Q: What's your focus when summer practices begin?
A: The first workout, we're going to start from the ground up as always. Our fundamentals are No. 1. We're going to work on our footwork. We're going to make sure everyone is on the same page with terminology. We really will take our time in building and making sure our foundation is set, and we do this every year. If you don't have fundamentals and we're not all on the same page in terms of what we're trying to accomplish, with a purpose behind everything we do — because we're so detailed — then we're not going to be able to continue to improve.
Q: What does this team have to improve on the most from last season?
A: We've got to be able to finish. That's something we've been talking about. We've had those leads in a lot of those games, and we didn't finish them in the fourth quarter. Everything we're doing in our summer workouts — we started in the postseason and in lifting this summer — there's going to be an aspect of competition, what we call our fourth quarter. At the end of any workout, there's going to be a winner and a loser. We had some games we did finish, but we had a lot of games where we had leads and we let them slip away for one reason or another. The year before we made plays, and that's why we were 15-1 (in the A-10). We're another year older. We're a veteran team now. We're more experienced. We've got to take all that and put it together.
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Q: How much do you use the experiences of last year, falling short of the NCAA tournament and an A-10 championship, as motivation this year?
A: I don't think I really have to say much. That's the good and the bad about making (eight of nine) NCAA tournaments (from 2010-18). Everyone expects you to make it. They don't realize how hard it is to make them. Our team has become accustomed to making them. They're disappointed. I don't have to tell them to be disappointed. I don't have to tell them our standard is competing for championships. They know that. They're disappointed by last year just as much as I am. We're all in this together, and we're all feeling the same way. I really believe that's going to drive them this summer, and I think it already has in postseason workouts.
Q: How much will Jayla Scaife, an A-10 first-team selection, benefit from practicing with the USA junior national team at the Pan American Games Team Trials in May?
A: Just being able to compete against the best in the country is just an unbelievable experience for her. She deserved it. She worked extremely hard in the two weeks preparing to go out there. She was the only one working out with our strength coach at that time. A lot of people were home. And she was locked in.
Q: Can she take her game to another level as a senior?
A: I still think she has some room to improve in terms of her leadership, in terms of how vocal she is. She has gotten better every single year, but now she knows this is her team and she has to be that leader and she has to be more vocal and she has to take over some games at times. It's her time. I think she feels it. I think she knows it. I think the consistency of her game she can take it up one more level. Every single year she's made improvements, and I expect nothing less going into her senior year.
Q: Vanderbilt transfer Erin Whalen will debut next season after sitting out last season? How has her year away from game action gone?
A: Erin's just one of the hardest workers I've ever been around. For her to sit out a full year, you won't find anyone more eager to play in a game than Erin Whalen. She's just completely ready to play. She's worked her butt off this past season. She's improved her game. She's not just a shooter. She can post up. We really have focused her on working on off-ball screens and her mid-range game and getting that to be a part of her repertoire, and I think she has done a great job of expanding and being able to score at all three levels now.
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Q: How much chance do the three freshmen — 6-foot-3 forward Nadjy Tyler, 6-3 forward Mariah Perez and 5-10 guard Destiny Bohanon, a Wayne grad — have of contributing this year?
A: I think you hope when you recruit them they can play right away and contribute right away, but you just never know until they get here and get into workouts. They all three are high-level players that we recruited extremely hard and were all recruited by power five schools. I'm excited. With Destiny, it gives us another guard who can score and play multiple positions and can defend. She has some length. With Mariah and Nadjy, they're just big and long and they rebound and have a presence inside. They defend and both can score around the basket. With bigs, you never know. Sometimes it takes them a little bit longer, but athletically, rebounding wide, defensively, I think they're going to have the ability to come in and help us right away.
Q: One freshman played major minutes last season. How did the rest of the 2018 class develop?
A: Kyla (Whitehead) came in and made an immediate impact and played a ton. Ella (Skeens) and Amari (Davidson) did not play as much, but they improved daily, and you can see it in their confidence and understanding of what needs to be done, more so on the defensive end than offensive end. That's the biggest learning curve when you get to college, especially in our program. If you're not defending, you're just not going to be on the floor. They understand now the expectations. They've worked really hard. Theyv'e gotten stronger. I'm excited to see their growth and see what they contribute.