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April 3, 2010
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS
THE MODERATOR: I'm pleased to introduce Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer, as well as student-athletes Jayne Appel, Nneka Ogwumike, and Jeanette Pohlen.
Coach, when you're ready.
COACH VANDERVEER: First of all, we're very excited to be here. It's just a thrill to be back, and our team is really appreciating the opportunity to compete for the national championship.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Jeanette, could you just talk about the last few days for you, because I think it's probably been a little bit different than the few days before that.
JEANETTE POHLEN: Yeah, I would just say that the past few days it's just been great with all the support and love that was shown for our team and not just me but everybody else on our team. We had a great send-off rally before we came here.
And just been getting a lot of messages and people just very supportive of our team and excited that we're here, too.
Q. Jeanette, could you talk a little bit about Danielle Robinson. I know you played against each other in high school. She's a Northern California girl. Just your remembrances of her but also playing against her tomorrow night?
JEANETTE POHLEN: Well, her and I are pretty good friends. We became pretty cool over the summer when we played together, too, and she's a great player. One of the top point guards in the country. And she'll be a challenge for us. And she's obviously one of the keys to their team, and just like she was in high school when we played her.
So in that respect it won't be too different. But her and I are really cool. And it will be a fun game. It's cool to meet in the Final Four.
Q. What did it take you three personally to get here to the Final Four?
JAYNE APPEL: I think it took a commitment to the team. The first thing is putting the team first and having the right attitude throughout the entire year and coming out every day and working hard.
NNEMKADI OGWUMIKE: And, I mean, personally for me I think just kind of pushing each other. We really expect a lot from each other. We hold each other to a really high standard. So every day practicing and all the games that we played in preparation to this part has really helped us.
And I think we're doing a really good job of letting each other know what our expectations are of each other.
JEANETTE POHLEN: Yeah, I would ditto what they were both saying. A lot of preparation and time and work went into how -- you know, us getting here. Our coaching staff put so much time -- they watched so much film and got us prepared for all the games we needed to win to get here. And we tried to stay as focused as possible to make it here.
Q. Jayne, could you talk about the team's mindset given how you guys got here, and just kind of the -- Tara called it getting a second life. Just is it, oh, wow, we've really got to button up and pay attention to some of the things that were a problem, or is it -- do you feel, well, that's a bad game and put it behind you? How do you deal with the way you got into the tournament?
JAYNE APPEL: I think, you know, if you make it by 40 points, you make it by four seconds, either way you're still here at the Final Four. But we definitely take things from that game and learn from them. We take the opportunities that we have made smart plays in, and we didn't in that game, and learned from them and hopefully apply them in the next game.
And I think we build on that excitement that we gain from that game. We just take the energy and kind of put it into our work and our effort that we're going to put into the Oklahoma game. I think that's kind of the attitude our team has had throughout this trip to the Final Four.
Q. I wonder if you could just talk about the rivalry you guys have had traditionally with Oklahoma throughout the years?
NNEMKADI OGWUMIKE: I mean, I haven't really -- I haven't really played against Oklahoma.
Q. Anything about the previous games?
NNEMKADI OGWUMIKE: Yes, actually we have. Tara and Ros and Amy, I think you said, were the only ones that played Oklahoma -- was it in San Antonio? Yeah, in San Antonio. We even practiced at the gym where they prepared and they told us about how serious everyone was and how focused everyone was in preparing to play Oklahoma.
And when the game time came, everyone was ready, and everything went as they had hoped. Everyone was focused and everyone did a really good job of knowing what they were supposed to do. So she's kind of reminiscing on that and trying to let us know how important this is in terms of preparing for, you know, this level of play.
And I thought that was really special that it was actually here at this same place, playing Oklahoma again.
JAYNE APPEL: I remember actually watching the last game with Oklahoma. I remember how well Stanford looked like they had prepared for the game. I remember watching Brooke Smith do particularly well in the last matchup against them.
Q. This question is for Jeanette. Have you been able to come down off of the high from, you know, your game-winning shot and describe to me kind of some of the feedback you've gotten from that?
JEANETTE POHLEN: Yeah, I definitely think I've been able to come down, just because, you know, after we had our day off, we were right in the getting into all the Oklahoma stuff that we were preparing for.
So it's still exciting to think about, but I think for the most part a lot of us have moved on just because we have so much more to focus on to prepare for our game.
And, like I said, it's been nice having all the support and people saying they're huge fans of our team, and I think it was great for women's basketball as far as viewers. I feel like a lot of people were watching that game that night. And, like I said, it's just been kind of crazy, and there were a lot of big shots made to get to that point in the game as well.
Q. Nneka, how much of a home game do you consider this, since you're in Texas? And have you played here before? And, finally, is your whole family going to be able to get out here?
NNEMKADI OGWUMIKE: I haven't played in the Alamodome, but it's definitely only a few-hour drive from where I live. My whole town is going to be here, so I'm really excited, my high school coach, my AU coach, and my sister's already here for WBCA, so that's special as well.
It definitely does feel like home. It was funny because when we landed I told everyone no one in California knows what a kolache is, and so I told everyone I'm going to buy them one.
A kolache is like a pig in a blanket but people eat it for breakfast. So they're all over the place. I mean, maybe it's just Houston. But I love kolaches and I was asking where they were when I was in California and everyone's like, what is that? Hopefully I'll buy everyone kolaches.
It's real exciting. I have a lot of fans to come to support Stanford, and it's just really nice being able to play here at home. And I'm really excited. And so there's no place to win a national title than here at home. I really want to make that happen.
Q. Jayne, it's been about a month since you initially sprained your ankle. Is it not getting better? Do you simply need rest? After the season is when it's going to get better and right now you're just bucking it up?
JAYNE APPEL: Yes. I think it's hard for any injury to fully heal when you're playing on it. Even though I haven't been practicing. Going at the game tempo and game impact on it, I think it just takes longer time.
Q. Jayne, if I might follow up on that. You seem to have a little trouble in the last game pushing off. Are you any better this week than you were in this past game? Are you at like 85 percent or what?
JAYNE APPEL: It's hard to put a percentile to it. I think it will be as well as it will be for the game. I think my teammates, my coaches have been very supportive of me trying to put me in positions where I can really help the team. In the last game, since Phillips was such a big post presence inside, kind of be the passer for Nneka.
So it's kind of just coming out tomorrow and seeing how it feels. I don't practice on it so I don't really know how it feels until game time.
Q. Tara, you might not like this question because I know you don't want to look ahead, but so much of our focus has been talking about what could happen if you win, and if UConn wins and you get a chance to play them again. So with total respect to the fact you have a game first, how much would each of you like to get another crack at UConn? And, again, with that understanding that you've got to play another team, but is that at all a part of -- looming maybe even in the back of your mind somewhere?
JAYNE APPEL: Not at all. I think we're more focused on what we're doing and whoever we're competing against. We're going to come out with our best game plan and try to play Stanford basketball.
NNEMKADI OGWUMIKE: Jayne couldn't have said it better. We get the question a lot. And the answer never changes. Because I don't think our mindsets ever change. We're always focused about us.
JEANETTE POHLEN: I agree with both of them. I have nothing new to add.
Q. Nneka and Jayne, what are your impressions of Oklahoma when you watch them on tape?
JAYNE APPEL: I think that their guards are tremendously quick. And that we will really need to be focused and play a smart basketball game against them, really come out and be able to execute our offense. I think that will be a big thing for us.
NNEMKADI OGWUMIKE: Yeah, I agree. Their guards are electrifying, and we have to contain them. But also they have Abi Olajuwon and Amanda Thompson who are also very talented players. Olajuwon is really good at finishing around the basket and Amanda Thompson is very talented, has a very talented outside game.
And just every game plan is the same: contain their players and play Stanford basketball. So I think that's what we're going to do, just come out aggressively.
Q. For all three student-athletes, how does this compare with other Final Four experiences?
JAYNE APPEL: I don't think the Final Four experience ever really gets old. It's always exciting to come back. You never know. You never know when you'll come back, and you won't ever come back with the same teammates. It's very exciting for us and we're excited that we get another chance to play.
NNEMKADI OGWUMIKE: And Tara does a good job letting us know. Obviously we know this, but she tells us there's no guarantees. It wasn't guaranteed that we were coming here, obviously due to our last game. But I think we had enough heart to pull it out, and there's no guarantee we're coming back.
So we just have to make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime experience. And I think that everyone's really invested in what they do. And everyone's really focused.
And we're also taking everything in. Everything is so exhilarating and really exciting. Everything is so breathtaking. But at the same time, we can also have fun if we win and play hard, so I think we're trying to make the most of that experience.
JEANETTE POHLEN: As a college player, it's a dream to come to the Final Four, and you can get the opportunity to make it to a championship game. And, like Jayne said, it doesn't get old. I'm still as excited this year as I was my first time coming my freshman year.
It's just a totally different experience than anything else that you'll experience in college basketball. It's the biggest stage you could be on for women's basketball. So it's very exciting.
Q. Jeanette, is this Oklahoma back court the fastest, quickest you've faced this year? And, secondly, in this big arena, is there any problem with depth perception on shots?
JEANETTE POHLEN: For your first question, we've played against some pretty quick guards. I would say that Oklahoma's probably going to be up there. But we've played against Duke. We've played against Tennessee and UConn, and Oregon.
Even in our league we had some pretty quick guards and have had to come up against numerous different presses. And so I would say they're definitely up there. But we've had some experience against some pretty quick guards.
As far as depth perception, we will see how that goes once we go out there and practice. Hopefully it won't be too much. I guess that's why we're going to get out there and get a lot of shots up so we get used to the court and the arena.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.
Q. I read where you described these two teams as kind of regular teams. Nothing -- not in a negative way but nothing really exotic. I think there's a perception out there by some, at least, that this is kind of like the other game, you know, it's not the sexy matchup that the other game is. I just wondered what your thoughts were on that.
COACH VANDERVEER: Well, for me it's the big game. But, you know, one time we were at the Final Four in 1990 and we had just beaten Virginia, actually. And I went out to scout. And it was the first time I coached in a Final Four.
And one of the fans, I heard the fan say, well, that was the JV game. Now is the real game. So if we're the JV game, so be it. We're going to come out and play the best JV game possible.
Q. Can you talk about Ros's development? And from what I've read, that you guys kind of butted heads earlier in her career. But things seem to have worked out. If you could talk about that.
COACH VANDERVEER: Sure. Well, you know what, I think there's always different players that, when they go to college, you know, they have a maturing -- they've got to mature.
And Ros really had to go from that caterpillar to the butterfly, and she really, during that caterpillar stage, she did give me a lot of gray hair and we did butt heads, but she's not the only player who has kind of gone through that process.
So I was ready. And I really worked hard to kind of really communicate with Ros, this is what we need you to do and this is how we need you to do it. And sometimes just as, you know, young adolescent children, sometimes they want to do it their way. That wasn't the way it was going to work for our team.
And this year, I think there's just a light went on with Ros and actually with our whole team. And it's like everyone said, all right, let's try it Tara's way. And Ros this year has had a fabulous year in that she comes to practice and she really, she works hard every day.
She really competes. She stays after and works on her shot. She calls up one of her friends, a guy who is very quick, and had him come to practice. She thought she'd get ready to guard Danielle Robinson. Her quickest friend is coming, she's doing zigzags before we even go to practice.
So she really gets it. That's what's so rewarding about being a coach is to see the growth and development of a young person. And we do tease about all the stuff we've gone through with Ros. And we have so many Ros stories and we're just like, you know, we'll be talking about her for years.
Q. Sherri Coale is the only coach here without a national title on her resume. Can you talk about what that does for a coach? You've won a couple. What does that do for a coach? And is it still paying dividends even if it was years ago?
COACH VANDERVEER: Nothing against Sherri, but I hope she doesn't get it this year (laughter).
She's done a great job. When I referenced even that first Final Four in 1990, I wore a ribbon in 1990 because Oklahoma was dropping their women's program.
So we as coaches, if you go back and look at -- I can look at the shirt I was wearing, it had a ribbon on it. And that was in solidarity for the Oklahoma women's basketball program that they were dropping it. And thank goodness they didn't because look at what she's done and look at what a great program they have.
Having won a couple national championships, I do think that sometimes you might say to yourself, well, okay, if I did it before I can do it again.
But, really, it's all about this year's team, this year's players. Just being here and having a chance. So I don't know that it does help a coach one way or another. But I don't know that it hurts.
Q. Can you talk about Abi Olajuwon a little bit from the film you've looked at. She waited a long time to get her chance to contribute to this team?
COACH VANDERVEER: Right. I saw Sherri Coale yesterday. First of all, what a tremendous job Sherri has done this year with her team. To lose Courtney Paris and Ashley Paris and to lose Whitney Hand, but in some ways some of those teams are the most fun because there isn't the expectation. They have lost some games, but they've battled back in big games. And Abi Olajuwon is a big part of that. For someone -- I believe she lost 30 pounds. That's inspiring.
That shows someone being committed, and she's a very nice player. She has great footwork. I've watched Abi since she was a young player out in California. And I think that's a great success story for her to -- someone could say, well, I didn't play my freshman year much or my sophomore year or junior year, heck with it, I'm just going to go through the motions my senior year.
And I think it's very inspiring that she did the work and she's led their team and is basically the inside presence for them to be here. I need to know her workout and eating routine (laughter).
Q. Coaches at this point love to say it's all about matchups. Is there a matchup that's of particular importance, you think, in your game?
COACH VANDERVEER: I guess I agree that it is a little bit about matchups. I think we match up well, and if there was maybe a key one, I think it will come down to our matchup with Danielle Robinson. And we don't have one person that can guard Danielle Robinson. And if it wasn't that one, maybe it's Amanda Thompson. Those two, I think, are going to be probably the pivotal players.
But our team is -- you know, our team is really dedicated, I think, to doing whatever it takes and we've had different leading scorers in different games. So if we need Jayne, and hopefully she'll be able to play and play well for us, you know, that could be a key matchup inside. Maybe it will be Ros with Stevenson.
One thing about both of our teams, we play about seven or eight people, and there are no secrets. And there are -- I don't think we are exotic teams. We don't have a Brittney Griner on our team. We don't have a Maya Moore on our team. So I think we're both blue-collar teams, kind of just going at it, and it's going to get done in the trenches.
Q. Following up a little bit on the question of winning.
COACH VANDERVEER: I hope I'm here talking about it.
Q. Winning national championships, we hear a lot about Geno and Pat. Of course you were the Olympic coach. You've got those titles from the past. How bad do you want another one this year or anytime in the future?
COACH VANDERVEER: You know, I mean, coming into the Final Four, we took I guess a 10-year hiatus. And being here is really special. And obviously to get here is great. And then once you're here you always want to win it.
And we're going to work as hard as we can to get it done. What Pat has done is phenomenal. She's built an incredible program. What Geno has done is extraordinary.
But I think that at Stanford, with the academic institution that I represent, I'm very proud of what our team has done and what our program has done. And do we want to win a national championship? Yes, all these people would tell you the same thing.
Can we? It's to be seen.
Q. Obviously you guys have had some intriguing matchups with Oklahoma in the past. I wonder if you could talk about the rivalry that happened in the past. And is too much made of that now considering this is a completely new group of players who probably weren't -- they don't have any concept, really, hearing what the girls had to say about it early on.
COACH VANDERVEER: You know, like with Tennessee, we've played them every year. Oklahoma, we went through a stretch where we played. We did have a home and away series and we would end up playing them in the tournament. And there was a little connection with some of the California kids, even like with, you know, the Paris sisters being from the Bay Area.
But we've had -- I think we've had a good rivalry with Oklahoma. And they started out and got us down, and then we kind of came back at 'em. But they have a great program and I think they're a great matchup for us. But we haven't kept it going year in and year out like we have with other programs.
Q. What kind of strategy do you advise your team to do for this upcoming game?
COACH VANDERVEER: Well, our team, one of the things I think that our team has to do is we have to really focus and concentrate. And we watch a lot of videotape. We do a lot of individual kind of talk to people individually about what we expect them to do in the games.
We do a lot of preparation, walkthrough. And you have a week to get ready. And one of the things we count on with our Stanford students is the fact that they will really focus and remember and execute a game plan. So we're hoping for that.
Q. You're the last team to beat Connecticut. I think you're the only team since then to even be ahead of them at halftime. So you know this team. You've had success against this team. Where is that team -- I realize they haven't won anything yet this year, but are they doing anything that's singular or unique we haven't seen in women's basketball before or not? Sort of where do they fit in historically, this team?
COACH VANDERVEER: Well, I don't know that -- they have great players. But I think I just think Geno would -- they have great players. But there are a lot of great players. So I think it's what -- I think it's the culture that he's developed at Connecticut and that this is how you play basketball. This is in terms of your conditioning and your passing. And he has a great program.
And they really are -- they're on a roll. And they started out -- I think, again, just like the great job that Sherri has done, I think Geno has done an equally great job in that they lost Renee Montgomery and you have Doty and Hayes stepping right in and they bring Dixon in.
He knows the game. He teaches the game well. And they're on a phenomenal, I think, extraordinary run. And to keep that focus and be able to do what they're doing is outstanding.
And we did -- I think what our team did was when we played there -- and I hope that in two days we can have the conversation if in fact we win and they win. But our team, if anything is different about this team this year is our team's confidence, and that would come in handy.
Q. You've talked a little bit about Stevenson and Robinson. Is Ros going to start guarding -- start the game on Robinson and could you talk a little bit more about those two guards for Oklahoma and what makes them great?
COACH VANDERVEER: Well, Ros will guard Robinson and Ros will guard Stevenson. If cloning was in, we'd have two Ros's out there. But I'm not sure where we'll start her or who she'll be on in the beginning of the game. Right now we're debating it. But Jeanette is a very good defender for us, too.
But Ros, she's going to have to play really well. And I think that she's playing with a lot of confidence. She is kind of a lockdown defender. So I'm not sure which one we'll have her guarding right now.
Did I answer it all right for you?
Q. Maybe a little bit more about the two Oklahoma guards.
COACH VANDERVEER: Well, Danielle Robinson is -- she is an absolute -- turns into an afterburner's jet. She just goes from end to end as fast as anyone. She has such incredible speed and quickness, and every time you look at her she's smiling and laughing. She brings great energy to their team.
And the two of them together just play so well together. Stevenson is a recipient of a lot of her passes. Stevenson to me is more of a 3-point shooter, pure shooter, where Robinson is more of a slasher. And I think for our team, we just -- there's not one person on our team who can stop them; we have to play team defense against them. We're going to have to have people really focused on helping, not just one-on-one Ros against Robinson or Jeanette against Robinson or Stevenson.
So they're really fun to watch when you're a spectator but really tough to get ready for as a coach.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
End of FastScripts