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March 31, 2012

Brittney Griner

Kim Mulkey

Odyssey Sims

Destiny Williams


THE MODERATOR:  Joining us is head coach Kim Mulkey, student‑athletes Destiny Williams, Odyssey Sims and Brittney Griner.
Questions for the student‑athletes.

Q.  Brittney, obviously you were here two years ago, and you guys have maintained a very intense focus all year.  Is it hard once you get in this environment to keep that going?
BRITTNEY GRINER:  No, because you see the prize at the end.  It's right there.  So it's not hard at all.

Q.  If you could each take this one on, can you just talk about the sisters over at Stanford and what kind of matchup they present?  And, Brittney, specifically can you talk about how remarkable that you and Neka have not really met in college basketball and how much you're looking forward to that matchup?
BRITTNEY GRINER:  Looking forward to it a lot.  I haven't seen Neka or Chiney since high school, since summer ball.  They play remarkable together.  That sister instinct for each other on the floor at high/low.  We're going to have to guard them and keep them off the guards.
DESTINY WILLIAMS:  We expect a good matchup.  They have two outstanding post players; we have a bunch of outstanding post players.  It's going to be a great matchup.  I think it's going to come down to who rebounds the ball well.  Both posts will get great touches and finish around the rim.  It's going to be an exciting game.

Q.  Brittney, Neka told us that you had played against her in an AAU game somewhere around her junior year, and she said that her team‑‑ that your team won.  What are your recollections of that game?
BRITTNEY GRINER:  It was a good game.  I mean, it was just a good matchup.  Me and her going back and forth.  I can't wait to do it again.

Q.  Brittney, how much are you aware that you are changing the game of basketball and so many people before you, post players in particular, said nobody's been like you before and you're changing the way the game's being played?
BRITTNEY GRINER:  I mean, I wouldn't really say I'm changing it.  I'm just adding on to what great players before me have added on.  And I know there will be somebody there that comes along and do something I couldn't do and add on.  And that's the thing about it.  Just keep adding on to the game.

Q.  Brittney, several coaches, particularly Coach Blair at Texas A&M says he thinks you're the greatest woman's player of all time.  You would need rings and championships to validate that.  Do you feel that kind of pressure in terms of already being listed as one of the best ever and winning a championship?  How important is that to solidify you?
BRITTNEY GRINER:  I don't feel any pressure really.  I kind of tune out everything.  And I know this year that's been the main focus, though, winning the national championship.  That's just what's driving me right now.

Q.  Destiny, can you talk about is it a little more exciting‑‑ you're at the Final Four; it's plenty exciting, but is it more exciting to play a Stanford team you guys don't know?  It's a new matchup for both teams from the past few years.
DESTINY WILLIAMS:  It's exciting to play against a team you haven't seen all year.  It will be a great matchup.  Stanford will do some things to try to score, and we're going to do some things to score and turn out a defensive rebounding.
They are coached by a great coach, and we have a fantastic coach.  So it's like an even matchup.  And it's going to be an exciting game for women's basketball, for people to watch, and go out for a win.

Q.  Destiny, do you see much difference in the two sisters' game and on Stanford?  Are they pretty similar?  Do you see many differences in them?
DESTINY WILLIAMS:  Neka has more experience than the younger sister.  She's the leader on that team.  She's just helping her sister out to become a phenomenal player like she is.  And Neka has improved her shooting to her skills, and Chiney is just more of an offensive rebounder, close‑to‑the‑basket‑type post, and Neka extending her game, working on her 3 shooting.
It's a little different, but pretty much hustle plays.  They're the same about that.

Q.  Destiny and Odyssey.  Destiny, everybody's asking Brittney a lot of things, but you have to‑‑ you guys practice together.  How would you stop her and how difficult is the play against her in practice?
DESTINY WILLIAMS:  Well, she has a very, very, very, very long arm.  So‑‑ (laughter)‑‑ so it is hard to get a shot off over her.  But she helps us out a lot to get our shots off quicker, to go around her and try to finish the contact.
There's a lot of things.  You have to take off the dribble, because you're not going to post up and score over her.  Just things like that.  And being more physical towards her.
She helped us out a lot in our game only to make us better players.

Q.  Odyssey, you're considered one of the best point guards in the country.  And Stanford been considered having trouble with the speed of somebody like you.  What do you expect from them and can they do anything to slow you down?
ODYSSEY SIMS:  I just expect it to be a very physical game.  It's going to be battles for the boards for our post players.  As far as guard player.  And use our speed and quickness and score and get the ball inside as much as possible.

Q.  Destiny and Odyssey, how do you guys turn out the 40‑0, the chasing that and just concentrating on one game?  You guys are chasing this 40‑0, this pinnacle there.  How do you tune that out and just go after one game at a time?
DESTINY WILLIAMS:  We haven't accomplished anything yet.  Our goal throughout the year was to win the championship.  And once we get that, I think that we all will be satisfied.  38 ballgames are great to have, and not to have our loss is an honor and accomplishment to have along the way, but they're just wins.  And we have the trophy, something we can enjoy bigger and better.
ODYSSEY SIMS:  As far as what she said, it's the main thing to have a national championship.  And I see here we're 0‑0, we haven't won anything, nobody's won anything, and we're all here‑‑ we all have the same goal, and hopefully we'll just come out on top.

Q.  Odyssey, what's your mindset on the defensive end, especially when it comes to on ball defending, can you take us inside what you're thinking about when you're defending?
ODYSSEY SIMS:  Pressure to the ball, that's pretty much it.  I don't really have anything that goes through my mind.  I just try to pressure my defender as much as possible and create a turnover.

Q.  Brittney, I don't believe you fouled out of a game since early in your freshman year.  With all your blocked shots, with all the physical play you have inside, how have you managed to avoid foul trouble on a consistent basis?  What have you learned along the way?
BRITTNEY GRINER:  Just playing smart, trying to keep my body away.  Really don't need to body them up and block a shot.  Like Destiny just said, I have very, very, very, very long arms and I can reach around to block shots.

Q.  Brittney, you've always maintained that you wanted to go back to Baylor for your fourth year.  Why was that so important to you?  And, secondly, not too many college players make the U.S. Olympic Basketball Team.  How much would it mean to you to be part of the Olympics this year if you're chosen?
BRITTNEY GRINER:  Well, as far as me leaving, I'm staying.  I made a commitment.  I said I was coming here, and I'm going to stay here until my time's up.  So all the speculations of me leaving early are false.  I'm staying here right here at Baylor.
COACH MULKEY:  Could you say that a little louder?  Because some of these keep wanting to keep talking about it.  Some want to keep writing about it.  Would you just repeat that slowly.
BRITTNEY GRINER:  Baylor is my home.  I'm staying here.  I made a commitment.  All the speculations are false.  I'm not going anywhere.  I'm staying right here.

Q.  Brittney, if you could talk a little bit about how Destiny Williams has fit in with the program and what she contributes.
BRITTNEY GRINER:  Destiny is, based on the boards, double‑doubles all the time and there's always rebounds.  I know if I don't get a rebound I can always count on Destiny.  She works well in the post with me and finding me and letting me find her.  She's knocking down shots at the top which help get the defender off, second or third defender off me, and she's my other post player.

Q.  What would it mean to you to represent the country in the Olympics, being a college player?
BRITTNEY GRINER:  As any basketball player, it's a dream to represent your country, put on the U.S.A. jersey.  So it would mean a lot, you know?

Q.  Odyssey, when we were still in Waco, you said you don't think you'll really get excited for the Final Four until you get here.  Now that you're here, what's the experience been like thus far?  What's been the coolest thing that you've been able to do?
ODYSSEY SIMS:  Well, it's been fun.  We had a busy day yesterday.  I can say the Salute Dinner thing that was really fun.  And that was like an experience many people don't get to experience.
And having fun.  It's great for my team.  We've been bonding.  So we just are getting ready for tomorrow.

Q.  Brittney, does the sisters‑‑ does their leaping ability make this maybe a unique matchup for you this year in terms of who you match up with inside, their ability to jump?
BRITTNEY GRINER:  Like you said, they've got a great leaping ability.  Gotta box them out.  When the shot goes up, you gotta find them.  And we got leapers on our team, too.  So it will be a good matchup.

Q.  Odyssey, I'm not sure how many other sophomores were out there, maybe one other one.  What was it like to be part of that 10‑personteam, to stand out there with those 10 players?  And also Destiny talked about it, but being this close to the end, how exciting is that?
ODYSSEY SIMS:  To be out there with the older girls, it's something special.  I'm one of the top 10 players in the country, it's a great experience, but that's not my main focus.  I'm here to win two basketball games.  And we are very close.
And, like I said, just trying to stay focused and prepare as much as possible and go in tomorrow with one mindset, and that's to win.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Questions for Coach.

Q.  You have a lot of ex‑players here today watching and enjoying the moment.  One in particular, Jessika Stratton.  She's going to be coaching here in Colorado Springs or in Colorado, actually, at Colorado Christian.  Is there any advice you would give to her as far as her future of pursuing coaching?
COACH MULKEY:  I don't need to give Jessika any advice.  Jessika played for me when I was first hired at Baylor, and Jessika was just an all‑out gutsy gym‑type player.  Gym rat.  She was always in the gym.
She's one of the finest Christian kids you'll ever be around.  She will be a great role model for her student‑athletes.  And she was involved in a very difficult game.  She had the turnover when we lost to Tennessee with 2/10 of a second on the clock.  And I learned more from Jessika Stratton in that locker room not being a very good coach toward her at the end of that game, and I've written about it in my book and the type of person she is, she never took it personal.
So I have the utmost respect and admiration for her, and she will be great.

Q.  I just wanted to‑‑ if you could give us an update on how your health is and how the inflammation is at the moment?
COACH MULKEY:  Don't ask me to smile.  And I think the distortion of the face is mild compared to cases I have seen before.
The biggest problem I'm having is my eyes.  The light bothers me.  The tears and the dryness and itchiness they say is all a part of it.  And my ears.  I feel like one ear is blown out and I can't tell if the other one is hearing or if it's just off balance.
As far as the distortion or whatever you want to call it of the face, hell, I'm just another ugly coach (laughter).  It is what it is.  And I'm not vain, so it doesn't matter.

Q.  Along the lines of what I asked Destiny, a lot of people might be excited about this matchup with Stanford because it's something new, not something we've seen this season or in the last few years.  Are you excited about a matchup against a team you haven't seen very often?
COACH MULKEY:  I have something to compare it to.  I guarantee you Notre Dame and Connecticut don't enjoy playing each other four times, but the good thing is they're doing it at the Final Four.  Yes, I would much rather play teams that you don't know so much about.
It's exciting for us because I don't think we've played Stanford since Neka was a freshman.  I'd have to go back and make sure I'm not overmedicated and forgotten something here.
But, yeah, it's exciting to play somebody different.  We are familiar with Stanford.  I recruited all three of those Houston kids.  And these kids, Odyssey and Brittney and Brooklyn Pope, they've gone head to head in some serious competition in the summer between the two organizations.  So they're all familiar with each other.

Q.  On the health thing.  You said the lights.  When you're‑‑
COACH MULKEY:  Like right now it bothers me.

Q.  On the court, how is it?
COACH MULKEY:  It's not as bright.  The only thing that bothered me on the court was the band when I was on that end.  My ears feel like they're about to explode.  I'm sure some referees feel that way when I get in their ear.  (Laughter).

Q.  Are you going to ask the band not to play as much?
COACH MULKEY:  Are you kidding me?  I'm going to let that band rip it.  Go for it.

Q.  The same question asked Brittney:  Do you feel the same pressure coaching a player with such national/international acclaim in terms of her greatness?
COACH MULKEY:  Not at all.  Not at all.  And I want to say this to all of you:  Don't ask her about the Olympics when you go talk to her.  That's a non‑issue.  She's kind of surprised that the Olympic team was even announced at the college Final Four.  Her focus is a national championship.
Brittney is a blessing every day I go to work.  Because so many great ones that are as good as she is and have done more than she has done, you don't enjoy coaching them sometimes because they know they're good and they don't work hard and they have an attitude about them that they're better than everybody else.
When I'm done with Brittney Griner, the thing I'll tell people is:  That child brought her workpail to work every day.  She brought it every day to practice.  She never had a bad day in practice.
Her worst days were just missed shots or she thought she should have done something better.  But she brought her game to the floor every day.

Q.  Brittney mentioned a sister instinct that she sees.  Do you see that they have a communication on the court that maybe supersedes what you usually see between teammates?
COACH MULKEY:  Well, she may be referring to the fact that the longer you play with someone, you instinctively know things about each other and where they want the ball, what their next move is.
And obviously when you're sisters, you probably have played lots of basketball together.  And I would think that they do have that sisterly instinct in that they played together all their lives.

Q.  That focus that has marked the season for you guys, have you seen it sustained through this time since getting to Denver?
COACH MULKEY:  I just told them at half court that that hour of practice was‑‑ of course you're not out there showing your hand on anything.  It's more for the fans.  But I saw a focused basketball team.  I saw a team that came and they're enjoying being out there.  But at the same time, they focused on finishing, shooting.
Look, it's beyond coaches now.  The coaches have gotten each of their teams here.  It's now in the players' hands.  It's now players making plays.
The big stage is when the big‑time players surface.  It's not about coaching at this point.

Q.  Kim, with as much focus on the post area with Neka and Brittney and them, could it be a game decided by the back court?  And then kind of off that question, because of the type of post players they have, could Brooklyn play even more in that rotation?
COACH MULKEY:  I think Brooklyn Pope's game is very similar to the Ogwumike sisters.  Brooklyn is our‑‑ you call it highest leaper, or she jumps higher than anybody on our team.
Brooklyn could dunk the basketball if her hands weren't so small.  Yes, she could be a factor in the game.  But she's been a factor in the last several games for us.  So I anticipate her to be able to help Destiny and B.G. down there.
As far as the back court is concerned, I think our strengths, honestly, other than Brittney Griner covering a lot of space down low, it's our perimeter defense.  I think our perimeter defense is pretty special.  And it starts with Odyssey Sims, NaeNae Hayden and Jordan Madden.

Q.  When evaluating the season and looking back up to this point, are there any moments that stand out for you where had they gone a different way you either may not be here or the season would have gone differently?
COACH MULKEY:  That moment was not this year.  It was when we lost in the Regional Finals in Dallas last year and those kids came back to summer school.  And obviously we can't be with them during the summer.  But I just felt that our strength and conditioning coach, who was with them all summer, and the leadership that came back, the disappointment, the hunger, all that was taken care of this summer.
I thought team chemistry was a missing link last year, not that we didn't have a team that didn't get along, but we had a freshman trying to lead a basketball team to a Final Four.  We had our best player just a sophomore.  We had our senior, our captain, our leader, our glue, playing with one eye.
The timing of Melissa Jones' injury honestly cost us.  And that's not to take anything away from Texas A&M, because they just beat us.  But I sure can't afford to go into a big game like that when your glue and really your leader is struggling to even stay on the floor because of her injury, let alone worry about leading a basketball team.
I thought last year's game just is the only game that I could tell you sent a message to themselves.  You can go one direction or you can go the other.

Q.  Shanay Washington obviously not going to play with her fourth ACL.  What has she added to the team in the time since the injury a month or so ago?  And I noticed she's here.  Does her spirit help the guys in any way?
COACH MULKEY:  Well, Shanay Washington was a starter for us as a freshman.  She and Griner were two of our players that started.  That's how much I think of her talent.  And for her to have another knee injury.  She has a decision to make at the end of the year to either give up the game, medically have the surgery, do I even have the surgery if I'm going to give up the game.  There's lots of things that I'm sure she's thinking about.
But here's what I do know:  She's a part of this team.  She'll always be a part of this team whether she can play again or not.  She'll travel with us.  And whatever she's allowed to do, she will do.  We have brought her along, and if she's got a uniform on and we're playing for that championship and we're way ahead and there's an opportunity to put her on that floor, I'm going to look at her and say:  Do you want to go step out there?  That's how much I think of Shanay Washington.

Q.  It's great to hear you sound so positive about what you're going through.  Can you talk about how important that is to maintain a positive attitude with everything that's going on?
COACH MULKEY:  Listen, the alternatives are worse.  Bell's palsy is fixable.  Bell’s palsy with time will get better.  This is just a‑‑ I guess you call it a little bump in the road.
I can assure you the spit that will fly out of my face in a timeout won't faze them.  Or the spit that will come out of my mouth, they'll understand what I'm saying.
It's really nothing.  It hasn't affected them.  It hasn't affected me.  It aggravates me.  It aggravates me, but there are worse things in life.  And you just deal with it.  Kidney stone would hurt a lot worse than this.  Having a baby didn't hurt near as bad as a kidney stone.  You deal with it.
Every male in here needs to have a kidney stone.  It's the closest thing to child birth for y'all, so y'all need a kidney stone.
Go ahead.  Didn't mean to distract you.

Q.  How did Odyssey play in that game against A&M in that Regional Final?  And if she didn't play well, how does that sort of affect this season by coming back and playing?
COACH MULKEY:  Odyssey Sims didn't play well at all.  She will be the first one to tell you.  But you have to have a short memory in this business, but yet inside you you have to have that competitive spirit that drives you.
And I can assure you she's a different basketball player today than she was a year ago.  The talent was there a year ago.  But she's more experienced.  She has really grown both in her mental makeup of how to handle it at this level, both constructive criticism, both the understanding of what's on your shoulders as a point guard on a basketball team, but she was awful in that game.  And she would tell you that.

Q.  Are you pretty confident in your ability of your team's ability to handle a close game if it's tight down the stretch?
COACH MULKEY:  What choice do I have?  You know, we've all been in tight games, all four teams have been in blowouts to get here.  I just feel like every day in practice our competition within the team makes us better.  There are many days when Brooklyn Pope's on the other team and Terran Condrey is on the other team with the other players that don't get as many minutes, they beat our first team.
And they don't like that.  It becomes real heated and sometimes I have to call it off, because it really gets physical and sometimes you like that and sometimes you don't want it to be blown out of proportion.
But I don't know that I'm going to coach any better if it's tied or if I'm not going to coach good or make the wrong call.
Everybody here is trying to win a national championship.  And those that make plays are going to win it.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, Coach.

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