Jolette Law and the Illini open the season with an exhibition game vs. DT3 on Nov. 4.
Oct. 15, 2007
Illinois head coach Jolette Law addressed the media on Oct. 12 before Illini Madness and the team's first official practice on Oct. 13. Below is a transcript of that press conference.
Opening statement by Coach Law:
"I just want to start off by saying I am extremely excited to be here at the University of Illinois. I am excited about finally getting started to actually playing basketball and getting our first practice in. I am really looking forward to Illini Madness and being a part of my first night at Assembly Hall in front of a lot of great fans.
"I wanted to give you a state of where we are as a team. We're just trying to work extremely hard every single day. I'm very proud of my young ladies right now. They've been working extremely hard with their conditioning. They're ready to get started. They have had opportunities to work with some skill work in small groups. Last week I had the opportunity to work with my entire team. I'm really ready to get three hours to work with them and to get them prepared for what will be our new style of play - high intensity defense and an octane offense with a great level of pride. We're trying to instill that pride back into the University of Illinois. We're contending to win a Big Ten Championship this year. The main thing we're trying to do is to build on and develop a championship culture."
On the goals of this year's team:
"We had a four hour meeting last night, just talking about goals and where we want to be. I know I'm very optimistic about this season, about this team, and about this program. I really do feel in my heart that we will win a Big Ten Championship. Last night, we set goals. Our goal right now is to be one of those 64 teams to be in the NCAA Tournament. As long as we take care of that we will be in the top one, two or three in the Big Ten. We're striving to win a Big Ten Championship, but our ultimate goal is to keep our eyes fixed on trying to be one of those top three teams to definitely be one of those teams to make it to the NCAA tournament. I know last year the Big Ten Conference only took three teams, and we finished fourth. So we're building on fourth place, we're not going to finish fourth or below. We're building on being one of those top three teams so that we will be one of those 64 teams that is invited to the Big Dance."
On having a core of experienced players returning:
"Definitely I feel like I'm in a great situation. They have the experience. I have five starters returning with the experience of being able to go out and play and compete in the Big Ten. But, like I told them last night, we're all starting a new process. It's like starting with a clean slate. They're learning a whole different offense, different defense and a different philosophy. They've embraced it, and they're looking forward to getting started. So, I feel good being in the situation I'm in and we're just trying to build on that."
On having players that fit her style of play:
"Right now I want to go on and add to what I have. Like I said, we're trying to build a championship culture here. We want to go after the top kids in the state first and foremost, and I really want go after the best kids in the country. We have a great nucleus and now what I'm doing, and what my staff is doing, is going across the country and first trying to see all the kids that haven't committed yet in the state of Illinois to try to get them here. And at the same time, we're in on some top kids across the country."
On how the team will adjust to her new style of play:
"I think it all starts with conditioning. When I first started, I came in here and implemented my strength and conditioning program. The first day they were like, "Oh my gosh, I don't know if we'll be able to do this." But like I told them, if you can play great offense, you can definitely play great defense. Defense is about heart and determination. So I know you will be surprised about what this team can do. I'm very pleased right now. We will continue to build on where we are and continue each and every day to get better."
On sophomore center Jenna Smith:
"The sky is the limit for Jenna. She was one of the top freshmen in the league last year. I know that she can be the Big Ten Player of the Year at some point if she puts her mind to it. We're going to expect a lot from her. I'm going to push her probably harder than she's ever been pushed. She has her goals set high to be one of the Big Ten players. We're going to rely on her very heavily on the inside, and we're also going to try to increase her range and bring her out on the perimeter a little bit more."
On the personality of the team:
"I have a great bunch of girls. They are academically driven and they are a very smart team. I think of Lori Bjork, with her work ethic and her leadership. I'm very proud of the things she has demonstrated thus far. This team is a veteran team. They know what it takes and they are looking to myself and my staff to lead the way. I'm very pleased with them right now and I think I have a good group to build on."
On becoming a head coach for the first time:
"I haven't had that `Oh my gosh, I'm a head coach' moment yet. I think it will probably hit me, maybe tomorrow when it's all said and done. It's like, `Ok, now this is it.' Each and every day I know that Coach (C. Vivian) Stringer prepared me for this moment and I know it will be on-the-job training. She told me, `You're not going to know everything all at once. I've been doing this for numerous years and every day when you have to get out there you're learning and you have to make adjustments.' It hasn't hit me yet, I guess because of all the adrenaline and all of the positive energy I have inside. So I haven't hit it yet, but if it hits me I'm just going to nip it in the butt and just say, `This is it, this is where we're going, we're going to move forward.'"
On what she tells people across the country about Illinois:
"I just tell people across the country that Illinois is a sleeping giant. Our football team is doing extremely well, our basketball team has had great tradition, and the women's basketball team is right there. But now I want them to know that there's more. With the academic resources and the athletic resources that are here, I don't understand why every kid in the country wouldn't want to come and play here. I'm a big fan and I'm glad I have the opportunity to be here to help put it out there about the University of Illinois."
On senior Audrey Tabon, who sat out last season with an ACL injury:
"I'm extremely pleased with Audrey right now. She's been working extremely hard, she's in tip-top shape and she's excited. Her adrenaline is going. We're going to rely on her a lot. She's very agile, she gets up and down the court and she runs extremely well. She runs as well as some of my guards. We're definitely looking forward to her being a big factor with our team this year."
On the playing rotation:
"I'm going to tell my kids tomorrow, and I told them last night that it's a clean slate. I don't know anyone. I know I have five returning starters, but in my mind, I don't know their names. So, on the first day of practice, it's a clean slate. It could be a whole new face, a whole new look, a whole new team. I tell them that I go on if they continue to practice and work extremely hard. I go on effort. I don't go on what happened yesterday or in the past. I'm starting today and moving forward."
On Illinois fans and the attendance at games:
"I think everyone is really excited about the change. Of course I'm not going to sit here and think that just because I'm new and I'm standing here that everyone is going to fill Assembly Hall, but I am going to challenge everyone. It's my job and my staff's job to put out a product that this community and this state will be proud of. Everyone wants a winner, and if we're winning they'll come and they'll fill Assembly Hall"
On the four hour team meeting:
"It was supposed to be three hours, but we started bonding and talking about things and goals. We just decided to put things together and lay out the things that we want. It was a good meeting, and it was very needed. It wasn't a bad four hours. Right now, they're committing to something new. Each and every day we talk about trust and accountability and we talk about our goals and where we want to go. We are all ready to get this started."
On her past coaching experiences:
"I played for Coach Stringer for four years and I worked with her for 12 years. Every day I was like a sponge. I absorbed a lot of things that she did and apparently it worked. She's been successful. I took a lot from her, but at the same time, God blessed me with the talent and I have my own philosophies. So, I'll put a little bit of what I know and what I've learned and we'll put it all together."