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October 11, 2017
San Francisco, California
KELLY GRAVES: First of all, it's great to see so many members of the media here. I think each and every year that I've certainly been in the league it seems to have grown and grown and grown.
We're excited as Oregon Ducks to be here. I go to bed smiling almost every night because I don't think I've coached so far a group that's been more fun, more competitive in my life. So I really enjoy these guys. We've had a lot of fun.
Like I said, we have worked hard, and we have high expectations on the year. Right now I think our program is in a great place, and we hope to have a great year.
Q. What are those expectations this year playing on last year's stage and the terrific March run?
KELLY GRAVES: Yeah, last year was a lot of fun. We've been reminded of that a lot, but like I always say, this is a new go-around. The expectations externally, I think, have changed. I was privy to the poll. I haven't seen the whole thing yet. But I know where we've been picked by the other coaches, so that obviously we're not flying under the radar now.
But we challenge our players all the time. We always set higher expectations on them than even those externally. So we have the right mix of players, they're all driven as well. I have tremendous student-athletes. They've all been winners. Most have had the experience last year.
I think they, in the back of their minds, think they can do more and do better, and that's certainly what we're gunning for this year.
So we'll see how it plays out. It's going to be, again, another grind, a tough Pac-12 season. The conference is as good as ever. I mean, it's deep. So we've got a lot of challenges ahead.
Q. Can you talk about your experience? It's going to be a different experience than not flying under the radar and being a team that's on the rise to people you expect a lot from, and you probably expect a lot from yourself. How do you expect them to change the dynamic with the team this year?
KELLY GRAVES: Practice is already different. Especially with our international kids being freshmen. It's really good that we have so much experience now this year because I think we can help them a lot. It's great for us. We appreciate each other every day in practice, and we want to get to where we were last year, and even further than that.
We're really excited for this year to work harder to achieve our goals.
Q. I didn't know you owned a suit jacket, first and foremost, Kelly. I didn't know that was in your wardrobe. Looking good.
KELLY GRAVES: I literally, when I pulled it out yesterday when I flew down, I had to blow the dust off the sleeves and the top.
Q. For both of you, it's really rare for sophomores to be invited. It's rare for sophomores to be the leaders of the team. Can you talk about how much different it is from a vocal perspective, or an example, leading by example, from last year to now you've been through the grind and as a sophomore?
SABRINA IONESCU: Yeah, we had great leaders last year. Jacinta was a great leader. Maite was a really good floor general for us, and she's even better this year. And Lexi has played the most games at Oregon. She was one of the only ones that was a returner and had played.
But we led by example. I know that's for sure. I think all of us freshmen did. I think having that mindset of wanting to win and doing whatever it took for us to win, I think that definitely showed in practice and showed in games.
But I think it's a little different this year, especially since we had gone through it. Last year I think our freshmen looked up to us more, and definitely other players on the team look up to us a lot more. We still look up to them. I don't think there is one particular leader on the team. I think everyone does really well in their role and everyone looks up to each other for guidance.
RUTHY HEBARD: Yeah, definitely. I miss Jacinta, of course, her leadership on and off the court, her talking to us and boosting our confidence. We really miss that. But something as a sophomore, especially Mallory and I, are working on talking more and trying to lead, not just the post, but the freshmen as well and being more vocal this year.
KELLY GRAVES: When you talk about the expectations and leadership, we still have to remember this is a young team. One of the youngest teams in the conference. Maybe one of the youngest teams in the country. On our roster, we only have two seniors and two juniors. So even though we have a lot of game experience in terms of returners back, starters back, that kind of thing, the reality is we're still very young. So I think the ceiling is very high, and we're still a work in progress.
Q. Ruthy and Sabrina, you guys have kind of talked about wanting to go even further than last year. What do you talk about as a team goals-wise? Do you even mention the phrase Final Four, or what are those conversations like?
SABRINA IONESCU: No, definitely not. I know my goal as a player and our team goal is taking everything one step at a time, and that begins with practice. We take everything one step at a time and live in the moment, because you can't overlook anything that you're going through in practice or in games.
So I think just taking everything one step at a time and doing what's in our control. So if that's practicing hard every day or that's working on your free throws or working on your shot, I think we really try to focus on what's in our control and take everything one step at a time, and then everything else will find its way.
RUTHY HEBARD: Yeah, definitely one step at a time with nutrition and working in the weight room. Just making ourselves better each day is definitely a goal for us.
KELLY GRAVES: Mention they're just sophomores? I mean, seriously. These guys are elite basketball players and competitors. They've already figured this stuff out.
Q. Coach, I owe you an apology. At your pep rally last year I predicted that your team would go to the Sweet Sixteen. I was one round short. Because I knew what Sabrina was; Ruthy was a surprise. So congratulations on a fantastic run.
KELLY GRAVES: Well, you were our motivation. We used that in the locker room.
Q. No, I was not. Blind squirrel finding nuts, that's all I do. Lydia Giomi. How's the wrist, and how do you see her fitting with what you have in place?
KELLY GRAVES: Lydia has been doing great this fall. I think she's healthier, yeah, there is no doubt. Her hand is better. She's been practicing with us full-time. I think the year off is good. She didn't gain a ton of weight. But it's not often that you line your team up at the end line and you go down and back and your 6'6" player beats everybody.
She's a great athlete. She's getting close to throwing that ball down, so she's got a high ceiling. She loves the game. She plays really hard. She's going to give us a defensive presence. Most importantly, she's a really great kid and an awesome teammate.
Q. Do you two want to add anything to that?
SABRINA IONESCU: He nailed it. She's a great person on and off the court. But just her positivity, especially having that injury last year, is something that we actually all look up to.
She's so positive, no matter what it is. She'll miss a lay-up in practice and go back down and block someone's shot or get a loose ball. She's always working a hundred percent no matter what it is on the court.
And I think that's something that all athletes should do in every aspect of their game, because I believe that's what helps your game grow.
KELLY GRAVES: And she'll lead the league in flying elbows. Those arms are so long. It's just all over.
Q. Have either of you caught one of those in practice yet?
KELLY GRAVES: It's like their initiation.
SABRINA IONESCU: All the time.
Q. Ruthy, I thought at the end of last season you might have gotten robbed by your teammate, because looking at the numbers, she might have had the flash in the tournament, but I thought you could have easily been our Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. Any inspiration or motivation in playing with Sabrina next to you?
RUTHY HEBARD: It's inspiration playing with Sabrina and having her push me every day. It's an honor to play with her. I'm proud of her for getting Freshmen of the Year, and it's going to be great to play with her for the next three years.
Q. Sabrina, how do you, slowly, correctly pronounce your last name?
SABRINA IONESCU: All right. Here it is. Everyone, listen. Repeat after me: Yo-ness-Cu.
Now all together.
SABRINA IONESCU: Yes!
Q. Awesome, thank you.
KELLY GRAVES: A teacher and a player. She does it all.
SABRINA IONESCU: It's what I do.
Q. Larry said he met with all the coaches this morning and did bring up what's going on in the men's game. Lindsay just talked about the importance of just a reminder that you guys want to be the standard of excellence and integrity. Any take from you on the message?
KELLY GRAVES: Well, I'm sure she said it a lot more elegantly than I possibly could.
The honest truth is I haven't dived into what's happened on the men's side. It's too bad, honestly. As coaches we're stewards of our games. I would like to think that we all want to hold ourselves accountable and uphold the integrity of the sport by doing the right things.
I think sometimes the drive to win can make people do things they wouldn't normally do. But hopefully it doesn't mushroom even more to something bigger and that it stays out of our game on our side.
Q. I want to ask the players this. You had an amazing run. Who do you see, new players, coming in to play a lot or give significant time to your team? Which player or two?
SABRINA IONESCU: I think everyone's going to have a huge role on our team this year. I don't think there is one player in particular that's going to play more minutes or do this or do that. That all takes care of itself.
But I think every one of our new players and returning players are going to have a huge role on the team. Like Coach tells us every year, every one of us are going to end up winning a game for us. No matter if you start or you're a bench player, everyone's going to end up stepping into a game and having to contribute in a way that's going to help us win.
Q. I appreciate that. But you're the point guard too. Who do you want to pass to as a freshman that you know Sabrina's going to finish a shot? Come on now, be honest.
SABRINA IONESCU: Satou Sabally.
Q. Ruthy, go ahead. Who do you pick?
RUTHY HEBARD: Who do I want to pass to?
Q. Who do you trust right now? You guys were freshmen, but you didn't play like freshmen. You're sophomores, but you play beyond your years. This is about trust. Who do you trust right now? You've got a game tonight. Who do you trust as a freshman coming in that's going to come in and contribute?
RUTHY HEBARD: I would say Satou as well. She definitely has a lot of confidence coming in as a freshman, and how she plays really works with what we're trying to do. So Satou.
Q. What separates her as a freshman with your other kids? And she's an international player. What does she do that will help your team?
SABRINA IONESCU: Are you asking any of us? She has a positive attitude and she's always willing to learn. Everything she does, I try to correct her and teach her, and she changes it right away.
Sometimes it takes kids longer to get out of their old habits and get into new ones. But she's always ready to listen and learn and try to be the best player that she can be.
So we're really excited to get her. She's long, she's athletic, and she shoots the ball really well. So I think she's going to be a great fit and definitely earn a really big role on our team.
Q. Sabrina, every time we ask this question, what did you work on in the off-season, everybody says: Everything. Can you give me two specific things that you worked on in the off-season?
SABRINA IONESCU: Yes. I worked a lot on my defense in the off-season because I felt like I was a defensive liability last year just being able to keep my player in front. I usually just like roaming around and getting steals here and there.
That leads to transition, huh, Coach?
So I definitely worked a lot on my defense. I think USA Basketball helped me with that, competing against the top players in the country at trials, and playing internationally I had to step up my game defensively.
Then another thing that I would say that I worked on my game would be staying positive. I usually get down on myself, and that might not be something -- like not a specific part of my game, but all-around game, I think, would be staying positive.
I think they both can attest that I always get down on myself. I have to stay more positive and lead our freshmen and returning players.
Q. Sabrina, you're a fellow Miramonte Matador. Go Mats. You came to Cal last year, probably just ten miles away from your home, and had a dramatic, game-winning three-point shot. Can you talk about that feeling of playing back at home in front of friends and family, and doing that so early in your career and how it impacted your season?
SABRINA IONESCU: I think that was a turning point in our season. We had injuries early on. You know, Maite was out, I was out hurt. So I think that game really gave us a lot of confidence and a little boost going forward.
But that game wasn't won just on my shot. Maite hit a big shot. Ruthy got a steal. It was all of us collectively working hard throughout the whole game and never giving up. That was something that we stayed with the whole game and trusted what we were doing.
But it definitely was fun coming back home. I had all my family there, my club team, you know, everyone was there. It was fun being able to get that win and get that boost.
Q. Your newcomers are all from overseas. Can you talk about recruiting internationally and how the Pac-12 Network played into that? And your Instagram account is all about your shoe game. Can you talk about how you became so popular with (indiscernible)?
KELLY GRAVES: Yeah, okay. Well, the first part, the game is international now. And I think if you're not recruiting internationally, I think you're doing a disservice to your university and your program. There are just so many good players. Both Ruthy and Sabrina talked about Satou.
And they have to play -- they don't have high school systems over there, so they have to play with pros. They're playing in club systems. So they come in a lot more prepared, perhaps, than the players over here do.
So Satou was the MVP of the U20s this year, European championships. So she's playing against veteran players, and it, I think, pushes them.
Anneli Maley, multi-gold medalist, one of our incoming freshmen from Australia, same thing. She's playing as young as you can play internationally in big-time tournaments.
And then Aina Ayuso -- that's right, right? That's going to be the next tough one to say. Aina is a really crafty freshman from Spain. And I'll tell you what, she's got a lot of Maite in her.
As far as I'm concerned, Maite is one of the top two or three point guards in this conference and has the potential to be a pro.
I think all three of those are going to impact us in a positive way.
I personally love to coach skilled basketball players. That's just my preference. And we're not the kind of team that's going to run all over the floor and get in your face and defend like that. I like to coach skilled basketball players. And, quite frankly, I think the Europeans and Aussies and everywhere else in the world, I think they do a really good job of teaching the skills that, quite frankly, doesn't always happen over here.
So we've had some success, and I think in the recruiting, and they in turn have success when they come over, and that breeds having more players that want to come over. So it won't stop. We spend a lot of time overseas recruiting.
Did you say the shoe game or the shooting game? Oh, the shoe game. Well, you know, that's kind of Nike. Obviously, that's the University of Oregon, that's what we do. Hopefully it's not something that that's what we do best. We do other things.
For me, I love it because they just keep giving me shoes, and they're really nice. And I have two sons that also wear size 13. So if I don't like a pair, I can always hand them down, so they get used, no doubt.
But I don't Instagram much. I think you're talking about Twitter.
Yeah, and I've had other coaches think that's very egotistical that I will put a couple of options and let the public choose. I think that's okay, right? Okay.
But I will tell you this: I did wear what was given or what was chosen even though I didn't actually personally think they were the best. So when the public speaks, I listen and I act.
Sorry. That was a long-winded answer to a very nice question.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports