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March 16, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, INDIANA
THE MODERATOR:¬† We'd like to welcome the Mid‑American Conference champions Eastern Michigan University.¬† We'd like to welcome AnnMarie Gilbert, the head coach from Eastern Michigan, as well as players Tavelyn James and Paige Redditt.
Questions for Coach or players.
Q.¬† Coach, a couple of years ago you were here in the NIT.¬† Does this bring back some memories, other than I guess the final outcome, familiar place for you guys?
COACH GILBERT:¬† It's a very familiar place for us.¬† I'm really excited to be back.¬† It's a great place to play.¬† We fared pretty well in that game with the exception of the final outcome.¬† We led for most of that game.¬† And then there was a Brittany Rayburn who hit a couple of shots on us late.¬† Can't forget Brittany Rayburn.
But it certainly brings back great memories.¬† I used to coach in the Big Ten as well.¬† And I'm certainly happy to showcase these fine student‑athletes, because they are really a big part of the reason why we're here.
Q.¬† Tavelyn and Paige, if each of you could talk about being in the NCAA Tournament at this stage of your career and just how much have you guys enjoyed the attention and the moments that have come with something like this?
TAVELYN JAMES:¬† We never experienced anything like this ever since we've been at Eastern.¬† So to have the chance to make it to the NCAA, it shows that we worked so hard our four years to make it here, and we've done it.
So the experience right now is a little overwhelming, just to see I've never‑‑ I probably could never picture myself sitting right here thinking before our first game in the NCAA tournament.
PAIGE REDDITT:¬† Just like she said.¬† It is overwhelming.¬† It's something we've worked for for our careers, especially to make it our senior year it's the biggest accomplishment for us, and it's the best way we can go out.
Q.¬† The more you guys were able to win those really close games in the MAC Tournament to get here, what does that do for your confidence going forward?
TAVELYN JAMES:¬† I think for me it keeps my confidence the same.¬† I don't try to overthink the situation or say like I'm any better than anybody else because everybody has to put their shoes on the same way I do.¬† We just come off and play hard.
And I mean the experience in those two games, which I relive every day in my head, is Paige hitting that layup.¬† I think about it every time, everybody come to me, say you're a tremendous player.¬† And I say Paige is an All‑American.¬† She hit the shot.¬† It's wonderful.
PAIGE REDDITT:¬† I don't know what to say.¬† I mean, it is something that you relive over and over.¬† And I think that through our careers here we have had a lot to pull from.¬† We've been through a lot of adversity in our careers.¬† So we have a lot to pull from.
We have a lot of heart in our team.¬† So pulling out close games is what we have been built to do.
Q.¬† Coach, you've had a chance now to look at South Carolina on film.¬† Talk about South Carolina, what stands out?
COACH GILBERT:¬† South Carolina is a well‑coached team.¬† They play very much like their fierce and fearless leader Dawn Staley, but they have very good guard play, Sutton and Grant and Roy off the bench.¬† Those kids are solid guards.¬† They play up‑tempo.
They have no reservation about shooting the 3.¬† You know, they're not stellar 3‑point shooters, but they're gamers.¬† They knock shots down when their team needs them to.
And they've got a nice inside presence.¬† And I think that they've got enough on the interior with Stephens and Bruner and Welch to really keep people honest.¬† So their guards can get gaps and openings.¬† So we're used to playing up‑tempo style teams.¬† But this is a very good team.
It presents some interesting matchups for us.¬† But we feel we match up well with this basketball team.¬† And we're excited about the opportunity.
Q.¬† Is there anybody that you played this year either in the MAC or in the nonconference that are similar to this South Carolina team?
COACH GILBERT:¬† You know, there's nobody that directly reflects this team, but there are some pieces of guards.¬† You know, Michigan State has some nice guards that resemble some of the kids that we'll face.¬† Central Michigan has some athletic players that jump up to the net, to the level of the rim, to get rebounds.
This is a team that has some nice athletes, just some nice pieces.¬† I like what Sutton is doing at the point for them.¬† She plays multiple positions, but she's a pretty savvy kid, and we've got our work cut out for us.
But we feel like we have some nice guards, and we can match their interior play with Paige Redditt and Olivia Fouty, India Hairston.¬† So we hope that we can keep this South Carolina team off balance a little bit.¬† Change things up a little bit, not let them get comfortable in any rhythm or groove and try to win every four‑minute period.
Q.¬† If Tavelyn and Paige could comment on Coach Gilbert and talk about her coaching style and what it's been like to play for her for four years?
TAVELYN JAMES:¬† I think she coaches everyone different.¬† Everybody can handle different situations a different way.¬† I can say for me she's been a coach that has driven me to be the person that I am, mainly off the court, because when I came to Eastern, I could play.¬† So her objective was to help me become a better person off the court.¬† And she has.
So it's like she was a coach that never let up.¬† She always rolled me every single year.¬† And I always wondered why.¬† And now I can see why.
PAIGE REDDITT:¬† The same thing for me.¬† Coach Gilbert is a tough coach.¬† You can't be a soft player to play for her.¬† And she coaches us to play in the NCAA tournament.¬† So she coaches us at the same level every day.¬† And either we play up to it or we don't.¬† But she always coaches the same way.
She's always pushed me to be a better person, a better player.¬† I mean, when I came to Eastern I wasn't the scorer, and she has formed me to get better each year.¬† And I've gotten better every year, up until now.
So I think I can see to get better this year, too.
Q.¬† Tavelyn, when you saw in the brackets that you were coming back to Mackey Arena, the game you had a couple of years ago, just kind of relive that a little bit and what comes to mind when you think about that?
TAVELYN JAMES:¬† The first thing that comes to mind is I had the flu that day.¬† I can remember running to the sideline as we were playing getting medicine from our trainers to continue playing.
But I feel like my first game here was good.¬† And usually when I have good games at certain arenas, I always have good games if we go back.
So I feel like I should be able to play my game and feel like I'm at home.
Q.¬† Why Eastern Michigan for you, what about that school was a good destination for you?
TAVELYN JAMES:¬† It really was Coach Gilbert's go get'em attitude.¬† Because I remember I was coming back from a trip to Chicago, and there was like so:¬† Are you coming to Eastern or not?
And I was like:¬† Yeah.¬† So I came‑‑ my family lives in Detroit, so that helped me a lot.¬† And plus my niece had just been born.¬† So I didn't have to leave.¬† It ended up working very well for me.
Q.¬† Coach, was it that easy?
COACH GILBERT:¬† We had to put in a little work for Tavelyn.¬† She wasn't‑‑ the thing I appreciate about Tavelyn is people don't know how underrecruited she was.¬† There were other teams in our conference that skipped on Tavelyn.¬† There were some Big East teams and bigger teams that looked at her, thought she was too small.
And the moment I saw her I wanted her at Eastern, and as I found her, other people started to get interested.¬† And I knew I had to try to expedite the process.
But I can't say enough about both of these young ladies, because they were so raw coming in.¬† People don't realize, Tavelyn James didn't start for us as a freshman until the conference season.¬† She had to learn how to be a part of something bigger than herself.¬† She had to learn that the world revolved around more than Tavelyn James.
And what you see and hear up here is an unselfish well‑rounded mature young lady very different than what I inherited.¬† But we've been able to build a lot of what we do around here, and the unselfishness of Paige Redditt, a kid that came in able to get 15, 16 rebounds in a game with very little scoring, now has the confidence to hit the game winner.
And one thing I said about being in Cleveland, Paige Redditt came over with 35seconds left in that game.¬† We were down a point.¬† And Paige said:¬† Coach, it doesn't matter what the score reflects.¬† We got this.
I'm thinking there's 35seconds left, do you know something I don't know, because I have no more tricks.¬† She had the savvy and poise and confidence.¬† She's a center that hits all her free throws down the stretch with just so much poise, and I'm so blessed and thankful to coach both of them.
Q.¬† Tavelyn, at what point in your career did you move past Tavelyn and move into that next mature phase of your life?
COACH GILBERT:¬† I would say my junior year I did, because I believed I already knew my freshman year I didn't.¬† And my sophomore year was the year that she was getting me to change.
And then my junior year I think I realized it a lot more when we had six seniors that I knew were leaving.¬† So I knew that everything would be put on me and Paige.¬† So as that time started to come around, I realized that I was the leader and people would follow, and I started to lead.
Q.¬† What's it meant to win the Frances Pomeroy Award and have that distinction?
TAVELYN JAMES:¬† Everything is a surprise to me.¬† I didn't know anything about it.¬† And she called me and she said:¬† You know you're a recipient for the Francis Pomeroy Naismith Award.¬† And I said what is that?
Even though I know James Mason, because I took Basketball 101.¬† But when she called me and I was like, you know‑‑ and I remember I was in the office because I was trying to do some stuff for class and stuff like that.¬† And I left.
As soon as I walked into my house, Kalli called me and said come back.¬† I said why. ¬†Just come back.¬† Coach needs you.
I guess she hadn't told the coaches and everyone was looking at me.¬† And I said what did I do.¬† The whole time I was thinking‑‑ she was like come to my office.¬† So I couldn't think about nothing.¬† Else but what did I do, I didn't know what I did wrong.
So we sat down, and it was a heart‑to‑heart moment, because I know that the reason I made it this far is because of her.¬† So I know‑‑ I remember she told me when I was a freshman that I would be on the U.S.A. Basketball Team.¬† Same question, what is that.¬† I didn't know what that was.
So it just shows me that all the hard work and the change that I've made to myself have paid off from the help of Coach Gilbert.
Q.¬† Tavelyn, No. 2 scorer in the country, and you and Paige will go up against the No. 4 defense in the country, talk about the challenge and how exciting it is to play against a team like South Carolina?
TAVELYN JAMES:¬† It's exciting, because all teams have their strategies to stop us, to stop me, to stop Paige.¬† And sometimes it is tough.¬† Some teams have made it tough.¬† But I feel like because a lot of teams have played us with tough defense, we're more accustomed to it.
So you plan up on us, I feel like it helps us.
PAIGE REDDITT:¬† I feel the same way.¬† And they are a good defensive team.¬† But I think our defense is pretty underrated, too.¬† They have to play against our defense just like we have to play against theirs.
Q.¬† Coach, your players obviously are happy to be here, and they want to enjoy the moment.¬† How do you get them past happy to be here and now a chance to compete in this tournament and maybe advance?
COACH GILBERT:¬† Well, as you heard from these two young ladies, I'm pretty direct.¬† But I feel like I have a good just a sense of balance about what this means.
As coaches, my entire coaching staff has been here.¬† And the way we walk, the way we talk and execute and carry things out, we're preparing them for this day since day one.¬† Tavelyn James I thought as a small player would be one of the most exciting guards to play DivisionI basketball as she learned the game and grew.¬† She's been a sponge.
And as a result she's played for U.S.A. Basketball.¬† She's the Francis Pomeroy Naismith Award winner, and she's not by accident in the NCAA Tournament.
But I do believe that we're going to have to get through the first few minutes because this tournament is very different than the MAC Tournament.¬† In the MAC knows you; you've played them two or three times.¬† This is an opportunity for us to play a team that doesn't know us.
I think that plays to our strength.¬† We have watched and played against‑‑ we played against the players Dawn Staley left at Temple.¬† We beat Temple at Eastern Michigan.¬† So we know her style.¬† We know the kind of player she likes to recruit.
And as they mentioned, we're a defensive rebounding‑oriented team.¬† Anytime you do that, no matter what stage you play on, I thin you have a chance to be successful.¬† And we're excited.¬† And I don't think they'll be overly nervous.¬† I think they'll be ready to come out and make a statement, play our best basketball and leave it on the floor.
Q.¬† Coach, you played UNC Wilmington in the WNIT against Cynthia Cooper, former U.S. Olympian, you beat her 1‑0.¬† Now you're playing against Dawn Staley.¬† Talk about the excitement of doing that.
COACH GILBERT:¬† The great thing for us is ignorance is bliss to young people who aren't old enough to know any of us who were.
They don't know who Cynthia Cooper was.¬† It was only after the game when I shared her history‑‑ I didn't overplay her before the game.¬† But they all got her autograph and picture after the game.¬† I think they'll be doing that with Dawn.¬† And I hope the outcome is the same.
But we're excited because Cynthia Cooper, Dawn Staley, they're good coaches.¬† And I think I'm a good young, emerging coach.¬† Young is relative, depends on what the cut‑off is.
However, I'm just thrilled because our players don't know the magnitude of who Cynthia Cooper was.¬† She's one of the best ever, ever to wear a women's basketball uniform.¬† Dawn Staley is not too far behind.
Because they don't know that, they believe they're supposed to be here.¬† They've earned the right to be here.¬† And those coaches and Cynthia Cooper realize she had a lead at half and we won in a hostile environment.¬† Several thousand fans.
But we went down there and stole a game that we weren't picked to win.¬† We're not picked to win this game.¬† But I'm not a betting person, but I like our chances.¬† And hopefully we'll make it as exciting as you hear the confidence of us sitting before you today.
THE MODERATOR:¬† Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports