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November 7, 2013

Vic Schaefer Fired Up About Year Two with Newcomers

Mississippi State women's basketball coach Vic Schaefer has done a lot in his first year and a half at the helm in Starkville. The first-year coach didn't take the Bulldogs to postseason in year one but his first team showed improvement from years past on the court and he's bringing to make the Bulldog basketball program a priority at MSU.

MSU is starting year two this Friday when his team travels to Houston for a battle against the Cougars. Recruiting and a change in philosophy is making the Bulldog program one to watch in the next few years. He had an opportunity to address what awaits him this weekend and for the season on Wednesday at the on-campus media day at Humphrey Coliseum.

Opening Statement:

"We're excited about the season starting and going to Houston to face a good team playing in a new conference. We're taking two freshman back home in Texas with Dominique Dillingham and Ketara Chapels. It's an exciting time for us as we take a couple of boosters with us and we appreciate their support. It should be a great business trip and that's how we're approaching it. I grew up 15 minutes from there and I've been in that building when it was rocking during the Phi-Slamma-Jamma days. It'll be a chance for me to go back to a place I'm very familiar with but it's strictly a business trip for us."

"The other night in the exhibition game, there was a tremendous improvement from the time that we played Tulane on a Sunday a week ago to playing eight days later in an exhibition game against a team that had four seniors in their starting lineup. As we told our team, you're supposed to beat those teams by 30 and if you don't you've got issues. Last year we beat them by five and played our guts out. We've made strides and I like our young team. We're playing with energy right now and confidence."


On the newcomers:

"The first thing that they bring is a skill set. They're all very talented and they've all won. They were successful as high school and AAU players. They've been successful in their young careers here. I really like their confidence that they have in themselves and their game and I think our returners have sensed that in them and it has excited them about the depth that we've added to our team. It's what you're supposed to do. We recruited that class and now it's your job to go get one that's better and then you've got to try and get one that's better than that. That's what you do in recruiting and building this program"

"Right now Chinwe (Okorie) has a broken foot and we're dealing with one piece of documentation for her eligibility. Other than that, our three other freshman are good to go and then (Junior College transfer) Savannah (Carter). I think that anyone that was at the game the other night saw what Savannah is capable of. She is a competitive, high-motored kid. We talked this morning in our staff meeting, she's probably the biggest difference between the Tulane game and then eight days later. She was much more comfortable and that was probably my fault. She was playing point guard and really hasn't played a lot of point guard in her collegiate career. We were trying to work her in there and I think she's really more comfortable on the wing. We've kind of stuck her there the last eight or nine days and I think she's really blossoming there right now. Those kids right now are our depth and two of them were our starters the other night. I could easily start all four of them right now if I wanted to."

On point guards Katia May and Jerica James:
"I don't think there's any question that they've got to play well every night for us to have a chance to win. That just comes with the position, it's not just those two, it comes with being the point guard at Mississippi State University. In this conference, you've got to have great point guard play. We had one turnover at the point guard position the other night. That's the first time that's happened since I've been the coach here. That's a really good thing and a great place to start for those two."

"Both of them could probably warrant starting, but JJ's really good at sitting there and seeing what's going on and then coming in and using that to her advantage. She's very cerebral in her terms. For us, both could start but JJ brings a different dimension off the bench in a positive way and that's why we have her coming off the bench right now. Katia's quickness off the ball is probably better than anyone else that we have on the team right now and Savannah would probably be second but with the new rules it's almost being neutralized.


On Martha Awal getting to the next level of her game:

"She needs to do it both halves. Martha wants to do a lot of things, but wanting and doing are two different things. To get her to the next level, she's got to start doing things a little bit different and start doing them more consistently. If you want to be in the top eight instead of the top 16, which is where she is right now, then you've got to do it every day and bring it every night. Realize that, on everybody's scouting report, you and Kendra (Grant) are the first two people mentioned. I think for her that's where she is right now in the maturation of her game, understanding that. The way the games changing, it might be to her advantage in the low block and that's a good thing. Our goal every night for her is 16 and 12 every night. She was a 12 and nine player last year. If you want to go to the next level, you get 16 and 12 every night in the SEC you're going to be a top 15 draft pick in the WNBA. For our team to win, point guard play and Martha and Kendra have to bring it every night. That's a big part of our success."


On the biggest improvement from a year ago to now:

"Competiveness. We had to teach competiveness every day in practice last year and I think the returners get it because they've seen it and understand it firsthand going up against the people in our conference. Hearing it from us every day and going and beating the teams we beat last year, we won those games because we were competitive. We didn't back down, we showed toughness. I think for this team, we recruited that and don't have to teach these newbees that because they got it. That's why we recruited them. At the same time, these returners understand it and know what our drills are like. In a staff meeting this morning we talked about there was no drop off on who we started and who played off the bench. You know you're doing something right when you get those kind of results."


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