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March 29, 2008

Nicky Anosike

Alexis Hornbuckle

Candace Parker

Pat Summitt


THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Coach Summitt. Coach, your thoughts?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: Well, obviously we're really excited to be in Oklahoma City, and just excited about our first game with Notre Dame. Fortunately, you know, both teams are obviously familiar with each other, having played them. I think just being able to look at their game when we were obviously at Purdue, got to see a little bit of them. But very impressed with their play from the time we played them at Notre Dame to the time we saw them on the court against Purdue.
We know that their play is going to be key for us, because their guards are all very much involved in playing off the dribble and running the team, and I just think just watching obviously Tulyah Gaines and Ashley Barlow and Charel Allen, the three of them, to me, set the tone for how they want to play. And they refuse to lose against, obviously, Oklahoma in a very tough, close game.
So our players understand the challenge, but at this time of the year it's never going to be easy. So we certainly have to step up our defensive play and particularly in the one-on-one game.

Q. Coach, this season looking back at the January 5th game, have you all shot the ball any better than the game against Notre Dame?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: I don't know percentage-wise, but it was a good game for us. I thought in that particular game our transition, just our board play, I thought was one of our better games. It was late going into it, us coaches have to find something to worry about, because I thought at DePaul we played one of our best games. And, you know, coming off of that game I thought we might have a let-down, but fortunately for us we played very well.

Q. I know people around the country like to watch you and your intensity on the court, but your players love to talk about how sweet you are, now nice you are.
COACH PAT SUMMITT: What do they want? (Chuckles.)

Q. Have you changed over the years in that way? If so or if not, has anything impacted that over the years?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: Well, first of all, I think you have to change. Because I think that obviously just looking at when I started my career, and I'm not saying I'm not demanding, but I think my communication skills are quite different. And just getting to know each student-athlete that I coach, that starts in the recruiting process. But I've always said people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. And I think we are family, and I think they have to understand that you have an interest in them as a person, as a student, as an athlete, but when you step over the line on the basketball court there are certain demands. And I'm going to continue to demand that. I might turn the volume down at times. Sometimes it's turned way up. But I think it's all about knowing your personnel and knowing how to best communicate with each individual.

Q. Pat, there is obviously always a sense of urgency when you're this close, but given the fact that five of your players, unless Candace Parker changes her mind, five of your starters are likely to leave, do you as a coach feel a particular urgency knowing it might be harder for the next couple of years?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: Knowing that I'm starting over next year?
No, I think every year at this time of the year I just hope that our staff can do a tremendous job of preparing through our scouting report, and just do our preparation on the floor. This senior class, they're a special group. They have been a challenging group at times, but we're in a good place right now and I think they're in a very good place. We talk about the legacy that this senior class could leave on this program. Yes, they've won SEC Championships, and, yes, they've obviously cut down the net last year in Cleveland, but is there more for them to really leave their mark? And I've tried to put that in front of them, because I think they are such a talented team that they should be thinking, we want to certainly let people know that we want to win a championship. We've won one. We would like to win two. We want people to remember this senior class for a number of reasons.
So I think as far as their focus, I don't see it as pressure for them. I see it as just an opportunity and something they're really excited about at this time of the year, and they know it's going to be hard. They know that it's going to be very difficult to even get out of this region, much less win a championship.
So they have to bring it and we have to be very mindful of playing possession basketball. And not taking possessions off.

Q. Candace came in from the very beginning with so much hype, and I was just wondering if you could talk about her makeup that has allowed her to handle that and flourish in it and about her as a player.
COACH PAT SUMMITT: Candace coming out of high school, obviously watching her play and just seeing what a great upside she had to her game, I didn't know at that time that she was going to be the great player that she has become, because I didn't know how hard she was willing to work. When you watch kids in high school you get a different look, and when you get in the college game and particularly coming off a knee injury and having to work through that, I think that really inspired Candace.
I think the thing that has allowed her to elevate her skills and her game overall is her commitment. I've said this many times, but she is the one player on our team that has been in the gym the most, and worked on her ball handling, her left hand hook, her right hand hook, her jump shot, playing off the dribble. You know, she's really expanded her game through her commitment of getting into the gym and doing so.
She'll tell you, she'll find something that she wants to work on, and she's going to work on it may be on Monday, on Tuesday maybe it's going to be a different skill, different facet to her game. But she's very focused in getting better all the time. I think that and aside from that it's just really running the floor a lot harder, going to the glass a lot tougher, rebounding, making rebounding and defense a priority. That's where, to me, to separate herself out now and help us separate ourselves out as well is her defensive play, and just the presence she can have on the defensive end.

Q. Pat, can you give us your first impressions of the other seniors that played in that All-American game here four years ago?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: Well, obviously Alexis Hornbuckle to me is a player that at the time coming out of high school I thought, wow, what a great athlete. Also a tough-minded defensive player. But now, as I look at Alexis's game and how she has simplified more on the offensive end and focused on only taking the three ball when they leave her open and not forcing that, being able to get paint points, put-backs, her presence right now on the floor from a defensive standpoint really sets the tone for us.
And Anosike, obviously Nicky is another player that just really has stepped up and, said, I'm going to be a force at both ends. She's much more aggressive offensively. But if you could look inside of our team, what you would see is that Nicky is really at times the heartbeat of our team. She's the leader. She's always the one that's pulling everyone together. So in particular I think those three have, they elevated their play and they have established who they are, and they've gained the respect of their teammates consistently.

Q. Off the court, do you have any curiosity or any interest in watching how this event goes? Because Oklahoma didn't make it. There was such a curiosity and speculation on, will fans come now? How much do you pay attention to that as someone who is interested in the growth of the game?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: Well, first of all, I hope the fans will come out. We were in a similar situation not at the regional level but the Final Four, and we lost in overtime to Virginia on the campus of ODU. So Virginia game to Knoxville and played on our home court, and obviously that was one of the hardest things, knowing that, you know, Tennessee fans and obviously even our own department had made tee shirts up that said "Tennessee in the final three." Well, Tennessee wasn't there. And Joan Cronan, first thing she said is, "You don't know how many thousand tee shirts we have and how much money we have spent." And I said, "Next year we won't have to get any practice gear, we will wear those tee shirts," which we did.
Fortunately we got back to the Final Four the next year and beat Virginia for the championship. But having said that, I got on the radio, I got on television, I pleaded with the people in Knoxville to support that event, and it was unbelievable, the response. And I think it's all about just getting people to understand that when you host an event, obviously the people here in Oklahoma City, and just in the surrounding area, hopefully will encourage people to come out.
I think it's going to be great basketball, I think you have some special teams here. You've got coaches that have been in the game and been very successful in the game. So that would be my message, and that's what I did when we were in that situation. I'll just tell you, I'll never forget how the people responded.

Q. Candace has this said this shoulder thing is fairly constant but when it happens like it did the other night, does your heart jump up in your throat?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: At this point in time anyone who has a problem with a shoulder or ankle or knee, yes, it gets my attention. The good thing with Candace is, you know, I think she listens and also responds well with our trainer, Jenny Moshak and I'm constantly asking Jenny about that. And Alberta has a similar problem. You just hold your breath. It's like from the time that we left Perdue to time we arrived here, we did very little contact, and we did virtually nothing up and down the floor. Because I am a little paranoid at this time of the year about keeping them healthy and not going with a lot of contact until we throw the ball up.

Q. Muffet said she had you at a good time, you have a bad shoulder and your knees aren't what they used to, what do you think about that?
COACH PAT SUMMITT: Is she talking about me? She's going to have to take those high heels off to catch me! (Laughter.)
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach. Questions for our student-athletes.

Q. Nicky, when you beat a team by 24 earlier in the year and they've never beaten you in 19 tries, how do you avoid overconfidence?
NICKY ANOSIKE: I think they're a lot better team watching them play against Oklahoma, and I think their guards are really good. The combo guards can shoot from the outside and drive. So we're maybe going to have to key in on that. And, you know, this is for a championship, you know, you win or go home. So that's motivation right there.

Q. Alexis, you guys got the late game again, in West Lafayette you started off sluggish in that late game. What do you do differently here to make sure that doesn't happen again?
ALEXIS HORNBUCKLE: I don't know what to tell on you that. You still have the long days, everything pretty much is the same, the shootaround is kinda early. You just have to be ready. It's the Sweet 16, that should be motivation within itself.

Q. Candace, Coach was talking about the transitioning of your game from the time you got there to now and part of it being your work ethic, could you talk about that? Also how you have been able to handle and thrive in the spotlight without it letting it wear you down.
CANDACE PARKER: At Tennessee you play with the best, you're coached by the best, so every day you're getting better. And I think that's been the key. We play the toughest schedule, and in the summer we have some of the best facilities and one of the best strength and conditioning coaches. So we just get in the gym and we lift weights, and championships are won in the off-season.
We came to Tennessee to win a National Championship and to be in the spotlight and to have pressure. So that's something I came into the situation knowing how it was going to be.

Q. Nicky, are you trying to take more of an active leadership role at this point in the year? And if so, in what ways?
NICKY ANOSIKE: I always feel like the seniors, it's their job to step up in postseason and lead the team, because we've been here and we know what it takes. I know my freshman year in the Final Four I didn't know anything that was going on because no one really took the time out of their day to help me out. So I always told myself I would never let it happen when I was a senior or when I was an upperclassman, period.
So I really just try and make sure that no matter what, you know, the team is on the same page, and that your freshmen never feel lost because we need them, because I know what it's like to be a freshman and feel lost because I was there. So I just make sure it doesn't happen on this team.

Q. Alexis, I know Pat was influential with you and you had some family losses in the last year or so. Can you talk about what she's meant to you as a coach and mentor in the last few years?
ALEXIS HORNBUCKLE: Coach has done a great job of building a relationship and that works two ways. I had to work hard to get a better relationship with her. And as you mentioned, I have had family members lost within the past year and she's just been there for me. She's like, whether you need to talk or if you need to stay at home a little longer, no matter what it is, I just want you 100% on the court. You see the type of lady she is on the court, but at the same time her mother instincts kick in.

Q. Pat talks about the combination she needs to get you guys to win, the "big three." Can you talk about how you have to play and also the last run-through for you guys, are you savoring the moments you have left?
CANDACE PARKER: I think definitely our team needs all three of us to step up. These last four games definitely. You know, we have to bring what we do best to the table. In terms of savoring the moments, we are. We obviously know that there's not much time left and this is our last run. I just want you guys to know I love you.

Q. Anosike, talk about the experience you had in the McDonald's game here several years ago, and do you remember meeting each other for one of the first times at that time?
ALEXIS HORNBUCKLE: You know, I would love to talk about the McDonald's All American game. Nicky and I were on the East and Candace was on the West. And all I gotta say is we won. The West lost.
It was a great experience. We were talking about it in the locker room a little bit, just being here and having great memories. We have fun together as a whole and, hopefully we can keep our winning streak alive on the court and she can get one, you know, because it's on her!
CANDACE PARKER: You think that is funny! (Laughter.)

Q. Candace, talk about the shoulder issue.
CANDACE PARKER: Jenny Moshak has done a great job. She is the best trainer in America, in the world, ever. She is definitely -- it's getting rehab and icing and stimming a lot. I'll be all right.

Q. Nicky, going back to that McDonald's All American game because I know how much Candace loves that, she won the dunk contest here in Oklahoma City. Four years since then she's become what she's become, not just the dunker. Can you talk about the evolution of her game and her ability as a teammate over the last four years.
NICKY ANOSIKE: Candace has definitely gotten her hair done since then. (Laughter.) And now she's fabulous!
But she has gotten a lot better every year since she's played, definitely tried to get as much advice from her offensively as I can. She'll whisper something to me during practice when I'm not making my shots or something. But I would say she's definitely in the gym all the time trying to work on her game and it shows. You get what you put into it and she is definitely a testament to that.

Q. Following up on the dunk thing, Candace, was the reaction to that a little different than you thought, where it was like, that's the girl that can dunk, instead of that's the girl that's talented and she can also dunk? It seems like here and in the Army game that's what everybody was talking about.
CANDACE PARKER: In the women's game dunking is not something you see every day, so I feel like at the beginning it was like that, but then as my career has progressed it's different. I think now there are more girls in women's basketball that are going to be dunking, so I think it's going to grow.
THE MODERATOR: Ladies, best of luck to you tomorrow.

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