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October 10, 2018

Cori Close

Lajahna Drummer

Kennedy Burke

San Francisco, California

CORI CLOSE: Well, first of all, as usual, thank you all for bringing such notoriety to the stories of these amazing women in our great conference. We appreciate your coverage and interest.

I am really -- our word for the year and our team is "expectant." We are not changing our expectations. If anything, we're building on them. We want to have great honor and gratitude for what the people that came before us, including Jordin Canada and Monique Billings, built, but the biggest way we can honor them is to continue to move forward.

And so I am really excited about where we're going and what these young women are going to build and earn this year, and we're very expectant for the year to come.

Q. Cori, wondering what you might be able to do with these experienced players coming back, because you were able to go deep in your bench and gain a lot of minutes from some of these players last year. We know what Mo did, we know what Jordin did, but talk about what you might be able to do that might be different for you and UCLA that maybe you haven't been able to do in the past.
CORI CLOSE: Well, I think we're going to be harder to scout. I think everybody knew the ball was going to go through Jordin Canada's and Monique Billings' hands, so that was obviously really good to us. But these are really capable women who have worked incredibly hard this off-season to be ready to step into new roles. And I don't say that. If they hadn't done that, I wouldn't be telling you that. But they're ready.

I think everybody on the team knows that they not only need to be ready to play a new role, but they need to be counted on on a consistent basis. There can't be any ball watchers. Everybody has got to be ready to be a play maker on both sides of the ball, and they have earned the right to be ready for that.

We have more versatility. I think that we just have a lot of ways we can attack both offensively as well as using our length on the defensive end to create easy opportunities.

But I just think we're more balanced. I think we're more balanced, and I think we're a little bit less predictable.

Q. Cori, in some ways it was the end of an era with two fantastic players that went on to the league. Stylistically, how much different do you expect to be just due to personnel, or what can we expect to see that's different and the same?
CORI CLOSE: Well, I think we have a commitment to build from the defensive end of the floor and rebounding the ball and controlling possessions that that's just how we want to build our program year in and year out, so I don't think that will change. Our value of versatility, whether it be posting up a guard or pulling our forwards out to shoot the ball and attack off the bounce, I think our value of versatility, I think that will stay the same.

I think some of the things you're going to see different is that we are going to really try to move the ball off the pass and the cut more, maybe a little bit less off the bounce, and really use ball reversal, screening, and we have great length, and we have ability to attack that way.

It's going to be hard to stop us off the cut. So I think you'll see a little bit of a difference that way, whereas Jordin used her ability to attack off the bounce at a high percentage, where -- and we have people that can really pass the ball. You can't be a great cutting team if you don't have good passing skills and awareness and spacing.

The other thing is I think we're going to shoot the three a little bit better this year, so it allows us to spread the floor well and then be able to cut. That was probably our achilles heel last year where I think we're hoping to really have made big strides in being able to stretch the floor from a shooting perspective so that we are able to be a better cutting team.

Q. (No microphone)?
CORI CLOSE: Well, I think we do have interchangeable pieces. Obviously Japreece Dean, Lindsey Corsaro, Kennedy Burke, those have been the three that have gotten point guard positions in our practices so far. But we have two freshmen that have really come in and I think are going to get minutes.

I think Kiara Jefferson will get some minutes at the point, and I think she will contribute, and she's a really good, steady force. She's a different kind of point guard, and I think it'll allow us to move some of these other scoring guards off the ball more to get some different opportunities.

Q. You talked about honoring previous players and living up to their reputation, whatever. What was it like seeing Jordin and Monique do so well this past summer, and for the players, was that inspiring to you, as well?
KENNEDY BURKE: Yes, it was inspiring to have Monique Billings and Jordin Canada be like the voices of our team because I think everyone knew the ball was going to run through them, and I think seeing them and like playing with them really helped me like be inspired by them because they know what it takes to win, so yeah.

LAJAHNA DRUMMER: I think it's a good stepping-stone for our team. I mean, they've set a high standard, so I think it's good for our team just to put that in the back of our heads and just follow on through them.

CORI CLOSE: I think the reality is that they made some very sacrificial choices, and I think it's a great point to them to say, if I put in the work, if I follow the commitments and the plans that I have, that that can happen for me, too, and I think that was really neat.

I thought it was a compliment to them the way that our current players watched and celebrated their steps in the WNBA players. There was a watch party almost every game in the playoffs to celebrate them, and I thought that was a tremendous compliment, not only to Monique and Jordin but also to our players and just the camaraderie as well as to the commitment at the next level and that dreams really can come true.

Q. For the players, obviously you talked about you've had great history, other great players. For you guys, now this is your chance to shine. You're seniors. What are your expectations for yourselves personally, and what are you doing, like how has your game improved from a year ago?
KENNEDY BURKE: I think for both of us, Coach Cori has already mentioned that we put in the work during the off-season, so that was spring and summer, and I think just doing the work when no one is watching is really going to help us this year, and I'm really excited for the both of us.

Q. Can you be more specific? What have you been working on in your game?
KENNEDY BURKE: I've been working on my ball handling skills and my shooting off the dribble, so my pull-up game, because I didn't really expose that last year, so I think adding in my pull-up jumper would be very helpful for the team.

LAJAHNA DRUMMER: As far as me, I would say just continuing to work on my three-point shot and trying to be more aggressive off the bounce, so that's pretty much what I've been working on in the off-season, as well.

Q. Lajahna, where does your fight come from? When I saw UCLA in tight games, you got nasty. Where does that come from?
LAJAHNA DRUMMER: My fight comes from -- I don't know. I guess when I was younger, surprisingly, I was always the smaller person that got like beat up on, so in order to like not lose or get pushed around, I had to like step up to that level. Sometimes I just remember like me being in the park and just being the only girl on the team and just being like, I'm not going to lose. I don't know what I'm going to do here, but I'm not going to lose. But it's just going back to just me being the younger lodge and just remembering that whatever you do, you're not going to lose. Just that fight in me.

Q. Coach, for you, when you look at this roster, and you said the word "expectant," what do you expect from this team this season?
CORI CLOSE: We have a saying in our program that we're building our own house and that Joshua Medcalf, our director of mental training, talks about you're not building a house for someone else, you're building your own house, and what do you want your house to be.

And I think that we're looking at this as a really cool art project, and I think we know what it takes. I think with every step in your program, so getting to the Elite 8, some things got exposed, like, okay, these are some steps that we need to take in order for us to get to a championship level, and I think we have a keen awareness that -- every coach talks about it's a game of inches, but I think until they experience -- like you're a few possessions away, and if you don't value that possession or that inch, every coach can talk about it, but until they have that sense of that pressure, that urgency, how close the margins are, it's harder to teach it.

And I think they have a sense of that now, and I think they also have a sense that this is an opportunity to take what they've learned and creatively build their own house. What do they want that to be like?

So I'm expectant of our team to compete at the highest levels, and, you know, what that's going to look like I think is going to play out. I have ultimately respect for the competition in this conference and how difficult it's going to be. And so what? We're going to do the work, and we're going to build a really special house.

Q. Coach Close, I know how big of an impact Coach Wooden has had on you as well as all of us in sport. But I wanted to ask your student-athletes, when you think of Coach Wooden and his lessons and what he's taught you, what do you take to the court each day as you practice, as you train?
KENNEDY BURKE: Well, after every practice, we do this thing called "what went well" for our journals, and on top of that, on top of the very top of the page, we say: My value comes from who I am, not from what I do, and everything that happens to me is in my best interest and is an opportunity to learn and grow.

So I think that applies to every day, and we keep that with us.

LAJAHNA DRUMMER: I would also agree with Kennedy. Sometimes I honestly don't feel like doing it, but I just remember Coach Cori always just telling me it's like -- it's going to be beneficial for you to think about in the future. Like you might not like doing a journal after practice, after you've had a hard practice, but in the end, you're going to realize and you're going to be thankful that I made you write in your journal. So definitely would agree with that.

CORI CLOSE: And the way that links to Coach Wooden is he has a quote that says -- and they've heard this over and over again -- that who you are as a person is much more important than who you are as a basketball player. So to remind themselves at the end of every day; that basketball is a very, very important skill that we work on but does not define them, and who they are is much more important. And that's a direct lesson of how Coach Wooden poured into me and how he set that example and how he led UCLA men's basketball.

Q. For the players, what was the most fun thing you did this summer, and how is it going to help your game?
KENNEDY BURKE: As far as basketball, right?

Q. No, I mean anything.
KENNEDY BURKE: Outside? I think two weeks ago -- was it two weeks ago? We went to a donor's house, and it was by the beach, and we did jet skiing, we did tubing, and that was a lot of fun.

LAJAHNA DRUMMER: A little scary, but --

KENNEDY BURKE: It was scary, but overall the experience was really fun, and I think the whole team agreed that we would do it again.

And what was your second part again? I'm sorry. Everything that happens off the court I think is really important because it translates onto the court. I think just doing simple activities like going to the movies or spending time, going to a teammate's house, I think that's what transfers into the court.

LAJAHNA DRUMMER: She stole mine. I was going to say jet skiing. You know I love jet skiing. I don't know about tubing, but I definitely had fun jet skiing. I did it with Japreece Dean, and we like raced, and I felt like I was in some type of superhero movie, so it was definitely fun, yeah.

Q. Cori, we have seen the transformation on the campus with the basketball performance center and now practice facility. We've been calling games in the Annenberg Stadium, the Wallis Annenberg Stadium. Talk about the philanthropy for women's sports that's happening, how you guys and your other female coaches are getting behind it, I know Coach Val is retiring, and all that movement that is helping promote women's sports in general.
CORI CLOSE: Well, I'm just really grateful to our athletic department and the commitment to really setting the tone in supporting women's sports. And from a facilities perspective, we really feel like we have just an elite environment to train in.

I just spoke to a group called Women in Philanthropy yesterday, and these are incredible women that are committed to philanthropy throughout the UCLA campus. I came away just deeply inspired and in a situation where I just feel like, wow, there are so many people committed to allowing female athletes on the UCLA campus to have an elite experience, and I just -- it's a very humbling time to be a part of the Mo Ostin Center and then the Wallis Annenberg Stadium for women's and men's soccer, and we got new offices. And it's just an environment where we're walking in -- obviously Pauley Pavilion is one of the most storied but now one of the most updated arenas in the country. I remember Kari Korver saying to me, The best thing about going on the road is how lucky I am to play in Pauley Pavilion.

And I think we all feel that way about being a female athlete at UCLA, is we get to play in such a storied environment, and we have a lot of people that paved the way to enable us to do that, and just really grateful for all the hard work behind the scenes by so many people to allow our young women to experience that.

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