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March 21, 2008

LaSharee Christian

Carena Easley

Denise Taylor

Erica Trahan


THE MODERATOR: I would like to welcome to Baton Rouge to the Maravich Center and to the NCAA tournament Jackson State. We have three student athletes with us today and, of course, the head coach. Student athletes are LaSharee Christian, Carena Easley and Erica Trahan.
And the head coach of Jackson State for an opening statement, and then we'll throw it to the press for questions for head coach Denise Taylor.
Coach Taylor, welcome.
COACH TAYLOR: Thank you. I would like to say I am so proud of these young ladies. They really deserve the credit. They persevered this year to get to this point and I'm just very excited to get this opportunity to come and represent our university and the state of Mississippi. Again, I'm just proud of these young ladies because they have really persevered to get to this point.

Q. I'm just wondering, you win your conference tournament. You know you're going to the Dance. What happens then when you say, great, LSU in Baton Rouge, does that take the bloom off the rose a little bit or does it get you more psyched? How do you react?
COACH TAYLOR: We're excited because this is only 64 teams that's still playing and we played USC and we played Arkansas, so we have played SEC schools this season. And we're just excited to get an opportunity to play. We know LSU is great basketball team, but as I told the young ladies, there is one thing about it: We have to play the game.
So we have all the respect for LSU and, of course, Van Chancellor, who I've known for a long time and coached against in the WNBA.
But, again, I think these young ladies -- after we watched the Selection, they was like, hey, let's go to practice because we had Monday off. We had arrived back in town from our tournament and they were ready to go practice on Monday night.

Q. Do you guys, like Connecticut, the men just got beat, do you look at things like that and say, "anything's possible right now"?
CARENA EASLEY: I guess as any college athlete or basketball player, anything's possible on any given day. Every game you have to play for that game and not for the games ahead. So at the tip-off, the game is 0-0. Anybody can win the game at the end, so ...
ERICA TRAHAN: I would like to say personally I am excited because Baton Rouge is my hometown. I didn't expect us to play here, but when they announced it, I was like, okay, we are going to treat this game like any other game. Not taking credit from LSU, they are a great team.
But, like any given day, any team can get beat. We have to go out and play this game like any game we have played this season.

Q. Coach, just talk about the matchup problems, a lot of other coaches have said Sylvia Fowles, maybe she doesn't average as many points as some other players or as many rebounds, but she changes so many things. Is what she done kind of unseen sometimes in terms of the stat sheet?
COACH TAYLOR: Absolutely. She's a great player. It's going to be a total team effort. You know, we know we won't stop her, but we certainly are going to have a team effort and try to contain her. But she's a great player. First-round WNBA pick. I've enjoyed watching her play and now getting an opportunity to play against her, we look forward to the challenge.

Q. Coach, you guys have been on the doorstep of getting to the NCAA tournament for so long. What is it finally like to be here? And what's this week -- did you always imagine what it would be like and also kind of the reality also?
COACH TAYLOR: As a coach, that's why we get up every morning and spend 18, 20 hours in this job, is the opportunity to have this opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament. So it is a great feeling to get this opportunity to play and we're just excited and ready to go out on the hardwood to play.
It has been a lot of hard work, a lot of sacrifices, a lot of dedication to get to this point. But as a coach and as a player, that was our team goal from the beginning of the season. It wasn't like, hey, we're going to win the SWAC. Our goal from day one was we're going to the NCAA tournament. And that was our goal.

Q. Coach, do you want your players to visualize or dream about winning this game? I mean, how important is that to try to make it happen? Two 7s beaten by 15 before. And in the women's tournament a 1 has lost to a 16. Those things have happened.
COACH TAYLOR: That's kind of been the personality of this team all year. Nobody expected us to win, so we kind of been the underdog all season. So this is just another step, and that's one thing we have talked about, being mentally visualizing it, seeing it. Every game we go out and we have them write down their goals. We put it in a cup and that's what we've done all season.
So absolutely, you know, we ask them to see themselves. As you say, we've seen on television, there have been different games and 15s and 3s and 1s and 16s. So all things are possible.
I mean, we believe that this group has a lot of faith. They have a really strong faith and they believe in themselves. They believe in their coaches. And that's been the thing -- this team has been resilient all year long and that has been the thing that has brought us to this point because they believe, they see it. They trust. And they persevere.

Q. I was wondering from the players' standpoint, like Coach said, your goal was not to win the SWAC; it was to get here. Now you are at the NCAA tournament. Do you find yourself reacting? Are you more nervous than you thought you would be or do you think you would go out say, hey, we got nothing to prove here, we can just go nuts? I'm wondering how mentally you guys are reacting now that you are here like you always wanted?
LaSHAREE CHRISTIAN: I think with this being my last year and how every year we've tried to make it here and we failed, that from looking at my teammates, I don't think we are nervous. We have played SEC teams before. We've had packed-out gyms, two people at our crowd.
It is probably going to be like a repeat for us, another chance to get out there and be the SEC team. We really have -- I don't think it was more nervousness of the team. I think we're all excited, because this is a new experience for all of us. None of us have ever been here before. So I wouldn't say we're nervous. I would just say we're excited about it.

Q. LaSharee, have you been in the NIT before. What is different in preparing for a NCAA tournament game? Anything Xs and Os or is it emotions? What's the difference?
LaSHAREE CHRISTIAN: Well, coming to the NCAA, it is more of a reward for us because we got to win our tournament in order to get here. It is way more emotional because, you know, we're glad to be here. It is an opportunity some of us never experienced this before. And the WNIT was more -- we came off a loss of parity last year, so it was kind of like a downward slide for us.
And I would say the NCAA is ten times better than the WNIT. But, yeah, I mean, both games, you know -- it's both playing basketball either way, but NCAA is way more rewarding and fulfilling as for an athlete's standpoint.

Q. When you look at your record, it seemed like you got off to kind of a rocky start and then really sort of flicked a switch or you turned it around or something after January 2nd. And when the new year came, did you think you'd be sitting here right now tonight? What did you do to turn it around and get here?
ERICA TRAHAN: Well, we lost three starters last year. We lost player of the year and we had seven new players coming in. So we knew we had to -- the new players we had coming in had to buy into our philosophy and so we had to go through those growing pains. As every year, we play a tough preseason schedule and we do that to prepare this team.
One of the things in the tournament, we play early games. We play, like, four games in eight days and then we go to the tournament. So in scheduling, it was a strategic plan to put this team in that situation. We played in a tournament in California, two games. And then we traveled to Atlanta and we played. Also, we played a tournament at Marshall; it was a 12 o'clock game, which those are the times that we played in the tournament.
So a part of our preseason schedule was to prepare us for this point in the season.

Q. Coach, what jumps out at you on film about Quianna Chaney?
COACH TAYLOR: She shoots the 3-point very well. She is 42 percent free throw shooter. She is quick, very athletic. She is a great guard.
I just wanted to finish answering the question about the team and how it changed from December to January to February. Each year we -- each month we improved and we bought into it defensively that defense wins championships. When we went on that winning streak, we were holding teams 50, 52, 53 points. And so this team really bought into our system and bought into our philosophy. And then they gelled and grew as a team. I think that was the difference, like, each month we got better and that was the reason why.
Again, we are just excited to be here. The NCAA is a first-class operation. We had a great welcome coming to the hotel, and we're hoping to go out and represent Jackson State and represent the state of Mississippi and we just ask our young ladies to go out and give their best and leave it all out on the floor. We wanted to congratulate everybody who has made it to this point.

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