Williams-Jeter looks back on first months at Dayton and ahead to first season

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Tamika Williams-Jeter interview: June 29, 2022

New UD women’s coach: ‘I’m going to pull and scratch as much as I can out of this team, and I think they’re capable’

Photos fill the walls of the Dayton Flyers women’s basketball coaches’ offices at the Cronin Center. Great moments, great players, great teams, great victories, they’re memorialized throughout the sitting area at the entrance and in the hallway leading to the individual offices.

Head coach Tamika Williams-Jeter’s office, however, is still mostly a blank slate. She has family photos on her desk and a few items on one wall. Hired in March, she hasn’t had a chance to win any trophies or create any of her own moments at UD yet. Those opportunities lay ahead.

Looking back on her first weeks on the job in March and April, when it was just her and Linda Walz, the longtime administrative assistant in the women’s basketball offices, Williams-Jeter said she would often go to men’s basketball coach Anthony Grant “like a little puppy,” looking for his advice.

“You’ve got this,” he would tell her. “You’re made for this.”

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Williams-Jeter sat down in her office Wednesday to talk about how the first three months are going. She said the full roster, with 10 scholarship players, is on campus, though two of the newcomers — Indiana State transfer Arianna Smith and freshman Saija Cleveland — are coming back from ACL injuries suffered last season and have not been cleared for full-contact work.

Q: What are you doing right now in summer practices?

A: We’re doing workouts four times a week, mostly in the mornings. Group work and individual work. We’re really focusing on pace. Game shots, footwork, being ready. Everything we do is quick. They’re learning short short shot clock stuff. Lots of shooting. We’re in practice every day with something we call “green, yellow, red.” Just really dictating whether or not you can shoot and what shots you can take in a game.

Q: How important is this time especially with a new coach and new players?

A: Absolutely because now we start to build roles, right? This is not what I control. It’s really what you can control in these situations. We start that early. So right now they know every day where people sit in that shooting space and performance space. How fast you can play? How efficient are you? ... I’ve been a lot more observant because we have to establish some leadership. Does it have to come from one person? No. But am I seeing who’s consistent in what they bring? Yes.

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Q: Do the injured newcomers have a chance to be ready for the start of the season?

A: Maybe November or December. We’ll see. They’re doing a lot of ball handling, seated shooting, a lot of work.

Q: How have the freshmen who are healthy looked?

A: Eleanor (Monyek), who’s a walk-on, has been playing great. She’s just doing what she needs to do. She works really hard.

And then Nayo (Leer) is very talented. She is one of those kids who when she was younger got (Power Five) offers and then got really sick, and now she’s back. We’ve had a couple of workouts, and she looks really good Just strong. Finishes well with both hands around the basket with contact. We do a lot of contact in different ways: quick contact; hit; go explode. ... Finish with contact. You might change how you finish, and then we incorporate it. One thing I know is how to finish, and there are some layers to it.

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Q: How did recruiting go in the spring?

A: We all have different approaches to the transfer portal. (Assistant coach) Bryce (Agler), with a lot of WNBA background, he’s salivating because he looks at it as free agency. (Assistant coach) George (Washington) and I are a little bit more apprehensive because we’ve worked in a space for almost 20 years with relationships. How it looks different is when you’re recruiting a younger kid, there’s a natural relationship. They come on campus. You have this maturation. Then there’s the portal, and in the portal, the relationship is built around the kid. This is just me. This could change. But this is how I had to view it very quickly because we lost so much. You have kids who you recruit forever, and you can develop relationships with them and the people around them. But most of the time you’re trusting what you see from the people around them. Then there’s the portal, and the only reason I think we really did a good job in it is because we have relationships with the people around them. You don’t have enough time to know the kid. I can’t say I know every kid. I know of them. I’ve had conversations with them. They’ve been on campus. I’ve watched film on them. I’ve asked (about them) in the conferences they played in. But mostly that part of it you had to get from people around them.

Q: Was it disappointing losing the players you lost to the portal?

A: Coming in, I just said, ‘Hey, I’m going to have one conversation with everybody.’ You do your best. But I’m not going to beg anybody. We lost the majority of our scoring just because they graduated. We probably lost 80%. Then we lost maybe another 10 to 15 to the portal. (Tenin Magassa, who left for Rhode Island) was in the portal before I even got the job. I control the controllables, and the one thing I knew I could control was recruiting. ... I wasn’t able to call and say, “Hey, I’m about to go interview with UD. If I get this job, will you come work with me?” It happened so quickly and so unexpectedly that I didn’t get those calls.

Q: Are you done adding to the roster?

A: It depends. You still have the international market. You still have late bloomers. In this new world, you don’t cut it off until August. Thank God for D-III. That doesn’t make me nervous anymore. (At Wittenberg), we got some our best players in July and August. I’m excited about what we do have. There are so many people going, “Oh, you will be able to recruit so many 2023s and 2024s. You guys are going to be really good.” Yeah, that’s great, but I’m just not used to losing. I’m going to pull and scratch as much as I can out of this team, and I think they’re capable. We have some young kids and some of our transfers who are very athletic and highly skilled. They’ve learned how fast you can play because last week they looked really slow. I told them, “We used to do this every day at Wittenberg with D-III kids and they got this so you guys can get it.” And yesterday they got it. I think last week they were like, “There’s no way we can play this fast.”

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