Here’s more from the conversation with Dayton’s third-year coach:
Q: What has been the focus of summer workouts?
A: The beginning workouts were all fundamentals and skills and really individual work and trying to get better, which is what we do every summer. Since we have these 10 extra practices for Italy, obviously, we have to get some things in that we wouldn't normally get in during the summer. We've been progressing and building our defense and implementing a lot of our offensive stuff. We won't have everything in, but we'll have our core stuff in by the time we go over to Italy.
Q: Your three freshmen have been on campus a month. What are your early impressions of Ella Skeens, Amari Davidson and Kyla Whitehead?
A: I absolutely love their energy and personality and how they've come in. You would think they've been here forever. They're not your normal freshmen that are very timid and quiet. They've brought really good, positive vibes to our team. In terms of basketball, it's early. It's hard to pinpoint exactly where they're at. Everything's new — from terminology, to footwork. Every pass, we want a certain way. Right now, there's such a learning curve for them. But they're working hard. They're coachable. If they continue to be that, I know they'll get to where they need to be.
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Q: How are your players coming off injuries progressing?
A: Knock on wood, everyone is good. Shakeela (Fowler), I'm really happy with the way she looks coming off her ACL (injury). She's playing really well right now. Ashley (Parkinson) looks great coming off her ACL. I'm really happy with her. So our two ACLs probably look better than I even thought they would. (Jenna) Giacone is still not full-go. She's still trying to get healthy.
Q: Who do you think will replace the scoring you lost with the graduation of Jenna Burdette, JaVonna Layfield and Alex Harris (35.8 points per game between them)?
A: I think everyone has to step up and contribute. I don't think you're going to have one person scoring 15 that just came out of the blue. I think we're way deeper than last year. Obviously, we weren't that deep last year. I'm excited about our guard play with A.B. (Araion Bradshaw). She can score. She can get people open shots. Shak has the ability to score. The freshmen have the ability to score. Jayla (Scaife) is coming back, and Jordan (Wilmoth) had a really good summer. Julia has the ability to put the ball in the basket.
I don’t think it’s going to fall on one person’s shoulders. We’re going to need a lot of people to get eight to 10 points and really pick up our rebounding, too, because JaVonna did so much in terms of one person rebounding. We have to have the mentality to chase every single loose rebound.
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Q: How is the schedule shaping up?
A: It's pretty much complete. I think it's a really hard non-conference schedule, maybe even harder than last year. We have to do it if we want to put ourselves in a position to get that at-large bid. Could we take some bumps along the road? Yeah, because we'll have a lot of new pieces and I think it's going to take some time to come into our own. But that's good. I want it to be challenging.
Q: What has your new strength coach, Rich McLoughlin, brought to the program?
A: We have a great strength and conditioning team at Dayton. There was no problem with it. But there was one thing, if you look at our program really closely, how can we get better? How can we take another step? One of the biggest pieces is that individual attention for our program in terms of their fitness and conditioning and that individual attention year round, whether you have players who are hurt or in a redshirt season.
Traveling with us and being and being with us and being at every one of our practices, that was really, really important to me. I’m really fortunate to have Rich. He’s been great. The feedback from the players has been unbelievable. I don’t know if people will see the results, but it’s going to help us. It already has helped us.
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Q: What went into your hiring of assistant coach DeAntoine Beasley?
A: He's been great. It's always nice to have a fresh set of eyes. I've asked his opinion on a lot of different things about our program and our players. Coming from the men's side, he has some different ideas and different ways that we can get better.