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October 29, 2009

Coquese Washington


COQUESE WASHINGTON: I'm excited about the start of the season. I think this is going to be a really competitive year for Big Ten basketball.

Q. How do you judge the Big Ten Conference in comparison to other conferences such as the ACC?
COQUESE WASHINGTON: Well, I think you look at a couple factors. One, you look at what we did in the postseason last year. We had three teams play in the Sweet 16. We actually have the highest winning percentage of any conference in the country coming out of first- and second-round play. We had five teams in and three teams make it to the Sweet 16 for a 60 percent average, which was the best in the country. We had a team make it to the Elite 8. I think we have really strong teams, strong coaches, and when you look at the players we have in our conference, Jantel Lavender, Brittany Rayburn from Purdue, Tyra Grant from Penn State, we've got a lot of quality players coming back. And I think that's going to make our conference one of the best and most competitive in the conference, including looking at the ACC and the Big East and even the Big 12.

Q. What are your impressions of your freshmen since they arrived on campus and are now into the first couple weeks of practice?
COQUESE WASHINGTON: I'm really, really excited about our freshmen class. I think they're going to have a tremendous impact on our program, not just this year but in the years to come. They are all really competitive. They're a fun bunch. They like to have fun. And the talent that they bring makes practice a lot more competitive than it has been, which I think will have an impact on us in terms of our game day performance.

Q. How do you think teams that rank in the bottom of the Big Ten Conference play competitively in your season? In other words, how do you think programs like Michigan, Northwestern and Indiana are going to affect your team?
COQUESE WASHINGTON: Well, I think our conference, honestly, is the most competitive conference in the country, top to bottom. There might be a conference that might be a little more top-heavy, but from 1 to 11, I don't know that there's another conference that has the quality of play in the bottom half that we have.
And so when you ask about the bottom half of the conference, I think we've got a conference this year -- I think Ohio State and Michigan State are probably the cream of the crop, but then 3 through 11, I think anybody can be in any place. I don't know that that's true with any other conference in the country where you can look at 9, 10, 11, and say, you know, they can be one of the top three teams in the conference.
So I think they are going to make the conference more competitive, and one of the reasons we were successful last season in postseason play was because our conference is competitive. There are no days off, even if you're playing the last place team in the conference. If you don't bring your "A" game, you can be upset. So I think the bottom half of our conference is extremely competitive.

Q. Being one of the top scorers in the Big Ten, how is Tyra Grant preparing herself for being the focal point of opposing teams' defense?
COQUESE WASHINGTON: A couple things. She worked on her conditioning over the summer, slimmed up a little bit so she can have a little bit more stamina to be able to get through a 40-minute game. She's gotten a little bit stronger in the weight room. And I think most of it is just mental, the mental approach to the game, understanding that she is the focal point and being patient to take good shots and not let the defense kind of ease her into taking shots that she probably doesn't want to take.

Q. You guys have a lot of experience in the backcourt and not so much in the frontcourt. How much are you going to be leaning on your frontcourt players this year and your guards?

Q. How much are you going to be leaning on that experience and that quality of play you have in the frontcourt with Tyra Grant and players like that?
COQUESE WASHINGTON: Well, we do have some experience in the post game. We return Julia Trogele and we return Janessa Wolff inside, but overall I think we're really young. We've got out of our 12 players that are active, eight of them are freshmen and sophomores, so we're going to be young across the board. There are going to be times where we're going to have some really young lineups on the floor.
I expect our veterans to help us in practice and to be leaders by example, and if they can do that and help our young players find some success early in the season and take pressure off of our young players to perform early in the season, then I think that will bode well for us once we get to conference play.

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