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March 17, 2023

Jordan Horston

Rickea Jackson

Jordan Walker

Knoxville, Tennessee, USA

Thompson-Boling Arena

Tennessee Lady Volunteers

Media Conference

Q. Rickea, you announced that you are coming back to Tennessee next year. Does that provide any different mindset going into the NCAA (Tournament) - relief or anything?

RICKEA JACKSON: I would definitely say it gives a little relief. I just wanted to get that out there so I can just focus on the opponent at hand and continue to focus at practice and things like that. It definitely feels a relief to get it off my chest.

Q. This is your first NCAA tournament?

RICKEA JACKSON: Yes, sir. I'm very excited for this and how far this team can go and the potential that we have to continue to keep playing great and build our chemistry. I'm very excited.

Q. In making that decision to come back, how much of that was looking at what the squad might be next season as opposed to weighing, you know, the W and pro options overseas with NIL options here in Knoxville? There seems to be an awful lot of opportunities within NIL here as opposed to taking that gamble turning pro.

RICKEA JACKSON: All of that, as you say, came into play. I like to weigh every aspect. I have to be realistic. I'm growing each and every day, so all of that played a part in it.

As you said, I would like to play a WNBA. It has been my dream and aspiration of mine. At the same time, this is the first time where I felt like it's a family here. And I never played under a coach or with the same similar team for more than a year, so this will be the first time I got the same coach for two years -- it is familiar for me. But a lot of that stuff did come into play. Of course, NIL is huge in today's basketball world and just making the best decision for me and my family and things like that and the team. You know, I feel like we could be great this year, great next year, just coaching abilities and things like that.

Q. The war with Russia, the issues with Brittany Griner, a lot of overseas options are kind of limited by the war over there in Ukraine. Did that come into play?

RICKEA JACKSON: I don't really know a lot about that information for me to personally have an opinion on it. Just things that I see on the internet, I mean, of course, you see those type of things. (They) make you think about a situation more than you would before, because you wouldn't think something like that would happen. So it's a lot of things. That has to be better, you know, before I decide to make that decision.

Q. Rickea, one more question on your decision to return. How long would you say you knew that you wanted to come back another year?

RICKEA JACKSON: I always felt like I was 50/50. Even coming to Tennessee, I always told myself if this is a great year, if the team is going to be how I think it's going to be, if it's just healthy, then I always highly considered coming back. But throughout the year, like I have just been focusing on the season. It was not really heavy on my heart. I definitely wanted to let my team know or the possibility because of things like that before the tournament, so they can start getting on that and things like that so we can focus on the tournament.

Q. For anybody, what has, you know, the time since the South Carolina game to now been, what have you been focusing on most?

JORDAN WALKER: Since the South Carolina game, we have been focusing on ourselves and continuing to get better as a team, whether it's to continue to build the chemistry or working on little things that we have to clean up in order to get better and go farther in this tournament. That's what we have been focusing on. We have had some great practices. I'm really proud of our team and our focus coming into this. I'm excited to get back out and be able to compete again.

Q. Jordan, when you have Jordan Horston and Rickea Jackson around, does it make it easier to play the point guard?

JORDAN WALKER: Yes. I can look inside, go in the wing, bring it back outside. So it definitely does make it easier to play the point guard. I'm just really thankful, being able to play this last year with two amazing players by my side.

Q. Jordan Horston, hosting the NCAA tournament, what's that mean to you to be able to play?

JORDAN HORSTON: It's a great feeling to be able to play in front of a familiar crowd, familiar everything, the facilities. We don't have to travel. It's easy on our body. I feel like it's definitely an advantage for us. We have to take advantage of, you know, opportunities that are presented.

Like I said, playing in front of the best fans in America, it's always a great feeling going into the tournament.

Q. A year ago you were hurt and couldn't play in those games here. How nice is it to know you are going to be able to be on the court for these game and help this team this whole season?

JORDAN HORSTON: It feels really good. It feels really good. It was really hard for me being injured and just having to watch the game instead of playing. I am really excited to, you know, be able to play the big game of basketball again. So I'm taking advantage of every opportunity that I am given. And like I said, I'm thankful to be out there.

Q. Have you had made a decision about whether you are coming back?

JORDAN HORSTON: How did I know somebody was going to ask me that question?

Honestly, I'm just focusing on the season right now. One game at a time. One day at a time.

Q. Rickea been working on you?

JORDAN HORSTON: I guess that we're working on our game and preparing for the tournament. And we ain't going to worry about that until the opportunity presents itself.

Q. I don't think Rickea is listening. So do you plan to make the decision after the NCAA Tournament is over?

JORDAN HORSTON: As of right now, I'm just trying to focus on the games, and you know, playing basketball. When I make my decision, I will put it out there. You will see.

Q. Even though you didn't get to play in the games here to start the NCAA tournament last year, what were you able to take away just being in this atmosphere?

JORDAN HORSTON: Being able to sit down and just watch the game. Like I said, I have aspirations of being a coach one day, possibly, and this allowed me to see the game in another light. I feel like it allows the game to slow down a lot. When I came back from my injury, it just allowed me to be able to have that voice in another way. So like I said, I don't take any opportunity for granted. Everything happens for a reason. It was supposed to happen, and I learned a lot from it.

Q. Jordan Walker, what are your thoughts on Saint Louis? What do you know about them?

JORDAN WALKER: Coming into this game, I didn't know a whole bunch. We were able to watch some film yesterday. From what I saw, they are obviously, a great team. You don't get to the postseason tournament without being that. They play hard. So I mean, really going into this game, we have respect for your opponent and respect, you know, for their game and what they can bring to the table. But like I said before, I'm excited to get out and compete with my team. I know that we have done a lot in these past weeks since the South Carolina game to get ready, get ourselves ready and get back on the right track.

Q. From the point position, what was it like getting adjusted to Rickea Jackson and losing Tamari Key, what adjustments did you have to make?

JORDAN WALKER: The biggest adjustment is trying to get the flow of the game, and you know, reading who needs the ball when and where. I think that that's always something as a point guard you have to take into consideration. So, I think that, you know, when Tamari went down, just seeing who was going to kind of fill that void or how many people would fill that void, but having Rickea and Jill (Jillian Hollingshead) and (Jasmine) Franklin all down there at the post, and Karoline Striplin stepped up this season, it's made it easier for me, I guess, because they're all great players and can make great plays.

Q. Jordan, obviously there are two games to be played. But with the tournament going to two sites after this weekend, have you had a chance at all, you know, during or before the season to think about how much it might help the women's game or how different it might be? You kind of got a little taste of that during the pandemic bubble, but you know, is it something that might help the women's game kind of level the playing field a little bit?

JORDAN WALKER: You are saying like if we were --

Q. Right. If you all advance, you are going to play in Seattle, someplace in Seattle, and Greenville is the other location next weekend. And like the men, they know they're going somewhere, and you know, you are not going to be finding yourself say playing in South Carolina or the state of Connecticut potentially next week.

JORDAN WALKER: You know, I think that for our fanbase in particular, being able to host and being at home is really good for us. I think it does a lot for the sport and for the game to be able to host. I mean, we play all season because you want to be, you know, a four seed or higher so you are able to host. So I think it does a lot for itself just with that alone. I also do think if it was a possibility to be able to go to different sites instead of hosting, it may spread a little bit more whereas in get a few more people involved, but I think that with our fans, they're going to travel to wherever we go. So you know, that's something that is not like that for every school.

Q. With a game like Saint Louis, you don't have much experience, you know, historically playing. How much do you cross-examine common opponents? Like they just got here off UMass. How much do you study the fact that you guys have played a similar opponent?

RICKEA JACKSON: For me, it does help like when we were in film and coach was like, 'They have beaten UMass twice.' I remember when we played UMass and the people that were on that team, so I feel like it helps a little bit just to get a feel of how that opponent probably is, or you know, they beat a good team like UMass and that means something. So yeah, that helps me a little.

JORDAN HORSTON: Also, I know for myself, what does that team play like? Who would you compare them to offensively, defensively? And then we will talk about that, and that helps a lot. So just like comparing them to things that we have seen. Even though it's not going to 100 percent be everything that we've seen before because we have not seen this team, but just having those comparisons going into the game with, you know, a clear mind. I feel like we are pretty prepared. We will be okay.

Q. Rickea, you are down by 17 to LSU. You come back and win that game. What does that do for this team's confidence going forward?

RICKEA JACKSON: It makes our confidence go through the roof, honestly. Like I feel like we were so level-headed that whole game though. We never got too high. We never got too low. We just stayed within ourselves. And the way that we played the second (half) was the way that we know we could have played the whole game. That's the way we have to come out against every opponent just being level-headed, steady and just knowing that at the end of the day, we can beat anybody in the country when we are doing the right things and slowing down, executing. So I would say for this team, it just made us feel really good about ourselves. But at the same time, it took time for us to get there because we are new. We do have transfers. It took a lot of adjustment times, but we never got down on ourselves. That goes to show the grit, the toughness that we have and we can overcome adversity.

JORDAN HORSTON: To add onto that, I mean, it was the best time to finally be able to pull out a big win. You know, coming down the stretch into the postseason, you have to figure out how to win. You have to figure out how to win no matter what. Even if it's ugly, pretty, you know, a perfect game, not a perfect game, it just matters about, you know, who wants it more. I am very excited to see that we had that fight in us and had that heart. We are going to be a very great tournament team. I feel like I believe that 100 percent.

THE MODERATOR: Student-athletes, thanks for your time.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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