October 11, 2022
Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
THE MODERATOR: We're going to jump into a few things just as far as what you're building on. Obviously this team, this program is known for what you can do in March. But building in the off-season, even building off the.
JEFF WALZ: Some of our new ones, some of our transfers when they come in to get them up to speed, expectations that we have within this program. It's been good so far, and really looking forward to how we proceed.
THE MODERATOR: You said a couple of transfers. You're looking at one of the top players in the conference in Morgan Jones. When you're looking at what she can add to your program, what is that exactly?
JEFF WALZ: We're excited about her athleticism, her ability to get to the basket, her ability to defend as well. It's been a little bit of an adjustment for her, which I think has been great. She decided to make a transition to try to continue to elevate her game, and she's been challenged every single day at practice, not only by me, but who she's playing against.
I'm starting to see some growth from her, so we're really excited about it.
THE MODERATOR: When you look at the roster, and this year it is a little bit different when you don't have Emily Engstler, Kianna Smith, and they went on to play in the WNBA, so congratulations to your program there.
You said you just have to adapt, knowing players can play off of one another, the confidence you have in this group, that they can do that and gel.
JEFF WALZ: I'm extremely confident in that. I've got a great group of leaders here who aren't selfish. They're not worried about how many points they score. They're worried about the success we have. It's going to take a little bit of time.
We're getting close to where as a coach you've got to get down to your 10 or 11 and really start giving them as many reps as you can together so they get the confidence and experience of playing together.
Then we'll see how it continues to progress. But I'm looking forward to this season. Expecting another great year.
THE MODERATOR: Talking about depth, you're the only team that has three players coming in for a media day, and you're looking at how many pieces you have for this program. I want to talk about leadership.
Hailey, I'll start with you. You were visibly upset about what you could do for this team and how you wanted to step up as a leader. What ways have you done that so far?
HAILEY VAN LITH: Yeah, I mean, it was a big growth year for me in that aspect. I think carrying it over to this year, it was a new environment because we do have a lot of age, but it's new age to our program. We have a lot of players that are old but they're new to our program.
So me being younger, still being a younger player on the team but having to lead these older players who are new to our program has been very important for our progress so far.
I think me having the confidence and the ability to step up and have a voice is going to be very important on us being able to be cohesive as a group.
THE MODERATOR: I want to go with you, Mykasa Robinson, just what you bring on the other side of the floor. Obviously you can score in bunches from this roster. When you are looking at defensively being on the All-Defensive Team ACC in back-to-back seasons, the importance of that and your voice in the locker room.
MYKASA ROBINSON: Yeah, I think defense wins games personally in my opinion. When you have people that are willing to listen and be with you every moment, like I do with my teammates, it makes it a lot easier.
But as far as my voice goes in the locker room, I want to be a calming voice. I want to be someone that people can come to in times of struggle. We've got this.
So just being encouraging in those times.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, that's music to your ears when you hear a player say I love defense, right? You have the No. 3 scoring defense in the conference, and that was something you always wanted to build on.
I don't think you get enough credit when you're looking at defensively how that helps you guys. You want to touch on how the pieces in your locker room are able to do that having that balanced approach.
JEFF WALZ: We've got a great group. If you go back to the past ten years or so, we've always been the top two or three in our league in defense, and it's not going to stop. It's just what we do. We're not a program that is always going to play man to man. We're going to play whatever we need to to hopefully give us the best chance to win.
But we've done a fantastic job with that, and Mykasa is a big part of it, Olivia also in the post. But we do like to score. I know Kas says defense wins championships, but I've yet to see one at 2-0.
We're going to continue to work on scoring points, because that's one thing I enjoy doing.
THE MODERATOR: Olivia, I wanted to go to you as well. Just watching you in your growth with each season, what's different for you? How have you approached this upcoming season?
OLIVIA COCHRAN: Well, leadership role, just like holding people accountable, just bringing energy when it's dead in the gym, just hyping people up when they need it. Anybody having a bad day, just like make them smile. I feel like that's what I'm trying to bring this year.
THE MODERATOR: I thought it was very interesting, just going through a couple of the notes and just looking at the last five seasons for you in the ACC, and you've lost less than ten games.
This is a very tough league. If you're looking at it even in this year from top to bottom, you can look at how the depth has changed. Can you speak to just how your team is able to be so successful at this point? We talk about offense, but when you're playing in a tough league and being challenged every night, how that helps you in March.
JEFF WALZ: First of all, it speaks volumes for my staff. We've been fortunate enough to recruit some really good players that have really bought into playing the way we like to play. We like to get up and down the floor. We're normally known as a pretty tough team. We're going to defend. We're going to rebound the basketball.
But we have been. A lot of times we might not be the sexy choice, but we seem to figure out a way, as the year progresses, to get better and better and then play extremely well in March.
That's really what we hang our hat on, is at the end of the day, when you look at the success we've had, it's hard to argue that we're not right there with all the top teams, not only in the league, but in the country.
THE MODERATOR: Absolutely. I don't know if we have any questions from the audience.
Q. Coach, you have four transfers on your team. I think three came from ACC schools. How has the transfer portal and the ability to play right away kind of changed the way you recruit, changed the way you look at team building?
JEFF WALZ: I've said it for the past few years, and I'll say it again: I think the transfer portal it's all hyped up right now and it's going to be probably for another year because of COVID.
We're sitting here, we've had five transfers in the past two seasons. Four of them would have never been able to transfer if it wasn't for the COVID year. Four of them played all four years at their institution. They graduated. They did exactly what they were asked to do. But because of COVID, they were given the free year.
There's one more season of a free year, I believe, for players, the seniors that are currently now could move on and play. Kas finished her four years, did everything I asked her. After last year, we sat down. I said, hey, if you want to transfer, if you want to use this COVID year to go someplace else to experience something, I'll support you a hundred percent, because she did everything I asked her to do.
She played four years for us, did everything on the court. She was a wonderful student-athlete, a wonderful person, a great role model to my kids. It's what you ask for.
COVID's going to eventually stop. You're not going to have those. And I think you're going to see a ton of the transfer portal talk calm down.
Now, for me, it's been great. I love it.
I think what we've done with the players that have transferred to our program, I think it speaks volumes for itself. I mean, you've got Emily Engstler was pick No. 4. Kianna transferred in. She was picked early in the second round of the draft. Chelsie Hall. You know, Chelsie Hall came from -- she earned a wonderful degree at Vanderbilt and never had an opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament, and led us to a Final Four as our point guard.
Now she's playing in Europe. I mean, what a wonderful experience.
So I'm all for it. I think it's great.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you so much. Your daughters wanted me to ask you what your favorite post-game meal was, but we'll get to that later.
JEFF WALZ: Oreos. We all know. We love Oreos at the Walz house.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports