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April 2, 2011
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Texas A&M student-athletes Sydney Carter, Danielle Adams and Sydney Colson, and Coach Gary Blair. We'll begin with an opening statement from Coach Blair.
COACH BLAIR: Texas A&M, we say howdy. You're supposed to say howdy back. And most of y'all are just getting up, I understand. Sportswriters work in the afternoon and at night.
So we appreciate -- the media coverage has been great. I look back to 1992 when I was at Louisiana Tech and the first NCAA Final Four was at Norfolk, Virginia. This was about the total number of media that covered the whole tournament. Look at us today. It's been very special to see the growth of women's basketball, seeing the media coverage.
There was excellence on the court back in 1980 and '81 and '82, but I think we've taken the game to the next level, with the help of the media, with the help of television, and with the help of some pretty doggone good coaching along the way.
This team has earned its way here. We've done it the hard way. Our strength of schedule is No. 3 or 4 in the country. We play in the Big 12, which we consider the best conference in the country. And I know everybody has arguments for their own, but top to bottom, what we've done in our RPI over the last five or six years has justified how good our league is top to bottom.
I think we're going to present a little bit different style than the other three teams that are playing. All of us have good offensive players that can create their own shots.
We can all run the floor. We can all play defense. But we try to play pressure defense 94 feet, sometimes we'll back it off to the half court. But when you come down, we want it to be hard for you to run your offense.
We're not going to play hope-you-miss defense. We're going to hopefully play make-you-miss. And that's a little bit of the difference. We're not in a hurry to get to the offensive end; we're in a hurry to stop you on the defensive end and let's get down the court and play.
I'm proud of the young ladies here, the two Sydneys, they've sort of been the face of Texas A&M for the last three or four years, both on and off the court, in the classrooms, everywhere. These kids are more recognized around College Station than this old man ever will be.
Danielle Adams we've only had for really about 18 months, because she was a Junior College All-American. She's done what it's taken to be able to play our style of ball. And she could have gone to other schools that played more of a half court game. But this style of ball that we're playing, I think it's going to get her ready for the next level.
And she's one of the most versatile players I've ever had the opportunity to coach. Questions?
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Both Sydneys, just jumping off to what Gary said about the pressure defense, in watching Stanford, which many people perceive the vulnerability is the guard, what do you think you guys will be able to do to exploit them?
SYDNEY CARTER: Speaking on my end, I think both me and Sydney are really good on making the point guard on the opposing team uncomfortable and making them try to run a high-low offense, making sure that they're not making any of those entry passes. So if Sydney is on the ball, I'm definitely denying the wings, and vice versa.
I think we'll be pretty successful in making them uncomfortable, making them run something they don't really want to run, because it's just the style of defense we play. So hopefully we can do that.
SYDNEY COLSON: Pretty much what Syd said, we like to get up and pressure people. That's a big part of where we get our energy from and where we get a lot of momentum from, on the defensive end.
So when Syd and I are clicking and playing a point guard hard or taking away passes on the wing and making the point guard do something that they don't want to do, we know we're doing our job and we're getting steals and getting out in transition. That's what we really enjoy doing, and it's easy points. So that's why we work so hard on defense, just to try to convert on the other end.
Q. Both Sydneys, your situation last week against Baylor is precisely the one Notre Dame faces against Connecticut. And I'm wondering how does an athlete put aside the frustration of losing continually to a team to find the resource to come back and beat them on the big stage.
SYDNEY COLSON: A big part for us was just coming together and having the goal in mind to go out there and play hard and get a win. You have to believe, first of all, because I think that when you lose three games in a row, it can definitely take a toll on a team and make you think that you're not capable.
I think that in our case we realized that they were all one-possession games that we were losing by. It was just the fact that we would go for spurts without scoring in some games. We would stop doing what we were doing on defense and what had been working for the whole game. So we knew it was a matter of possessions that was really stopping us from winning and getting over that hump to get the win.
So we came out and we played 40 minutes hard from beginning to finish, and the regional final and we came out victorious.
I think you just have to have the mindset that you're able to win.
SYDNEY CARTER: I definitely think that you use those last couple losses as fuel. You use them as learning expenses and not dwell on past losses you had against that team.
But I think it also helps that you have something so big on the line. Notre Dame and UConn playing for a spot in the national championship game. And I think that puts a little sense of urgency into each team to kind of battle it out again and see who comes out as the aggressor and see who comes out and tries to outsmart or out-tough the other team.
So I think it definitely helps that there's something on the line that's big and that is everybody's ultimate goal and to use it as a learning experience and go from there. And you gotta have that confidence and that focus and that attitude to go in there and say y'all beat us this time but there's more on the line so we're going to get it done this time.
Q. Danielle, the Stanford team likes to pound the ball down low to the Ogwumike sisters. How will you and your teammates try to counter that and what do you think of them as players?
DANIELLE ADAMS: Well, we played against tough post players in the Big 12. Brittney Griner, the girl from Oklahoma. I've played against many great post players. It's nothing changed, just doing great on my technique and being aggressive.
Q. Sydney Colson, just wanted to ask: I watched the video on the A&M Athletics website of you guys coming into Indianapolis the other day. The team seemed to be very upbeat. Loose. Confident. Is that a correct assessment? And just how do you feel about the mood of the team right now?
SYDNEY COLSON: You know, after our win we were really excited. But we brought it back down to reality when we got to College Station and focusing on the next opponent. That's what you have to do.
Of course you're happy to be at this point. This is a first time for us, in Texas A&M history, that we've made it to the Final Four. But we kind of put the excitement to the side. We don't want to make it seem like we weren't expecting to be here, because from the beginning of our season we were confident that we were capable of making it to this point. We knew it was a matter of time and it was really up to us working hard throughout the year, not giving in when adversity hit. And I'm proud that we did that.
We were strong mentally and physically throughout this entire season, and we're happy to be at the point that we're at right now.
Q. Sydney Carter, what's your mindset when you -- a lot of times you will guard the opponent's best perimeter player. And a lot of times that player is much taller than you. So what's your mindset when you have to guard someone who is 6', 6'1"?
SYDNEY CARTER: I just go into that game, especially if they're taller -- like you said, most of the time they are. I try to go into that mindset that I've got to play taller and I've got to be smarter than that person.
And I'm pretty defensive-minded. I've got to make sure I'm playing with that passion and that intensity that Coach Schaefer coaches me with and make sure it definitely has to rub off on me because that's what I'm in the game to do. I'm in there to guard the best player.
So I have to make sure that I'm doing my part playing post defense 30 feet from the basket, helping the post players out and making sure that, you know, I'm doing my part on the defensive end so that my man's not getting those easy looks maybe that they're used to getting.
So I guess I come in there with the mindset that I have to be the aggressor on the defensive end. Especially if they're an aggressive offensive player, I've got to outdo them on the defensive end. I just have to make sure I bring that physicalness to every single game.
Q. Both Sydneys, could you talk about what it is to play with Danielle on and off the court?
SYDNEY COLSON: She doesn't bring anything. She's really a detriment to our team. I'm just kidding (laughter).
You all have seen her play. She just makes the game fun and easy for us. In the past A&M hasn't always had post players that were really efficient scorers or scored a lot of points in games. And Danielle brought that to our team.
She's been a tremendous asset. She can step out and shoot the 3. She has a mid-range game. She can bang it down low and get and ones and excellent rebounder.
She brings physicality to our team and she's an excellent second line of defense.
If people get by us on the defensive end, she's there to take the charge a lot of the time. And she's just a really heady player, and she knows the game of basketball well.
So it's been fun playing with her. But we're not done.
SYDNEY CARTER: I'd definitely say she's one of the best post passers I've played with. She's one of the best finishers, and she's so unselfish. And like Syd said, she makes it really easy for us to play with her out there on the perimeter.
It's so easy to just pass it in there and just say, Danielle, go finish, because most of the time she's pretty accurate with finishing.
But, like I said, she's really unselfish. If she sees that two people are guarding her, she knows that one person is open and she's yelling at us to pass it to that person.
I like the fact she's an All-American, but I think what helps with that is that she is unselfish. And she just makes it really easy for us. She's a great helper on the defensive end, and that really helps us out a lot, that she plays team defense as well. So I think she's just an all-around team player.
DANIELLE ADAMS: Thank you guys.
SYDNEY CARTER: I love you. (Laughter).
Q. What is your most successful achievement in your basketball career?
SYDNEY COLSON: I think making it to this point has been a moment that I won't forget, obviously, just because this is the first time it's happened for us. And the team that I was on my freshman year we made it to the Elite Eight, but I didn't really play a lot that year. I got minutes every now and then, but it was awesome to watch the girls that were juniors and seniors on that team.
They showed us how to lead, and they showed us how to work hard and how to work for a goal that you really believe that you could achieve.
DANIELLE ADAMS: Mine is just playing with these girls, and just getting to the point, getting to this point with them. And just being able to have fun on and off the court. Sydney Colson, the jokester. And then there's Carter.
But just getting here with them and being able to help my team get here at this point and just being an asset to this team.
SYDNEY CARTER: I'd have to say just choosing to come to A&M as a whole. I think that I've got to experience so much with the girls that I've played with.
And just as much success as we've had. And I started out not even wanting to play at all when Coach Blair came and gave me a home visit and he sold basketball to me instead of the actual school. So I think that really helped me out.
But just coming here has just been -- I've been so blessed to have this opportunity with the people that I've had and everything that I've gotten to experience with travel and the success we've had as a basketball team. So I definitely don't know where I'd be without the experiences I've had.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.
Q. What do you as a coach tell your team in a locker room for a game like you played against Baylor last week? How do you approach their mindset, make them believe that they could overcome the three defeats and win that game?
COACH BLAIR: The first thing I told them is when we got off the bus right there at American Airlines Center, I stood up and told them: Do not get off of this bus unless you expect to win. Want tos and could haves and should haves, that's not going to cut it at this level.
If you really expect to win, I mean, that is just something that you have to have the mindset. Sydney Carter was the first one that jumped up.
And I just believe these kids -- I've been here before. I've always been the Cinderella, the trendy team, or back at Louisiana Tech, we were the best team for that era right there, from '80 to '85, '86. And it's a different mindset.
But I think when I look at the Hall of Fame coaches that I'm going against, with Tara and Geno and Muffet, they've all accomplished that.
It is not for Gary Blair to accomplish it, because I think I've had a pretty good career. But to be measured, Texas A&M, which used to be just called a football school, y'all realize that in 20 sports we're in the top 10 right now? Top 10 in those sports.
And used to be you would hear about football or you would hear about our band. But now all of a sudden we're a complete university. Sort of like what the Ohio States and Stanfords are doing out there and some other schools. Florida's winning in all sports.
And I'm proud of that from the university, because we're probably going to win another track championship or two.
The equestrian will win Big 12 this weekend today. And our baseball team, our golf team, that's what's so fun.
The e-mails that I've gotten or the calls from my coaching colleagues across the nation, that's great. But the ones I've gotten from the people at the university has been special. Texas A&M. I hope I answered your question.
Let me throw something on this one while I'm thinking of it. Did you hear Danielle? This morning at 9:00 she just got the biggest award that can ever be given out, State Farm All-American, and she talked about playing with her teammates.
That was her number one accomplishment. Playing with her teammates and just having fun. That's what that kid's all about. You saw ten of the greatest players, the greatest players in the game today. And again she deflected that to her teammates that she's with now.
And she came off the bench last year. That's how dumb I was. She came off the bench last year because we wanted that offense off the bench. And Carter came off the bench last year. So that's two pretty good players right there.
Q. I'd like to ask you two questions knowing that it might take up the rest of your time up there, but do you feel like you guys have put the Baylor win behind you and not carrying it over here, particularly? And also the two Stanford sisters, are they as tough to stop as they are to pronounce their names?
COACH BLAIR: Sure. Just think about it. Every time I flew out recruiting, I drove by their high school, which is 45 minutes. And we recruited them hard. We lost them, fair and square, to Stanford, a great academic school, a great basketball school.
And we lost them. But I thought about them every day since I've been at A&M, because that's where I would fly out of Houston. And every day I would look at that school and say, hey, but we're winning with the kids that chose us.
And after I would pass Cy-Fair High School I would stop at Five Guys restaurant and get a big ol' cheeseburger and it didn't matter by then.
But what those two sisters bring is so much energy. I think that's the difference back when Stanford was winning in '90 and '92, whatever the two years they were doing it, it was with great precision, with Azzi and great point guard, and later on in the 2000s with Wiggins and everything, but they've never had anything like those two sisters.
And they're very special. They're great students. They're great young ladies, and they just kill you on the boards. They just constantly move without the ball. And that's what a basketball coach looks for, is somebody that can do something when they do not have the ball.
And that's what makes them very efficient. Now, what are we going to do with them? Try first to keep them off the boards. We've got enough other problems with Pohlen and Pedersen and the rest of them.
They're a complete team. This will be the most complete team that we've played this year, and we've played Duke also. And we've played Rutgers and Georgia and all of them, and Baylor.
But this is a complete team that has no weaknesses, all the way from the coaching staff on down. The only thing we've got better than them, I like my Yell Leaders a lot better than that tree that walks around like that.
But it's going to be a great game.
Q. Regarding Danielle's development, both you and she have talked about her remarkable weight loss. How has she done it? And what has it meant to her development as a player?
COACH BLAIR: I think the quickness -- in junior college, junior college is about transition and about creating offense off the bounce. It's not about defense.
It's about doing the things, and it's about getting yourself academically sound so you can be able to compete in the classroom, not just on the court.
And that's hard. Nobody ever thinks about that. Those kids are coming from junior college now have to go against those kids that have got the 26 to 32 ACTs. And now all of a sudden emotionally can they compete in the classroom, are they going to fit in. Are they going to be able to -- our style.
We just got finished going to the Elite Eight without her. And so she said, Hey, I want to come make a difference at A&M. But I want you to make a difference with your style of play, how we play defense.
We put her all over the court on offense. I've run so many plays. I'm one of those maverick coaches, I'm not going to have a pretty triangle offense. I'm not going to run the flex. I'm not going to run a pure motion. I run a whole lot of stuff.
I sit up at night with a legal pad like you've got and watch those West Coast games from about 11:00 to 1:00 a.m., writing down different things that will fit in our offense.
So I'm a set coach, and we have a lot of options off of it. And that's just how we play. Now, people are going to play zone. I've got to be a little more predictable with our 1-3-1 offense or triple post offense. Whatever it takes to score.
But we want to attack. If we get passive against the zone and you see us out there and we've got four people outside the 3-point line, we're in trouble. We have got to get inside and make things happen.
And that's what Colson can do for us.
Q. During the course of a long career, I'm sure you've developed relationships with many interesting and successful people, both in the women's game and men's game. Can you talk about some of the people who had an impact on you career, professionally, and just some of the special relationships you've come across over the years?
COACH BLAIR: Leon Barmore, for one. That's a start. I was with him five years at Louisiana Tech, now I'm competing against him. He's got the best job in America now.
He works six months a year. He doesn't have to recruit. All he does is come in and help Kim. And the day they win or lose he's back in Rustin playing golf. That's a great job. Just think if we could all have that type.
Go back to Sue Donohoe, she was our manager at Louisiana Tech. She's running this whole damn tournament. She runs women's basketball. She was my assistant coach at Stephen F. Austin. Then she came to Arkansas with me for a year before she went into administration.
To be able to see women choose the correct side of athletics -- some women are better suited to go into the administration part, and they're so much better than men in a lot of those areas, because they pay attention to details.
And then to see the women that stay in the coaching, studying under Pat Summitt, I was a high school coach when I first met her, and just be able -- I studied by far the intensity she has.
When Geno and I both got head jobs the same year in 1985, he was in Virginia and I was at Louisiana Tech. And look at the different stops that we've made along the way. And he's been able to just take Connecticut to that next, next level. He's an icon up there. He's as important to that state as Jim Calhoun is. And a guy that you never heard of, Bob Schneider, coached at West Texas State and Canyon High School.
Those are the people that shaped my life, and you just want to be thankful and appreciative, because it doesn't happen. It doesn't happen all the time.
It's just a good ride. I'm enjoying it. I'm not looking to retire. I'm not looking to be as old as Joe Paterno and keep coaching too, but I'll give it a hell of a ride until then, and then I'll be on that golf course and I will beat Barmore on the golf course, I think.
Q. Gary, sometimes, when you get to this point, it can be matchups can make the difference. And it appears that you guys just have the kind of team, the kind of style that is a great matchup against Stanford. Can you just talk about the matchup? And I know you've addressed part of this, but were you glad in a way that you got Stanford, like, hey, this is something that we can exploit?
COACH BLAIR: You know, it's sort of funny -- when I was at Arkansas, I was always on the bubble. I was a bubble team. I could figure out the bracket as well as the committee could.
And I got 62 out of 64 this year. That's a down year for me. Usually it's 63. I've never gotten 64 yet. They just don't listen to me.
But I like the bracket. I thought we possibly could go west again. Okay? To tell you the truth, I was worried about Tennessee, because I thought at the time Tennessee was playing tremendous basketball going in. It didn't bother me going to the Dallas Region, because I wanted to be able to bring our fans -- and we're still trying to grow the sport at A&M. They've got spring football still going on there at the same time we've got this going on. And they're getting a lot of hits on that.
I have to grow my sports and get the crowd to come to Final Fours and to regionals, and to do that I needed to be in Dallas. And I guarantee you, our season tickets will go sky high next year. Not just because we're here, but we're educating fans that there is another sport. You do not always have to wait for football or men's basketball.
Stanford, I just admire their execution. I saw them when they were bad when they played DePaul, without Pedersen, and they were not really playing Chiney as much. I know what the sisters can do. And I know what Pohlen has done as a point guard.
A lot of times we were able to handle the situation -- with Baylor we had a senior point guard going against a great freshman point guard. And so sometimes that's the difference. Seniors win for you. Seniors take it to that next level.
And while I'm thinking of it, sir, your Giants beat my Rangers, but I grew up a Giants fan. I'm a Willie Mays fan, and if you can get me an autographed ball or his rookie card there, you and I will have dinner and I'll be your fan for life. But Willie Mays and Whitey Ford. Whitey Ford was my other one. So that's want I really need. And then get Larry Bird to come to the ballgame tomorrow night. Hey, what a great time I would have.
Q. Can I get you something from Connecticut?
COACH BLAIR: Geno's paycheck. His restaurants. His summer camps, everything (laughter). I mean, what does Geno not have?
Q. I don't know. I haven't been able to figure it out.
COACH BLAIR: I'm just another pretty face up here. And Geno's got it all.
Q. Speaking of him --
COACH BLAIR: And as Geno says, he's got Maya Moore.
Q. We thought for a while this year that Connecticut was going to play Texas A&M next year in St. Thomas, but I guess that's not going to happen. Have you and Geno had any discussions about putting together a series in the future and can you tell us about that?
COACH BLAIR: We've tried to get series going with Stanford. We'd love to play Tennessee. We'd love to play Connecticut. We are trying to work on the Jimmy V game which they're hosting next year.
And ESPN's working hard. But we have got to get a Big Ten team to change or else we cannot go to the game. Last year we got a change a date where we could play Duke in the Jimmy V. But I'm going to go Connecticut as long as Geno comes back and plays at our place, and they will. And they're playing Baylor this year, and it will be a great series because we're not going away. Danielle Adams graduates, Sydney graduates. We've got great replacements coming in. I think that's what happens when you get to this level. You don't become just the one-and-out team.
That's why I'm loving coaching right now, because we've got a great transfer coming in in Kelsey Bone, we've got a great freshman point guard coming in. And when you've got a Sydney Carter playing defense for you every day and just make practice fun, that's what you want to do.
Geno's had it for a long time, and he's going to continue to have it, because I think players today, they want to go to school to win championships. When you look at the men, they're renting players. They're renting players.
The one and outs, they're there for one year. That's what the beauty of the women's game is. Thank heavens there's not enough money in the women's game or some smart-ass lawyer is going to come in and say, Well, Tiger could play at 18; the women should be able to play, the Brittney Griners and the Maya Moores.
But there's not enough money for the lawyers to take over and say it's worth their while. Our kids are playing four years, they're graduating. I think I heard a stat that 83 percent of the women's basketball players nationwide are getting their degrees. That's pretty doggone good. And there's probably some of you out in the audience that played women's basketball that are now holding very good jobs.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
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