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March 26, 2011
THE MODERATOR: Coach, welcome. Congratulations on your season, and your thoughts about this tournament.
COACH BLAIR: Glad to be back home. I think we've earned our way here by the schedule that we played this year. I think our strength of schedule's in the top 5, which it's been for the last three years. And we've been a road team. And a lot of people have asked, are you excited about being at Dallas?
We're doing this for a lot of reasons. We've traveled all over the country, every coast, everywhere from Duke to New York, to California, to Cancun.
We wanted to stay closer to home, and that was the number one thing. It didn't matter if Baylor was there or Texas was there. It didn't matter. We wanted to be in the Dallas region, to be able to bring kids back home and make it a little bit easier for our fans to be able to come.
So we're excited to be here. To get to the Final Four you're going to have to be two very, very good teams anyway, so it doesn't matter. Anybody that's left in this thing right now, they're all capable of getting to Final Four.
As you've seen in the men's thing, every time you think you've got it figured out, you do not have it figured out. And that's the way it should be in the women's game as well. Even though there's been six of us that have stayed at the top the whole year and that has not changed one iota from day one to now, I think there's 16 teams that have a chance to get to the Final Four and I think we're one of them.
I'll open it up for questions. By the way, I took my team to Brooklyn's last night. It's a Jazz restaurant club over here that one of my former players, Pam Green, has another restaurant down the street. She played back when it was six-on-six ball, and she was our Sydney Carter type. She was a guard on that team that won state. The last game ever played on six-on-six ball was 1978, where we won state.
And a lot of my South Oak Cliff girls all came over, and, gosh, did I feel old. Most of them are a little bit over 50 now and they all have two or three kids, they all are very successful, and it really made me feel good to come back and see my kids. Because that was the best job I ever had, was Dallas South Oak Cliff High School, because it gave me the confidence to do what I'm doing now and it started inner-city Dallas playing basketball back in '73, '74, where we started extramurals, and then it went on to UIL in '75, '76.
But it's good to be back home. I'll open it up for questions.
Q. Gary, could you just talk about your all-Sydney back court and kind of the idea you have two point guards back there playing alongside each other. It's not really the fine shooting guard point guard role for you, and how that evolved and how that worked for you.
COACH BLAIR: It just works out. We recruited Carter as a combo guard from DeSoto High School that could play both ways. She's been our best defensive player, has been for a couple of years, and she can relieve Colson at the point guard.
But she's not really what I really like as a true point guard. And I'm hoping next year with the freshmen coming in and with Pratcher being a sophomore that they can handle the point guard position.
I do not want to take anything away from Carter thinking about how to stop the other team's best player on the perimeter. And she has that excitement anywhere from 6'1" on down to 5'6", which she is. And she will always be on the other team's best perimeter player.
Colson is your creator, instant offense. She's very, very good in the transition game. The transition game works as long as your defense works. You do not want to go down there and play "hope they miss" defense; you want to go down there and play "make them miss" defense, MTM.
And then get into the lanes and let's go with the ball, and she's very good at creating offense that way.
But the two Sydneys, I don't know if I'll ever have another pair like them again. I'm just very fortunate that they're not the same year, so I will always have the transition of replacing one, then the other.
Somebody asked me the other day, Which one can you not afford to lose? And I can't afford to lose either one because you win with point guard play, but you win with Sydney Carter, never takes a play off in practice or in games ever. She's there every possession.
And that's something that you cannot usually find in women's ball or men's ball, a kid that never takes a play off. And that's what Carter does for us.
Q. With everything that Danielle's done this season, is there anything that you're looking for in this tournament to maybe take it up a notch? Is there anything you've talked to her about?
COACH BLAIR: It's not the points; it's she draws so much attention to her. And what we've got to do is Georgia's going to double or they're going to play some jump defense. They're very good with their zone defenses that they play, and they play a couple of different ones.
Danielle has to find the balance between inside and outside scoring, and not just sit there and say I'm going to shoot the 3 ball all the time or shoot it on transition. Have your mid-range game, get to the free-throw line like she's been doing -- she's 14 out of 14 in two games so far -- and give us that balance.
Georgia does not have a lot of depth, particularly at the post position. I think that's probably why Andy's played more zone than he normally does this year.
Well, you've got to attack Danielle and not settle with a jump shot. The jump shot's not going to get anybody into foul trouble, but her power moves will. And then when they start doubling down there, she's got to find the extra girl, the cutter to the basket, and then we've got to do a better job of making those driving layups, either on the half court or on -- they're very -- Georgia is very long and athletic.
The SEC is known for defense. I played in it ten years. It's known for defense first. Whether it's football or basketball. They contest bodies up in the air. They're very good. They play pressure ball.
And you better be ready to be able to attack on offense, because if you play soft at all, you're going to be a one and out going the other way.
And that's what we cannot afford to do. We've got to be able to break them down off of the bounce and get to the hole a lot, because their defense is so fast and it recovers so well.
So I imagine Danielle, we'll place her all over the floor. We'll place her at trailer. We'll play her at the high post when we run our 1-3-1 zone offense, and then we run a lot of stuff down there for her low.
But I keep inventing plays for her. And she's fun. Because I've been here five straight years sitting up here without an inside presence. And now with Danielle, you can draw up a lot of things. And generally the ball's in her hands. She usually makes me look pretty good.
Q. You and Andy obviously have a long relationship. Is there anything you can draw from knowing him so long and going up against him that will help you here?
COACH BLAIR: Well, the number one thing, we used to go to Sandestin all the time for the SEC meetings. My daughter used to baby-sit his kids. Well, right behind you is my grandson back there. That's Logan. Logan, raise your hand back there.
Now, my kids are a little bit older now. His kids are now 24 and 21. I want to see if Andy can now baby-sit my grandkids. And then we'll keep -- we keep playing this game out, and we'll just keep on going.
I mean, it's a moment in time. Landers is one of the -- might be the best coach in the country that has not won a national championship yet. He's been there five times. He should have won it in '85. He'll probably tell you a couple more teams, too, but in '85 by far he had the best team. And he lost it when Teresa Edwards fouled out with about 9 or 10 to go.
What can I learn also by Andy? I've got to change a play of mine. I've got a play I call Georgia that I stole from him. And then we're working out at SMU this morning, and I said here's a play that he beat me on a last-second shot on a 3-point shot. Here's one that he beat me playing in Athens. Vic wasn't with me then or Kelly, and I said this is how it works, and it still works.
So I've copied a lot of stuff from him. I don't know if he's copied a lot of stuff from me. But when we all started, he was the best recruiter in the country for a head coach. There was nobody that outworked Andy Landers during the summer. He was the first coach to have a cell phone. Okay. I was probably the last.
But he was the absolutely first person to have that cell phone. And he used to just wear it out. And he was that good of a recruiter. And he learned from coaches by how they handled themselves. Just played Vivian Stringer, classy lady. Andy Landers, look who is on the other side, Matt and Kim. You learn by playing great people. Then great people turn into great coaches. That's what Landers is.
Q. How do you handle Phillips and what's your thoughts guarding her going into the game?
COACH BLAIR: I think she's a lot more athletic than what we faced at Rutgers, with Oliver and Lee. And they attack you a lot more. In one way you want to say what's the difference between Rutgers and them? They run more stuff and they attack the basket more. Rutgers was trying to run -- they went to a smaller lineup and they were trying to run a five-out offense, which fit in with us very well.
But in the SEC there's always a dominant post player. And Phillips is very good. She's 10 1/2 rebounds a ballgame. What we've got to do is make sure Danielle can stay out of foul trouble guarding her or Adaora, whoever we put on her. And I think Phillips is very good.
But they've got a team you cannot worry about Phillips; you've got five kids averaging between 12 1/2 and 7 1/2, and you say, well, that's not a -- one gigantic score. You worry about Georgia as a whole instead of trying to stop one individual like at Rutgers. We went in trying to stop April Sykes. We held her to 14 in the first half, 21 overall. But we shut down the rest of them.
And with Georgia, they're all capable of scoring. But Phillips, that will probably be our main concern. But Hassell is very good on the other side as well. Then when they bring in 6'3" off the bench, we have matchup problems there. She'll be playing the 3 position. And they're just very long.
We're going to have to take care of the basketball particularly on the half court better, just because of their speed. They run a little I formation, 2-3 zone. So the girl that comes out goes out for the first pass then she takes the second pas on the other side. Now, that's hard to do.
Our men's practice team even had a hard time doing it, getting from one side to the other, but they've got a kid that can do it. And then it leaves their three inside people at home.
Q. How do you feel like your back court matches up against theirs?
COACH BLAIR: I think it's very similar. We're probably a little bit smaller, not much. We're 5'8", 5'6". And then both of us are good in transition. We have to run, because, like with Andy, when he's averaging 12 through 7, he's not trying to get it all off the half court offense. He's trying to get some off of transition. Transition starts with your defense. That's where we're very good, and that's where he's very good.
I think he's only averaging or giving up 58 points a game. That's similar to what we're doing, but he's only averaging 61 to 64, something in that, because that's the style of ball that he plays. He is going to run so much stuff that their screens are good. They really nail you on all of that stuff that they run.
And what we're going to have to do is be aware -- we're going to have to get through screens. Okay. Not be switching screens all the time. We're going to have to find a way to get over screens instead of them setting a good legal screen, which they do.
And then the thing that worries me most about Georgia is how they're going to hit the offensive boards. And I lived in the SEC for 10 years. And when I was at Arkansas, that was the number one thing that hurt us more than anything was the offensive boards that the SEC can bring. It wasn't the first shot. It was always the second and third shot, particularly when you play a Tennessee or a Georgia.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
We're joined by our student-athletes Danielle Adams, Tyra White and Sydney Carter. Questions?
Q. Danielle, can you talk about what the Sydneys have meant to you and how they help you on the floor and what you're able to do?
DANIELLE ADAMS: They're amazing. Carter is the defensive monster. She gets in them. And Colson is our energy player. When she gets into transition, you've got to find a way to run with her somehow.
But these two are great. They're both great on and off the court. Both hilarious off the court. But they've been a great thing, I mean, a great part of this team. I enjoy playing with them, and I'm going to miss playing with them.
Q. Sydney, two-part question. One, just talk about the dynamic in the back court there, because you're kind of a combo guard and Colson is kind of a true point guard, talk about how that works. And the second part, just the recruiting process, obviously a lot has been made of the DeSoto pipeline in football. Were you aware of that when you were going through the recruiting process? Do you know any of those guys?
SYDNEY CARTER: First question, well, I just think that it helps us out a lot that we both have played the point guard position, because I just moved to the 2 this year.
But I think it makes her job a little bit easier knowing that I always get open for her anytime we need to get into an offense or anything like that, because I know what it's like for her to be pressured up there while she's dribbling the ball. And another thing it gives us an advantage, because we have two ball handlers up there.
And so I think it's just an added addition that, you know, I'm able to shoot the ball as well as I do. So I just think that it makes it a lot easier, makes us a lot faster even though we're small but puts some quickness and ball handling out there and some shooting as well.
And recruiting, of course, I knew all those guys. I graduated with two, and the other two before, one of them is dating my sister and the other one was a real good friend of mine. So I knew them all. Von Miller. He's a part of the family now.
Q. Danielle, can you talk about coming from junior college and all the things you went through and now you're here at the Sweet 16 and kind of what that means to you after your kind of winding past to get here?
DANIELLE ADAMS: I mean, it was tough. I mean, I went to junior college right out of high school. I mean, it was a lot of great players in junior college, but it wasn't nothing like Division I. So when I came here, it was kind of hard for me. But my teammates are there to just push me every day in practice and in the extra conditioning, they push me, and I just allow myself to be pushed because I knew I could be the great player that I am now.
And just to be here in the Sweet 16 is an honor to me. I've never been here before. This is my first time. So, I mean, just to be here with this group is amazing, and it's just an honor, and hopefully we can get further and further.
Q. Danielle first and then Tyra, Coach talked about the lack of a post presence and how you maybe need to find more balance in the inside/outside scoring. Could you talk about that and how I guess you've overcome it throughout the season?
DANIELLE ADAMS: I mean, well, I'm a post player that can take it inside or out. And many post players can't do that. So I think I have an advantage. But, I mean, I do the outside route more than I do the inside.
But I try to do the inside route more. That's what Coach Blair wants, and that's what I'm most successful at. So going inside is just what it's going to be throughout the tournament.
TYRA WHITE: I think Danielle brings a great presence to us. She can take it inside/outside, like she said. Through my four years since I've been here we never really had a post that was really a scoring threat so we always looked to our wings. So I think with Danielle it helps -- I know it helps me out tremendous, a lot, just getting me open to score without having so much pressure on me.
Q. Sydney, what do you think about Georgia's back court, and could you just kind of size up the matchup, the two Sydneys versus the Georgia back court?
SYDNEY CARTER: Well, I just think quick is about to meet quick in this game. You know, they have -- I think the point guard, just watching a little bit on her, I think I'm going to have a tough matchup, because she can kind of pull up off the dime. And I think that she does a really good job of running her team, and I think their guards do a great job of attacking, and I just think that they kind of play the same style we play.
And it's kind of -- it's going to be a battle. It's going to be hit to hit. And, like I said, quick's going to meet quick, and I think it's going to be a matter of who is tougher than who.
Q. Sydney and Tyra, just talk about how much you've heard Coach Blair this past week talk about Georgia and keeping Georgia on your mind and not looking ahead to a potential championship meeting with perhaps Baylor for the fourth time and how you guys are focusing on that?
SYDNEY CARTER: I think he definitely started saying that right after we beat Rutgers. We've definitely been hearing it a lot. But I just think that our team, it's not too hard for us to do because we all have the same goal in mind and we all have the same focus to make sure we're not looking ahead.
And of course everybody wants to get to that game, but we understand from our maturity that we have to get through one game before we get to that other, and so do they. So I don't think it's a hard task for us to do to forget about what game is after this one.
And we're just doing our best to make sure we're not underachieving and that we're respecting the team that we have to play, and that's just kind of the approach we're taking for it.
TYRA WHITE: We don't want to underestimate Georgia. Coach Blair talks about it every day, like Sydney said he started talking about it after we played Rutgers. We all want to get to that game again, but unfortunately we have to take it game by game. And like my sophomore year we overlooked trying to get to another opponent and we didn't really get there. So we learned from it, matured and we just want to take it game by game.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, ladies.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports