 2011
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COACH BLUDER: I say this every year, but I can’t believe it’s already here. These 30 practices we have to get ready for our first competition go so quickly. That’s the time where you can put in the bread and butter of all your offenses and defenses because once those games start you’re spending the next practices preparing for your next opponent, then it just becomes a whirlwind because you play so many games in the non conference season, sometimes two, three a week. There’s not a lot of time for individual development or team development once those games start. We’re down to crunch time now. We haven’t spent a whole lot of time preparing for Winona State. We usually don’t with exhibitions. The purpose is to get out there and try different combinations, see how we do against another women’s team. We scrimmage against our grey squad team. This is a good Division II team. They did beat Minnesota last year at Minnesota in their exhibition so we know they’re a good team coming in. Kind of interesting angle is that their assistant athletic director is Kristi Smith, who played for us. That’s one of the reasons we wanted to have them in here, we like to bring our former Hawkeyes back. She’s working on her master’s degree. We’re excited about getting started, just being able to see where we are, then having a week to prepare for the opening season.
Q. Can you see the players getting antsy to get out there?
COACH BLUDER: Players are always more antsy than coaches. Coaches like to practice. Players like to play games. Yeah, they’re getting antsy. Those 30 practices probably seem like an eternity to them. For us, never enough time to get in everything you want to get in.
Q. Do you see Kristi Smith being athletic director someday at a school?
COACH BLUDER: I think that’s where she’d like to end up. This is certainly a good opportunity for her to get her master’s degree. I could see her coaching, too, though. I wouldn’t put that one out. I think she’s a good candidate for that, as well.
Q. What do you want to see in the first game besides a win? Get everybody in there, see how they perform?
COACH BLUDER: Definitely want to get everybody in the game and give everybody an opportunity to get out on the floor and see what you can do when the spotlight’s on you. We want to be able to see what we can do against a women’s team both on the offensive and defensive side of things. It’s just so hard when you go against yourself all the time, you go against the grey squad, to really get a gauge at where you are. I think this will give us that gauge.
Q. How has Sam meshed with the other guards especially?
COACH BLUDER: Sam has done a very good job. She’s just such a great competitor. That’s what I love about Sam. Kachine was that way, too. She wants the ball in her hands the last play of the game. Here is a freshman that wants the ball in her hands and is willing to take things over. I think we have a lot of players that want the ball in their hands at the end of the game. You want those type of kids on your team. You don’t want kids to be shying away from that opportunity. But it’s unusual to see a freshman that wants it that much. So I like that.
Q. How has she adjusted to that three spot?
COACH BLUDER: It’s different. She may play a little bit of point for us, too. That’s not out of the question. She can definitely play the three or the one for us.
Q. This year you have to be tough to press with all three point guards.
COACH BLUDER: I hope so. Usually in high school if you’re not the tallest player on the team, you’re going to be the point guard. If you’re one of the best athletes you’re going to be the point guard. You’re right; we have three in our starting lineup that were point guards in high school. It’s nice to have that much on the floor, that composure. That person is going to lead the team, the person that’s going to call the offenses, defenses, get people organized. They have a little better sense of the game. I do think it makes us hard to press.
Q. While you’re emphasizing you’re going to get everybody in the game, do you expect to get Winona’s best shot?
COACH BLUDER: I think we absolutely better expect their best shot. Their best shot might come at the end of the year when they’ve been through the whole season like us. We know they prepare for this game because they get one opportunity to play against a Division I school. For them, it can be a headline maker for them. It could be a huge thing for their program for recruiting especially within the state of Minnesota and how much we recruit in the state of Minnesota. But obviously Winona is there recruiting as well. If they have the opportunity to say they defeated a team like Minnesota last year or Iowa, that’s really big for them.
Q. When you talked about Sam moving to the point, does that push Kamille to the two and Jaime to the three?
COACH BLUDER: Yes. I’m not talking about when Kamille is off the floor or out of the lineup. All of them really feel comfortable in that position.
Q. Does that give you some different things to do with matchups that give you an advantage?
COACH BLUDER: I think it does. I think it gives us an opportunity, different styles out there, different matchups like you say. I like the flexibility that we have.
Q. Is part of it because Sam needs the ball in her hand because she does amazing things that can really change the game?
COACH BLUDER: Part of it is that. But our point guards, once we get set up in our offense, we’re kind of equal opportunity offensive players. It’s not like in transition when it’s always nice to get the ball in your point guard’s hands, see what they can create off of that. I feel comfortable with all three of them having the ball in their hands. That’s going to make us a more effective transition team this year. I’ve seen Kamille down at the end of the floor because she knows Jaime is going to get the outlet. I think this makes us harder to guard in defensive transition.
Q. Is it also true because Kamille and Jaime are such great outside shooters that Samantha can drive and set them up?
COACH BLUDER: Yes, that’s very nice. We like the dribble drive. Sam is a good penetrator, likes to distribute the ball.
Q. Looks like she can finish even if she takes contact.
COACH BLUDER: Jaime is like that. Jaime can accept the contact, finish and get the old fashioned three. So can Sam. She likes to get the old fashioned three. She’ll take the contact in there.
Q. Are you pretty healthy so far?
COACH BLUDER: We’re pretty healthy. We have 12 players, which I have never had 12 players healthy this time of year. It’s really nice to have 12 in uniform. We’re a little bit nicked up at a couple positions. Morgan has tendonitis in her knee, bothering her, limiting her team. Kamille is a little bit ginger with her back right now. She’s got a little bit of tightness in her back. That’s another reason sometimes why it’s nice to have Sam bring the ball up the floor, relieve the pressure of having Kamille have to do that.
Q. How has Theairra improved since we talked to her at media day health wise?
COACH BLUDER: Not a huge difference health wise. It’s just getting those reps in and getting the confidence. Her knees are good. It’s just mentally being able to understand that and not be nervous that the first time when I take a fall, when I go in here to get this rebound, something bad is going to happen to me. I think when you start thinking those thoughts, it makes you play hesitant. You can’t play hesitant and play this game. She’s healthy. It’s just being able to gain the confidence she needs to be able to play the game at 100 percent. She’s getting it. It’s a slow process. It may take a while. It may take a lot of game reps for her to feel comfortable out there. She still does some really amazing things out on the court for us.
Q. Will she play the three?
COACH BLUDER: She can play the two or three, either one of the wings for us.
Q. Do you have to talk her through getting over that mental hump or is it something she has to get through?
COACH BLUDER: I think it’s both. We’re aware of it as coaches. We’re trying to help her with that. But I think it’s something that she really has to deal with as well. She’s got to gain the confidence that she’s okay and she’s good and she has to forget about the knee. It’s hard to forget about the knee when you have a big, huge leg brace. This year she’ll be playing with the leg brace. Next year we’ll maybe be able to get her out of the leg brace because it’s a constant reminder.
Q. Even though you are pretty healthy now, are you worried about injuries down the road?
COACH BLUDER: I think coaches always worry about injuries. It’s such a big part of our game that, yeah, it’s something that every night I think about. I hope they feel better. I pray about it every night because I know how important it is.
Q. If you ever wanted to go tall, could you put Kelly and Virginia in at the same time or are they mostly fours?
COACH BLUDER: Both of them are playing the four for us right now. But a lineup that we could see is Kalli and Virginia because Kalli is going to play a ton of minutes for us. She’s basically backing up the two, three, four and she’s our third five. She is going to play a lot of minutes for us. If Morgan for some reason can’t go, Bethany gets tired; Kalli could go in at the five. That could be another lineup opportunity.
Q. Give you some huge outside shouting opportunities?
COACH BLUDER: We like the five out offense. We’ll run that without any hesitation whatsoever. It’s on the defensive side of things to lose the height. But Kalli is physical. She doesn’t mind battling in there.
Q. Can’t talk specifics till next Wednesday. Signing day. Do you feel you’re getting what you need with this class?
COACH BLUDER: I feel like we did. I feel like we had a really nice signing class. It’s a big class. Not big in numbers, but big in stature. It’s going to give us a little more height, which is nice.
Q. You had that 11th ranked class last year. Probably not ranked in this class. Do you worry about that or do you worry about getting the people you targeted?
COACH BLUDER: You worry more about filling your needs. It’s always nice when you get a ranked class. We’ve had kids that come in here with great rankings that never pan out. We have had kids that come in here with no rankings, be out of here as All Big Ten players. That doesn’t really mean that much. It’s a nice honor. At the same time what matters to us more is getting kids that fit our system. That kid may not be ranked in the top 100. If they’re perfect for our system, we have a need for that, that’s a good recruit for us to sign. I think we’ve got a couple of those kids coming in.
Q. How about Trisha, feeling comfortable?
COACH BLUDER: She’s feeling really good. I’m so happy for Trisha. That’s another one, knock on wood. Where she was last year to this year is night and day. She’s doing a nice job for us. So I’m very glad. We have that person so now we don’t have to be moving Jaime to the backup point guard this year. We’ve got Sam that could play there. We have Trisha that’s doing a very good job, too.
Q. She was one of your defensive stoppers last year.
COACH BLUDER: Two years ago, her freshman year. Yeah, I think she’s playing good defense. Another good defender for us is Melissa Dixon. She does a good job of being physical. She’s good at hounding the ball, pressuring the ball. I really like the way Melissa plays. She’s going to get some good minutes for us.