home jobs contact us
Our Clients:
Browse by Sport
Find us on ASAP sports on Facebook ASAP sports on Twitter
ASAP Sports RSS Subscribe to RSS
Click to go to
ASAP Sports e-Brochure View our


March 25, 2016

Cori Close

Kari Korver

Nirra Fields

Jordin Canada

Bridgeport, Connecticut

THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with an opening statement from coach and then take questions.

COACH CLOSE: Well, it's great to be here and thank you for to all the people that I know how much work goes into this and our game needs it. So I appreciate the passion and the attention to detail that's been put into this tournament and for the media that's willing to help grow our sport. I think it's really important. So thank you.

I think our team is in a great spot. We're excited, we feel we're healthy pretty much, we I think are hungry, still. I think we have a great matchup against a really good Texas team. So, it's uncharted territory, I'm still learning about my team, we're very young still, but I definitely don't think they're a team that's just happy to be here. So, we're thrilled and we're excited to get started.


Q. Two questions or two-part question, how is Swain and is she done for the year and second, including what happened to her, it seems to me that this has been a season of challenges for you. Do you agree and what are the challenges you had to overcome?
COACH CLOSE: Well, Kacy is day-to-day. I thought she would be, we were pretty confident she was going to be ready and she's had a minor set back and so literally our doctor's with us and is truly a day-to-day thing. I'm really hoping she's not done for the year. So we are still pushing forward hoping to get her back. In terms of challenges, obviously losing Kacy was a big challenge, she's our really our most relied upon post defender. She has a lot of experience. She has a very high basketball IQ. So some other people were forced to step up in big ways. But I think that the biggest thing was, in terms of challenges, I've had more challenging years, quite frankly, than this year, but is just seeing the maturity of a team, trying to lead them down a path they have never been down before. And getting them to really picture the vision. It's not like they have been around people that have taught it down to them. This is -- but that's what they came to UCLA to do, is they really wanted to take this program to places it's never been, to accomplish things that have not been accomplished and to do it in an uncommon way. That was a big commitment, but I think that's been the challenge to every day paint that picture for young women that have never experienced it before.

Q. Not sure if you realize this, but your team has the second longest postseason winning streak in women's basketball next to UConn's. How did last year's experience in the WNIT prepare this team for this year?
COACH CLOSE: It was a huge preparation piece for us. It taught us how to win, it gave us confidence about winning in tough environments and circumstances. Our championship game was -- actually when I walked in earlier today, this arena feels a lot like the arena that we won the championship in the NIT. I'm not saying that to be a predictor, I'm just saying an environment. It was about this many people and it taught us -- it was sold out, a ruckus West Virginia crowd -- and I just think that all of those experiences gave us so much just preparation for this coming year. I think it taught us, what does it take? And that feeling of winning six games in a row and it sort of follows a similar path to the NCAA Tournament in terms of those rhythms. It's hard to put into words how that really influenced us. But it really was a spring board. I actually wear my ring all the time from last year's NIT and people will say, why would you do that? I know that's not what you came to UCLA to do. It's not about the celebration of the championship, it's about the lessons that I learned through the process. And I want that to constantly remind me of some of the things I learned as a leader, let alone what it taught our program and our team.

Q. UCLA faced the most teams in the RPI top 100 this season. What does it say about the direction of your program?
COACH CLOSE: Well, I'm a little biased, but I think we're going in the right direction. We had the No. 1 toughest schedule in the country last year, and I probably it was a little over scheduling with all of our seven freshmen that we had. I think this year we are in a better position, but I just think that it tells you that I'm really serious about building our program to an elite level. There's no way to figure out where you are on that barometer if you don't challenge yourself against the best. And on a consistent basis, not just one or two games, but on a consistent basis allowing your young women to experience the fire at the highest levels and allowing it to teach you what it teaches you. So, we have really when I sit down with our scheduling people, we really want to have a Top-5 schedule every single year. We want to be able to challenge ourself against the best, experience the different things, and now though the difference now is that now the PAC-12 is the No. 1 RPI conference in the country, so you got to also factor in how difficult your conference season's going to be. But when it all shakes out, I think it just really prepares you for situations like this.

Q. You watched Texas on film I'm guessing over the last week or so?
COACH CLOSE: Just a few.

Q. You played them last year. What's the biggest challenge you think you're going to have with them tomorrow?
COACH CLOSE: I really give Karen so much credit. They play so hard and so physical on a consistent basis. And they're about as deliberate of a running team as we faced all year. I think their depth, their speed and their aggression, especially on the defensive end, will be the thing that we're going to have to really rebound with them, we're going to have to take care of the ball, and we're going to have to really play with an aggression level that matches theirs. They do that on a very consistent basis, but I like our matchup, I think it's going to be really interesting. They're not playing the twin towers together as much as they have in the past and we actually mirror each other a lot. We're playing four guards in essence or maybe one small forward, and then we both have more traditional post players in the middle. Ours isn't six-seven, but in terms of style of play, we really match up pretty well. But I think their physicality, their depth, their athleticism, we would love to be able to make them go against our half court defense. We want to slow them down offensively and then we want to be able to create running situations for us on the offensive end.

Q. What has it meant Jordin Canada, her game's matured right in front of your eyes.
COACH CLOSE: Her game has matured in front of the nation's eyes. It's really fun to watch. I think a lot, I wish I could take all the credit in terms of UCLA basketball, but I credit her USA Basketball experience last summer, I credit her willingness just to go work on her own, I credit a lot of our NBA UCLA guys like Baron Davis and people who come back in the summer and they actually work her out. So there's a lot of people that have poured in. But the biggest person that deserves the credit for her development is Jordin Canada. Jordin Canada has put in the work. And I think that's something that she really learned last year is that if I really want to reach my potential, there has to be sacrifice and I'm going to have to be really proactive in my own development and she has done exactly that. But as her head coach, I'm sort of like a proud mama, you know, just watching her add skills, add leadership, add confidence, play both sides of the ball, handle adversity. She hasn't shot the ball well yet in the NCAA Tournament except if it's the fourth quarter, of course, but she always seems to deliver in those situations. But I really like the mental toughness I've seen in her. And a year ago her body language would have been different and her confidence would have been affected and she doesn't see herself as just a scorer any more, she sees herself as a leader and as an elite player and somebody who can affect the game in so many different ways besides scoring the ball.

Q. Jordin and Imani went to the same high school, I apologize if you already answered this question, but when you saw Imani in high school, which I assume that you did, how has she changed her game and her just her demeanor in the four years that she has been in Austin?
COACH CLOSE: Well, I think they have done a great job with her. Their staff. We actually played against them a couple of years ago in Houston at Reliant Stadium and so I have a direct reference point, not only seeing her in high school, but then coaching against her in her early years and now coaching against her in her senior year. She's really developed. She's developed in her strength, her consistency, her aggression, her ability to block shots without fouling as often. I think her consistency in running the floor, her hands have improved, her coordination in that way. I just think she's completely different. If I think back to high school, then her freshman year and then now, you just see such tremendous jumps and it's really a credit to her and the staff.

Q. When was the last time your team played on the East Coast and how has the travel impacted this game?
COACH CLOSE: Well, thankfully, to the NCAA, the way that you can charter and get right back in, I think that -- but we played here last year, we played actually at UConn right before Christmas in the Mohegan Sun Arena. So we try to travel pretty consistently. We went to the Bahamas over Thanksgiving. We traveled a lot. Our administration has been really supportive of us pretty much traveling wherever we need to do to prepare ourselves for these situations. So I don't think it's a big deal, honestly. I think it's just part of the honor. I don't care what time it is, where we get to play, when you get to play in a Sweet 16, you just better get your self ready.

Q. How much does the summer thing now, the NCAA, help all you guys, because some of us go over to the WNBA and it feels strange, there used to be these clear demarcations lines and we find out that you guys have been going for weeks in different ways shapes and forms?
COACH CLOSE: It's interesting because, legally, we can do a lot more on the court with our players. Obviously, with the new summer access rules. But, the reality -- I think you really need to be careful about it. I think you got to be very strategic, you have to have very clearly defined periodization's, because when you, come March, if you have only been beaten into them all summer long they're not excited to even be in March. It's a long season. So, I do think it's really helping elevate our game, because we need to increase fundamentals, we need to be able to increase the challenges or just the productivity of our game, especially even bringing in fan support. I really like summer access rules, but I think you have to be very, very careful to give them time to be kids, give them time to do an internship, do something else, otherwise they're not going to be at their best come March.

Q. It appears that there are four dominant teams in women's basketball right now. But yet on the men's side, you can get an upset at any point. Why is there so little parity in the women's game after on top as compared to the men, who seemingly have it every where?
COACH CLOSE: I think you have to go to the really, the youth of the game. There's just a lot more boys playing at younger years. And sometimes it's opportunity, sometimes it's just interest in those areas. I think that more boys are raised up in that environment than girls are. But I do think that's changing. I think that I just think teachers of the game, I think it's also changing in the junior high and high school levels. It used to be the stereotype was, oh, well, football coach, if you need a little extra stipend, would coach the girls and then he would get back to football. And so it was sort of an afterthought. And now we're starting to invest in those middle school and high school programs the same way, so that there's really a chance to reach their potential at a higher level. I think getting good coaching, getting fundamental training, all of that has to be done over a long period of time and giving young girls opportunities to really do the things that the boys are doing and therefore translating to more parity when they get to have at the college level. So, I think it's getting better, I think that you saw more upsets even this year in our tournament. Obviously, I'm very familiar with Washington going on the road and beating Maryland as a number two seed, as a number seven, there's lots of them that took place. We have got an upset here in this tournament. But I still think it's just a matter of giving more and more girls opportunities and really quality coaching at the younger years and it just takes a little bit longer to play that out. I think we're going in the right direction, but we still have a ways to go.

Q. You know how it is in L.A. we need details on traffic snarls. You flew in yesterday, where were you coming from today?
COACH CLOSE: We're staying at Stamford, which is about 25 miles away, so we were coming I think I 95 north, is that right? So we're coming in from there. So that's -- yeah, well, you know, at least in the next hour I would stay off of that. So my apologies. But I did feel right at home, having the 405 right next to where I am.

Q. I remember talking to you a couple years ago when you had the No. 1 recruiting class coming in. Now that you've had a couple years with them, is this the trajectory you expected to be at right now or are they ahead, behind or is it too early to tell?
COACH CLOSE: It's hard for me to -- coaches are never satisfied -- so my vision, it's very fixed on winning championships and what does it take to be in the nation's elite. So there's always going to be a gap between where the coach sees the potential of that group and then where they're going. But I really am pleased with our growth. When I sit back and go, okay, when I look at -- we actually went back and looked at our film last year versus Texas, for instance, and I look at those freshmen and what they were experiencing, how that game was played, and now to be able to see what they're doing, I was actually on the plane yesterday and sitting watching film with Monique Billings and we were just looking at her foot work and you just said, a year ago would you have been able to make that move? She goes, no, I would have traveled three times on that same possession. And she's just worked so hard, as an example. But I really think they are committed to a growth mindset, getting better all the time, using every experience to reach their potential and they, they're not afraid to tell you, they don't want to be good, they want to be great. They came to UCLA to, there's a lot of basketball tradition as you know at UCLA and it hasn't been on the women's side. And so we feel that and we want to be a part of that kind of elite atmosphere. So I think we're going in the right direction, I think it's been a one of the best off-seasons I've been a part of in terms of a group of young women, let alone those freshmen, but I think we're heading in the right way, but obviously we still got steps to make.

THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you. We'll start with questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Jordin, can you talk about your relationship with Imani? Obviously you went to high school together and did you guys talk a lot when you guys found out that you both were going to be travelling Connecticut?
JORDIN CANADA: Actually, I haven't spoken to Imani in a while just because she is just like a little -- it's busy. From playing with her, she's a very great player, but, yeah, I haven't spoken to her much since she graduated from high school, so.

Q. Nirra, you guys lost to Oregon State and won the next two games. What is some of the things that were stressed this week in your game plan?
NIRRA FIELDS: Definitely Texas is a great rebounding team, they're a lot like us in terms of they want to run the ball and they're very physical. They have very great post presence. So, definitely it was just rebounding and take away the strengths that they're really great at transition and help us get more possessions, which we're really good at. Obviously defense. It comes down to defense. At the end of the day, whoever gets the most stops will win the game.

Q. Kari, you've known her a long time as well, is that right?
KARI KORVER: I never played with her, but I played against her, she's in the same league as I was and my freshman, sophomore year of high school, so played against her a few times a year.

Q. She's so imposing, when you look at the stats and her size and everything, but you guys have probably seen her at some point make a mistake or be able to take advantage of something that she has done. Does that maybe give you a little confidence playing against her where you might not be intimidated by her?
KARI KORVER: Yeah, I think just having experience against someone so big and I think Ruth Hamblin from Oregon State, she's a really big girl, so we played against big girls and we hope to just continue to attack her and not be afraid of her big presence.

JORDIN CANADA: Well I agree with Korver, playing with her in high school, I've definitely seen obviously everybody makes mistakes, so it's just being able to take advantage of those moments.

Q. Can you talk about what last year's run in the WNIT did to prepare you guys for what you're going through now in the NCAA Tournament? Do you think that has taught you a little bit about how to win here?
JORDIN CANADA: Yeah, I think so. Winning those last six games in the WNIT definitely helped us in the offseason and helped us work on our chemistry together as a team and individually and what we needed to work on and that helped propel us into this season and playing in the No. 1 RPI conference the PAC-12 with so many great players and great teams and just being able to play against them and battle against them, it's just helped us this whole throughout this whole run, so.

Q. Jordin, last time you guys played Texas, unfortunately you guys lost. Did you see that film and are you using that film as motivation for this game?
JORDIN CANADA: No, we haven't looked at last year's film. I think we're a different team from last year. We were very young and inexperienced. 10 players that never played together last year. So now that we have better chemistry and we have been playing really well this season, we're just continuing to look at this year's film and things that we need to do to work on as a team.

Q. Nirra, how much did playing in that No. 1 ranked conference help you guys for the NCAAs? I mean playing some of the best teams in the country that I would think that you aren't afraid of anyone you would see the next four games if you get that fair?
NIRRA FIELDS: It's really prepared us and has somewhat hard part to do in our success and just having this run this year. We have seen it all. We have seen teams that are really great at executing, we have seen the most athletic teams, and I feel like that in itself has prepared us. And it doesn't matter who we're playing, we have the confidence that we're prepared.

THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

ASAP sports

tech 129
About ASAP SportsFastScripts ArchiveRecent InterviewsCaptioningUpcoming EventsContact Us
FastScripts | Events Covered | Our Clients | Other Services | ASAP in the News | Site Map | Job Opportunities | Links
ASAP Sports, Inc. | T: 1.212 385 0297