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October 10, 2018

Tara VanDerveer

Kiana Williams

Dijonai Carrington

San Francisco, California

TARA VANDERVEER: First, it's great to be here. We're really excited about our team and this upcoming season. The two young ladies on my left are working really hard, along with their teammates. We're very excited about the teams we're playing and the competition, and I think one of the things is I'm really impressed with the improvement that our team has made in the off-season, so I think that really bodes well for a great year.

Q. You mentioned improvements right out of the chute. Could you be a little more specific as to what they were, and if those were kind of in line with what you challenged the kids to improve upon?
TARA VANDERVEER: Well, I think that probably the biggest improvement I see is the sophomore class. Kiana had great freshman year, but some of the other sophomores maybe didn't -- they didn't get as much playing time as Kiana. But I think Kiana has improved, just her confidence, her shot, taking the ball to the basket. Estella Moschkau didn't play a lot for us at all last year, but stronger, more confident, knocking her shot down.

Maya Dodson for me might be one of our most improved players, and again, her teammates could attest to that, but just making moves, using her athleticism, being aggressive.

The juniors, I see big improvement with Nadia Fingall, and also the sophomores, Alyssa Jerome played overseas, she played with Canada. I think she's really physical and got that international basketball, along with Alanna Smith, and our freshman Jenna Brown had that international experience.

Again, Shannon Coffee, a senior that didn't play major minutes for us, but is absolutely tearing it up in practice.

One of the things our team did -- last year was a new offense, and this year it's, I think, playing with a lot more pace. DiJonai was able to, I think, work on her game a lot, get in the gym, get shots up. Just really, I think, really people have worked really hard.

Anna Wilson being healthy, that could be a big thing for us. I think she's doing great. She's working really hard. Could be a defender. Obviously has a lot of -- kind of a lot of things that she could contribute, too.

But health is number one.

Q. D, I have a question for you, and that is where is the rebounds going to come from that Kaylee Johnson got last year?
DiJONAI CARRINGTON: I mean, we're going to make a collective effort to fill in that gap. Obviously, as Tara said, Maya has improved a lot, and she is extremely athletic, dunks the ball with ease, and so I think a lot of those rebounds will come from her. But also the guards, we have to step up this year. I don't think we did a fantastic job of that last year of rebounding and boxing out. So I think that a lot of that will also fall on the guards to hold our own weight.

Q. Kiana, this team did not shoot free throws very well last year. Is that going to be any different this year, and if so, why?
KIANA WILLIAMS: Yes, I'd agree. I think we didn't shoot well from the free-throw line last year, but in practice, like we're always in practice shooting free throws, and I think this year we have a bigger emphasis on it. I think it's just concentration and taking your time and doing your routine. That's what Tara really emphasizes on. I think that's going to be a bigger emphasis for us as a collective group.

Q. DiJonai, I know you were asked questions about this during lunch, so sorry for the repeat, but I was just wondering if you could kind of comment on your friendship that you've developed with Kiana over your couple of years now as teammates and just how maybe that has translated in your eyes on to the court.
DiJONAI CARRINGTON: Yeah, I mean, Kiana and I are very, very close. She came home with me this summer. We drove from Stanford to San Diego, about eight or so hours, so I must really have patience, I guess. No, I'm kidding. But no, we get along really, really well, and that translates incredibly on the court.

I think we trust each other, and we're just able to kind of know things like where one another is going to be, things like that. I know that she likes higher outlets than other point guards. She knows that I like the ball thrown higher than maybe other guards. Just things like that. And I think that has really helped us on the court. We hang out all the time, and she doesn't really know how this friendship came about, but I'll tell you. It's because she needed my TV to watch a TV show.

Q. What show?
DiJONAI CARRINGTON: Power. So I would come back to my room and she'd be in there on my TV, and I'm like, who let you in? So yeah, I think it just developed from that last summer, so yeah.

Q. It's a rare year when the coaches don't pick you as the favorite. I'm curious if you come into this enjoying that role, or your thoughts on that, and kind of the depth of the conference this year?
TARA VANDERVEER: Well, I think we have great teams and great players in our conference, and for us, we're a contender. We know -- I think there's a lot of teams, just because someone is ranked higher, you've got to be healthy and you've got to keep improving. I just look at there's a lot of really good teams, and hopefully seven or eight teams will go to the NCAA Tournament.

And for us, I think we try to take a long-range view of not just -- not a poll in the beginning but kind of -- my dad used to always say it's not the start of the race but the finish. I'm very confident that we have a championship team if we have championship practices and we have a championship attitude and we have championship work ethic along the way and championship improvement. But I have a lot of confidence in our players, and I'm really excited to be in the gym with just everyone that's been working so hard and wants to have a great year.

I can turn that into a good thing. It's all good.

Q. With the World Cup this summer or the past few weeks and you having Alanna playing for Australia and of course Nneka with the USA, how exciting was that to have two players in that competition, and seeing the improvement of Alanna playing with other pros?
TARA VANDERVEER: Oh, it's great. I looked down there, and there's Alanna running the floor getting a lay-up, hitting a three, and then guarding Nneka or guarding Tina Charles. I'm like, whoa, where did that defense come from. But it's awesome. It's awesome.

Pac-12, having Layshia Clarendon in there is great. I think we're very well represented, and it's very exciting. Nneka just has had just a fantastic pro career, and she played on the World Cup four years earlier, but hopefully it's time for her to play on the Olympic team, and it will be fun for Alanna to be on her Olympic team, too.

Q. Every year -- you've coached a long time -- that's a compliment. You have unbelievable accolades, but the thing I always admire is your balance of getting ready, using your summer, what did Tara do this summer that was special?
TARA VANDERVEER: Well, for me, summers are different now because for the most part everyone stays on campus and you're allowed four hours a week, so we would work out Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. It's a little more regimented, and maybe in a good way that helps -- helps people keep their schedule going.

One thing was our team had a fantastic academic summer. With everyone basically -- if I were to combine all their grades, we had like a 3.88 or something like that. It was incredible. Our team studied really hard, and they worked hard in the weight room and in the gym, also.

I think for me, a lot of it, to be enthusiastic and excited about the school year, it's really important for me to get away, and the thing that I said on air was I was -- I water skied every day but one in the month of August, and so that was really kind of -- for me, that kind of -- doing phone calls, I'm emailing, maybe I'm working, but I had fun.

I think that just keeps tread on my tire, to be excited to go in the gym and work with these incredible athletes and student-athletes. But I want to be fresh. I want to be excited. So that's what I did.

Q. I'm curious, is that a balance you have always had, or something that's happening later in your career as you're finding exhaustion?
TARA VANDERVEER: You know, I think always -- as a younger coach, first of all, the recruiting rules have changed. You used to be able to recruit all summer, and I had USA teams for 10 years all summer. At one point after the '96 Olympic experience, in the middle of January, I was just like, exhausted and not excited. That's not fair to the women you're coaching.

And so I think that my schedule is probably different than maybe some other coaches, just because I know what works for me. And I encourage our team to do what works for them.

My kind of mantra to everyone on our team is do whatever it takes to come back and be excited when we start in October, and help yourself be the best player you can be. Some people like Alexa Romano went to Peru. She was part of an anthropological study down there. Anna Wilson was not on campus in the summer.

It's what works for you to be ready to come back and do a great job. Again, I'm really excited to work with our team. Every day to me is really -- it's just fun to be in the gym, and to kind of try to put this puzzle together is going to be really exciting.

Q. I was just curious, when did you pick up water skiing, and what attracted you to water skiing?
TARA VANDERVEER: You know I'm a nut. I started when I was little, but I never had my own boat, and then Joan talked me into getting my own boat. She had her own boat. So I just went off the deep end and got two boats, one on one lake and one on the other, and I just love doing it. You just get out, and it's exercise, and it doesn't feel like exercise. It's fun. I grew up snow skiing and water skiing when I was little, but it's hard to snow ski during the basketball season.

But I don't want to get distracted away from our team, and I want to be able to talk about our players. It's so much about them, and this is their four years. I want Kiana to have a great sophomore year, I want D to have a great junior year. They provide great leadership for our team with work ethic and great attitude every day and really enjoying playing basketball.

Like we're practicing tomorrow at 6:00 in the morning. I water ski every morning in the summer. Like in July, I ski at 6:00. So I'll be excited. I'll be there, because the Warriors are actually practicing -- they're going to practice in our gym and we've got a chance to watch them a little bit. But I want them to have -- the thing for water skiing for me or skiing is I want them to have the enthusiasm for what they're doing, to love basketball and to come to the gym and be excited, and then we're going to have a great year.

Q. Kiana and DiJonai, can you talk about what you've improved on the most this year in terms of -- don't give me the fluffy answer. I want the self-critical as a player, as an athlete, as a point guard especially. What was the biggest improvement that you needed to add to your game this year, and then have you done it over the summer? And then a follow-up from Tara, in a critical standpoint, what was the biggest improvement you wanted to see from them coming into this season?
KIANA WILLIAMS: For me, last year I didn't play like point guard as much, so really I didn't have the like role to be as vocal, and that's one thing I took into account this summer, just being more vocal, trying to help our freshmen, get them up to speed. And Marta did a great job of helping me last year as a freshman, so I think, like Tara said, I have a lot more confidence playing-wise, and I know what to expect.

I just think being better like -- just being more vocal, being a better leader, and yeah.

DiJONAI CARRINGTON: Yeah, somewhat piggy-backing off of that, I think my role this year is much more of a leadership role on our team. I am a very vocal person in general and outgoing, and I'm able to kind of mesh with everybody, and so I think that's going to be a big thing for me is just that positivity in practice. As my position as a guard who kind of likes contact a lot, a lot of times I think I get fouled, and if it's not called, I can show that frustration. And so I think a big thing with that is just being the same person, whether I get the call, whether I don't, whether I have 20 points or zero, bench or starting, know what I mean? And being able to just be -- remain the same and be positive for my teammates and for myself.

TARA VANDERVEER: Well, as far as Kiana, I think had a fabulous freshman year, and we need her just to build on that great success that she had last year, and I would just say, being maybe more aggressive defensively, being more vocal, but continuing just right down the road that she's on.

I'm seeing that in practice.

I think that in DiJonai's situation -- and the other thing is that there might be some flexibility, whether it's like Jenna Brown, the freshman, she wants to play point. I think Kiana, if she had her choice, would rather play 2, but she's going to have to play both for us.

In DiJonai's situation, a lot of it last year was Brit carried the offensive load and maybe Alanna and Ki, and I think D can help us offensively with scoring, but I think she could be a great defensive player for us, and that's buying into that, playing at that end of the floor, saying, I'm going to be the defensive stopper on this team and really set an example in practice with -- if I'm guarding you, I can really shut you down. I think we need that as much as anything.

But I think they're both working very hard and buying into what we need them to do.

Q. What excites you about this team?
TARA VANDERVEER: You know, I really like the pace we're playing with. I like the depth that we have, and quite honestly, obviously Kiana and DiJonai are here, and that's great, but there might be three, four, five other people that could be sitting right here because they play that hard and they're going to contribute that much to our team.

Obviously Alanna, she missed so much school that I thought she needed to be in class, but I could see huge games from someone like Nadia Fingall. I could see big games from one of our best rebounder -- Tom asked a question, our best rebounder right now in practice is Lexie Hull. Whoever wants to be out there, it's going to be -- what I think excites me the most is the competition on our team, and no one is going to be able to -- no one is going to be able to relax. Every day, people are going to have to bring their A game to practice and A game to the game.

Just because it's so competitive, in a good way. I think that that's a very healthy situation, and I'm really fortunate to be in that situation.

That's what they want. They want to be on a team that people push them and they push each other.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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