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March 23, 2017

Tara VanDerveer

Karlie Samuelson

Erica McCall

Bri Roberson

Lexington, Kentucky

THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us for the press conference for the Stanford women's basketball team. We're joined at the podium by head coach Tara Vanderveer. We'll open it up for questions for the head coach.

Q. With what we've seen over the past month and a half from (Alanna) Smith, just what got her to that kind of production, averaging 5.5 points a game for her first year and a half at Stanford and then going to averaging almost 18 a game?
TARA VANDERVEER: Her freshman year -- actually, Alanna and I were talking today about her freshman year being a very big adjustment on a lot of fronts. First, they were done with school in November. So she had a whole year off in school. Getting back into academics was a challenge for her. Being homesick, being away from home, being that far from home -- she actually, she was ill, so she wasn't 100 percent in the fall. And it was just a big adjustment for her.

Then I think the beginning of this year, she really developed and really put in some extra time, and I think gained her confidence in a couple games, had a couple games where she scored well. I think her dad is a former basketball player, and her parents have been always really supportive of her.

In talking with her dad, I think we're just on the same page in terms of what we tell her, and I think that's helpful for her. She's just being more aggressive.

Q. How much value is that earlier victory over Texas at this point in the season? Is it just like ancient history at this point? Obviously, Smith was not what she is now at that point. Their great freshman, Joyner (Holmes), was not what she is now. How much value is that?
TARA VANDERVEER: I think there's value in the fact that you've matched up with them before. You can look at different matchups and see if you like them or if you don't like them. Obviously, they've improved a lot. They've had a great season, and I think we've improved a lot.

I think it's -- I call it kind of a heavyweight fight. We know what to expect, and they know what to expect. We just have to get it done. But I do think it's helpful for us to have played them and to know their style and to have played against a lot of their players obviously.

Q. Currently, Samuelson, she's obviously been a great three-point shooter for years, but her development this year is pretty interesting. She's really become a much more well-rounded player. Can you talk a little bit about her improvement this year.
TARA VANDERVEER: I think that it's happened on a lot of fronts. As a senior, she recognizes what she has to do. She's really stepped up to be a leader, number one. She's a great leader of our team, scorer, defender, and we really asked her to do everything.

Her game is anchored by her 3-point shot. You've got to get out on her, and then she can take her pull-up, or she can take it to the rim, and her passing has improved a lot. But she's always been an extremely intelligent player, and now I think, in some ways, the game slowed down for her even a little bit more.

But she is having a great senior year.

Q. You've obviously played in many big gyms but maybe none bigger than this one. Do you as a coach do anything to prepare your team for depth perception and any other things that Rupp Arena makes challenging?
TARA VANDERVEER: Nope, I don't talk about it. We've played really well here. We like this gym.

Q. Follow-up question: You obviously have coached before the advent of the three-point and after. When the three-point first started, did you know that it would have as dramatic an impact on the game as it has? And do you think it has had that dramatic of an impact?
TARA VANDERVEER: I like that question a lot. You know why? When we were looking at it, the women's basketball committee, whoever was adding that rule, we actually took our team to China the summer before that rule came in, and we played in a game where one player made 10 3s. Now, I'm going to say 20 years ago or even 25 years ago, that seemed outrageous, but now it's not that outrageous. That just shows you how far -- but for me, I'm like, we're going to take advantage of that 3-point line.

In my first year back with the 3-point line, there were coaches who did not allow their teams to take 3s. So it has come a long way. But I will say that, for us, I think the use of the 3-point line was one of the main reasons why we won our first National Championship. We embraced the 3-point line. We didn't have the biggest team, the most physical teams, and we had to be more of a finesse team, a shooting team. So someone like Jennifer Azzi, Katy Steding, Sonja Henning, those are players that really took advantage of the 3-point line. I've always liked it.

Now, the other thing, just to let you know this too, the way they encourage their shooters to be 3-point shooters, they would, at a certain point -- and I'm not sure what number it was, but your first 3 was a 3, like as a team, and then when you hit a certain number, you could get four points or five points. So they would, in their games, in their scrimmage games or whatever, Chinese games, not FIBA games, they would do things to really encourage three-point shooting because they felt that was a way they could compete.

Q. This is your second year back here in Rupp. Having played on Monday night, could you talk about how you all traveled from there to here. How much of an adjustment time-wise or jet lag-wise do you have to make when you have that kind of short turnaround?
TARA VANDERVEER: First of all, it's great to be back. A lot's happened since last year. We're really excited to be playing here. Originally, we planned to go after our game on Monday, to go back to California, kind of regroup, do laundry, get organized. Kids would have some finals to take, things like that.

We were also the only one in the pod that had a Monday game. Everyone else played Sunday. So I was a little -- I was already kind of in my mind thinking maybe that was something we should be doing. And once they said our airplane had mechanical problems, I'm not really excited about getting on an airplane with mechanical problems. And once they said it was maybe going to go get in by 2:00, we might get out by 3:00, I'm like, I think we should just bag that plan A and go with plan B.

So we went back to the hotel. There were some people that did go back to Stanford, but the team and myself and most of our staff stayed in Manhattan, Kansas. They were phenomenal. They did our laundry. They helped us stay in the hotel and get a bus, and then we were able to get a flight to come out here on Tuesday. I think that was a really good thing for us. Our team was really tired. We were able to get a good night sleep Tuesday night. Monday night, we got a decent night's sleep because you're not traveling. Tuesday night, a very good night's sleep. And Wednesday night -- I feel we're in really great shape. We don't feel rushed. Everything's been great.

Q. Just as a follow-up, when you talk about all those circumstances, but when you kind of look at some of those logistics to begin with, was it ever kind of on your mind to maybe do that anyway, maybe just come straight looking at the --
TARA VANDERVEER: I did think about it. I actually talked to a couple of players on the team about it, but we kind of went back and forth a little bit. We had done that before with a team, and it just felt too long. I think the fact we were planning to go back didn't get weighed on our mind like, oh, we're going for a long trip. When it became staying the extra days, it worked out great.

I think it just worked out perfectly. We're in great shape. We're very excited to be here. I think our team is well rested. Most players are finished with their finals. That was another thing, figuring out final exams. When we got that all worked out, I think, when they're done, they'll feel better.

Q. What stands out to you watching the recent tapes of Joyner Holmes compared to what you saw the first week of the season?
TARA VANDERVEER: She didn't play much that first game. She's a terrific freshman. Sometimes, honestly, she's a woman with girls. She is so physically strong, and her rebounding is off the charts. They really rebound well. She gets on that glass. She's versatile. I saw her knocking down 3s, handling the ball. She's just a terrific player. I think Karen and her staff has done a great job with her and the whole team.

Q. Was Monday's game more indicative of how you thought this team could play in the postseason?
TARA VANDERVEER: Well, it was sure better than Saturday's. You know, we had been off for a while after the Pac-12. I'm really excited that we had seven teams in the tournament, all seven teams won, and we had five teams in the Sweet 16. I think that that just really is validation of how strong our conference is.

When you're playing teams that really know you and you're playing -- it's a brutal schedule. The West Coast, you're traveling a lot, and you're just -- I just think that the teams know you, and the kids know each other. So it's kind of fun to get out of your league a little bit and play against different teams.

I don't know that that was any more indication of how we can play. I think it's good that -- I hope we can bring that momentum here, just continue to play well. I think it's good for our team to go on the road and maybe not have the comforts of home. But you have to battle, and you have to stick together. I think it maybe brought our team closer.

So all those things hopefully will pay off for us when we play tomorrow night.

Q. Coach, you guys play Texas every year. One, how did that all get started? And, two, what do you like about the rivalry?
TARA VANDERVEER: I'm not sure exactly how it got started, but we started quite a few years ago. We haven't played every year, but a lot of it has to do with the fact that we like to play places where our kids are from, and Texas is a great recruiting base. We've had players on our team. (Chiney/Nneka) Ogwumike is from Texas. So we kind of promised players they'll go back to where they're from.

So playing Texas, and we actually did that with Baylor for Ogwumike.

Texas, they're not in our league, but it's a direct flight from San Jose. You can get in and out of Austin a lot easier than some of the other Big 12 schools that you have to make a lot of connections to. They're a great program, and I think those are pretty much the main reasons.

THE MODERATOR: Any other questions for the head coach?

TARA VANDERVEER: Great. Thank you all very much.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us for the press conference for Stanford women's basketball team. We're joined at the podium by Erica McCall, Briana Roberson, and Karlie Samuelson.

We'll open it up for questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Erica, could you tell us what your thoughts are about playing Texas again after beating them back in November. What kind of a game are you expecting from them this time? What are the lessons that you learned from the last time you played them?
ERICA McCALL: I'm really excited. Texas is a great team. They've won a lot. It's been cool to see both of our progress. It's just going to be a big match. It's going to be very aggressive. It's going to be tough, but I think we can pull it out.

Things we learned from the last game, I think our defense. I think we've totally transformed our defense from just playing with the Pac-12. I think they're going to see a different defensive style that they didn't see the last game. So I think it's going to be fun. I think that answers your question.

Q. How do you think Texas has changed since the last time you played them?
ERICA McCALL: I think that they've really grown into their own offense, especially the freshman Joyner Holmes. I've been seeing her going crazy in games. Her rebounding abilities are absolutely crazy. And, of course, Brooke McCarty, her shot is really good.

I think that's the best way to improve. Like Tara said, they've really grown into their offense. Everyone seems to know their own role, same with us too. So I think it's going to be exciting.

Q. Karlie, No. 2 in the country in 3-point field-goal percentage, but you don't take a lot of 3s. You just make what you take. One, what makes you effective at that particular shot? And after you answer that, why don't you take more?
KARLIE SAMUELSON: That's the shot that I practice the most. Every day, I think, before or after practice, I'm shooting 3soff the pass. So that's just the shot I practice the most. And I think what you practice the most will be what you're best at.

In terms of taking more, I think sometimes teams do a good job of finding me, and there's not really a point of like forcing up shots. I mean, you got to take what the team gives you. So I think we have a lot of great shooters on my team, and my teammates find me really well. I think you have to guard everybody on our team. So it's just take what the defense gives you.

Q. Bri, you're playing in a huge arena here as you did last year. Was there a problem with depth perception in this place on shooting last year that you had to adjust to? Does it help having played here before?
BRIANA ROBERSON: I would say most definitely, coming back and being in a familiar environment is really good. Yeah, as far as depth perception, I feel like we all did well last game. But definitely coming back and being familiar with the arena and knowing kind of how the courts are and everything, I think that's good for us.

THE MODERATOR: Any other questions for the student-athletes? If not, the press conference has been concluded. Thank you very much.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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