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March 22, 2018

Chelsea Nelson

Akela Maize

Kansas City, Missouri

THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by the North Carolina State Wolfpack student-athletes, Chelsea Nelson and Akela Maize.

Q. Welcome to Kansas City, guys and congratulations on your season so far. Talk about how good of a rebounding team you guys are. When you look at the stats you're one of the best especially in defensive rebounding in the country in the top three and you two have been leading the way. Talk about how you've been so successful with that?
AKELA MAIZE: I think we're so successful because we have so much athleticism on our team and we use our athleticism to the fullest potential and push each other in practice, we do rebounding drills back-to-back and we're on the floor going after each other and we have to cut the drill because it's on to the next person.

We really do focus on rebounding. We take a lot of pride in it and talk about it every day and how rebounding wins games. That's something that we really value.

CHELSEA NELSON: Even with the guards Coach always challenges them to go into the paint. Even if they go there, maybe the ball will fall their way and a lot of the times, you know, Akela or Kaila will get a hand on the ball if we can get a tip they can go and grab it. That's a really big thing that we focus on as a team, everybody going to the paint and rebounding.

Q. I was at your last game last year. It was heartbreaking for you guys, I remember. Were you fueled this season by how close you were last year?

Q. Were you motivated? Fuelled by what happened last year, being a second away from advancing?
CHELSEA NELSON: We were really motivated because Texas is a really great program, a great team and we really did feel like we had that game and we came to play it was a great game. So coming into this year we knew we wanted to go further in the tournament, and also in the ACC tournament and also here in the NCAA we knew we could. I think this year we have a really good defensive team that helps when we play a really good opponent. So, yeah, we're so motivated.

AKELA MAIZE: Like Chelsea said, the motivation is always there. Coach, at the beginning of the season he talked about how we were a rebound away of winning that game. So we go into these games with the rebounding mentality as we mentioned earlier and with a defensive intensity that, you know, this could be the final game. But if not, then this could be the game to get us to the next level. So we think of it as that way.

Q. You guys have five starters that average 9 to 13 points. What's that like knowing they have the confidence they can score?
AKELA MAIZE: It feels great. Any given night somebody can step up and score 20 points, things like that. So there is not a lot of pressure on anybody to try and force shots, things like that. We can let the game come to us, either on the defensive end getting steals, you know, or offensively something is working for one particular player we can keep going to that player. Teams have a hard time shutting all of us down. That I think is our upside.

Q. Talk about Kaila's growth as a point guard this year after playing behind Miah last year. How have you watched her grow. How she has been able to direct the offense for you guys?
AKELA MAIZE: I'm proud of Kaila this year especially like you said, playing behind Miah last year, I think she learned a lot from Miah and she brought that into this year along the with the confidence, going to the gym, working on her craft, things like that. She has been a leader on the court as well, so I'm proud of Kaila.

CHELSEA NELSON: A lot of teams know Kaila is extremely quick and that's the first thing people do is sag on Kaila and even in practice we would sag on Kaila and she would never shoot it. We were like you need to be able to add that to your game and we gave her confidence and even if she missed we were like keep shooting and she doesn't second guess her shot at all now. I think confidence is really key, a lot of times that's why it goes in. Her being able to direct our offense and having confidence in us. It's awesome to see her grow and continue to grow.

Q. Akela first, Chelsea second, you guys were picked tenth by the coaches in the preseason poll and you lost a bunch of seniors last year. At what point in the season did you guys believe you could be sitting here today as a Sweet 16 team?
AKELA MAIZE: In the very beginning of the season me and Chelsea set that the out to be our goal for this year. We believed the whole season that we could be sitting in this spot that we're in right now. There was never any doubt in our minds that we couldn't or weren't capable of being a team that, you know, we had with the strength that we have in each player on the team this year.

CHELSEA NELSON: Yeah, even though we did lose those four seniors, a lot of people were coming up to us and saying, we think you guys have a better team this year than last year; and I'm like, oh wow, that's a lot of confidence! We have so much athleticism this year and just like the new players coming in, Kiara and everyone developing their game. That's really helped us.

Q. Guys, first off, congratulations, I'm proud of you and what you've been able to do for the team. No career is smooth from freshman through your senior year. You both have faced your share of adversity, Chelsea with the loss of your mom. Akela to me you are one of the most improved players in the country over the last couple of years. When you think about the adversity you faced, what you have accomplished and how you've grown since the first day you set foot on NC State's campus, explain what that has been like for both of you?
CHELSEA NELSON: Crazy, seeing from my freshman year within the team how each year we've accomplished bigger and better things. My freshman and sophomore year we didn't make it to the NCAA Tournament. I never knew what that felt like so I really kinda didn't care. My junior year when we made it and lost and just that feeling it was crazy and I knew we had to come back and through all the adversity, the support I've had from my family and friends and NC State community and them always pushing me and wanting to get better and not giving up and we're at the Sweet 16.

AKELA MAIZE: Like you said, we have faced a lot of adversity, me, with my freshman year, especially with injuries throughout my career has really been a step back for me. Seeing where we are now it's incredible. Each day I thank God for giving me this opportunity to play this game and to allow me to grow, not just as a basketball player but as a woman through everything that I've been through.

So, yeah, it's just a great experience and to see Chelsea grow from her freshman year, you know, it was great watching her and being beside her through it all.

CHELSEA NELSON: I want to thank God, too. I'm sorry. I wanted to say that.

Q. Chelsea, just from hearing Coach Moore speak today he seems like a guy who is energetic and passionate. What type of a coach is he?
CHELSEA NELSON: Oh, man! (Chuckles.) I think it's crazy. I mean when people see him in the game they're like, oh, gosh, he is tough! He is tough, but everybody is like does he always yell? I'm like, yeah, he does. But Coach Moore is awesome and he's extremely understanding and he's been there for me through my freshman year and it's weird, I've known him since I've been in high school. He's been at the ACC. He's awesome and extremely caring and loves to win and hates to lose. That will rub off on us. We really do try to make him proud and just try to do what he says so he doesn't stress out and so his hair doesn't turn gray or go bald. He told me by my senior year he would be bald from how much he used to yell at me. He's not!

AKELA MAIZE: I know that Coach Moore loves us dearly. He says that often. You have to look past the yelling and the screaming and the red color that shows up on his face and listen to what he's saying because he's trying to help us every time he helps us. Whether it's defensive intensity or whatever, it's going to make us better not just for NC State but for the future. I appreciate Coach a lot.

Q. To win tomorrow, Akela, your biggest challenge will be to what?
AKELA MAIZE: To keep No. 15 off of the boards. She is a very well-coached young lady and she is very good on the boards. That's going to be my biggest task.

Q. So you mentioned not making the tournament two years ago and last season being devastated by the loss. Have you heard a lot of messages from those players, from those two teams before this game here in Kansas City or prior to the tournament?
CHELSEA NELSON: We hear from Carlee Schumacher, Miah Spencer, Ashley Williams, Dom, the seniors. They're like Final Four bound. We know it! We believe in y'all. They have seen us play and they're excited for us. They have confidence in us. Giving us messages every day. So, yeah, we do.

THE MODERATOR: Okay, ladies. Thank you very much. Good luck tomorrow.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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