MSU Media Day: Vic Schaefer

Vic Schaefer went 22-14 last season including a 5-11 mark in the  SEC. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Vic Schaefer went 22-14 last season including a 5-11 mark in the SEC. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Mississippi State held its annual on-campus media day on Wednesday. Women’s basketball coach Vic Schaefer was first up and shares his thoughts about the upcoming season.

The following is a transcript of his time at the podium…

Opening Statement …

“Thank you to everybody for being here today. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about our women’s basketball team. I think everybody in the room has come to learn the expectations that we have and see a brand of basketball that we’re really excited to have here at Mississippi State.”

“We have quite a bit back. We have four starters back from last year’s team and a top-20 recruiting class. I think we lost six or seven points a game, which was third fewest in the conference as well as fourth fewest rebounds lost. We have a little bit to be excited about especially when you throw in a top-20 recruiting class. I think we have some very high expectations here at Mississippi State.”

On teaching expectations to the team …

“I worked for a coach for 15 years that loved flying under the radar, and that’s the safe place to be. I don’t think there’s any doubt about it. And, it’s a good place to be on most nights and most seasons. But, at the end of the day, at some point we got to where we weren’t under the radar. Even though we haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament yet and experienced that part of it, we’ve experienced a lot.”

“The bottom line is this: we can either try to hide from it or fly under the radar. But, the fact of the matter is we’re not going to fly under the radar with any coach in our conference. I think we’ve earned the respect from every team in our league. You can look at what we did with certain teams in that first year, and look at how we faired with them last year. I don’t think anybody is going to take Mississippi State for granted. The way we’ve handled it with our team is telling them that there are expectations in life. You might as well start learning to embrace those expectations that they have for us in women’s basketball. We’re going to embrace that. We’re going to try to live it, prepare for it and live up to those expectations because that’s what we’re doing as a staff. We’re trying to prepare this team to have a great season this year against the best players and coaches in the country.”

On Jerica James …

“She’s a returning senior point guard. I’ve said this many times; she’s the most improved player on our team from last year, which allowed us to have tremendous growth and improvement in our program. She played a major role in our success last year. As the senior point guard, I have a lot of expectations for her as a leader and running our team. I expect her to show our freshman point guard Morgan [William] the ropes and teach her the way. Morgan is very talented, a highly skilled young lady and super competitive. At the same time, she’s learning every day how to work out as an SEC athlete at an SEC practice. Our freshman, right now, are going through some bumps in the road every day. It’s kind of hard for them to walk out of practice most days and feel good about things. Defensively, it’s like a bad dream right now for them. They’re going to figure it out. They’re going to wake up one day and it’s going to be OK. Right now it’s not, but we’re only eight days in.”

On Kendra Grant…

“I think she’s looked like Kendra. Some days, she makes everything she looks at. Other days, she struggles a little bit shooting the ball. I think the biggest thing for Kendra to know is we’re loaded at two positions. One of them is at her position, the two-spot and the other is at the four. We really have some great depth at those spots. I think those other kids are very competitive and pushing her.”

“Kendra is a senior. We need her to be good, we need her to make shots and we need her to guard and be competitive. I think it’s really important for the success of our team that she can do that. At the same time, she doesn’t have to look far over her shoulder. As she saw last year, Dominique [Dillingham] took over that two-spot and played 35 minutes a game as freshman in the SEC. One thing our team understands about coach Schaefer, is that at the end of the day it’s like that basketball. That basketball doesn’t have any idea who’s a senior, who’s a freshman or who’s a sophomore. For me, it doesn’t matter; it’s who’s about production. Kendra certainly has the pro body and the pro shot. I need the shot to go in.”

On areas that will take the team to the next level …

“I think it is two things. One, our seniors have to play like seniors. Those kids have to have great years. Martha [Alwal] has to be First Team All-SEC again. I think Kendra has to play well. Jerica has to play well. Savannah [Carter] has to do her job, which is be our motor, our physical kid and our defensive stopper.”

“Improvements you make as a basketball player are between your freshman and sophomore years. We all know that we started two freshmen last year. Our third freshman, Ketara [Chapel] played 20 minutes a game. Those kids now need to make that big jump and have a great sophomore year. Then, our top-20 recruiting class has to play like a top-20 recruiting class. If you put all three of those things together, I think you have a chance to be really special. I think that’s what the expectation is across the country. People see that. They see that we have four starters back. They know what that 35th-ranked class did last year as freshmen. They know we have a top-20 recruiting class coming in. That’s a recipe for a lot of success. Now, it’s my job as the coach and our job as a staff to make sure we get everything measured properly for that recipe.”

On the role of the freshman class …

“If they can do what our freshman class last year did, they’re going to be pretty good. They’re all super-competitive kids, highly skilled and have a skill set that drastically improves our team. I think that’s what you do in recruiting; you’re always trying to one-up your previous class, and we did from a ranking standpoint. But now, they have to go live it. Last year’s freshman class lived it. They lived up to what we were hoping they could do. They came in and had two starters in that group with a third member playing 20 minutes a game. You have to remember that Chinwe [Okorie] was part of last year’s class, and she didn’t get to play. Now, she’s a part of this year’s top-20 class. If she had come in with this year’s class, the class [ranking] would had probably jumped into the teens. Those kids all need to play well. The thing they bring is an improved skill set. They’re competitive kids. They’re tough, and all of won at the highest level, both in AAU and high school. Their skill set is tremendous and it makes us a better basketball team.”

On Chinkwe Okorie …

“I think Chinwe is still raw in a lot of areas from a standpoint of her skill set and what she can do. Offense will be something that is ongoing and worked on daily. I think what she provides right now is a 6’5 frame with a 6’6, 6’7 arm or wingspan. She’s a big body, and if you can’t get around her, you won’t get a rebound from her. She’s going to alter shots, block shots and even take a charge. She’s a tremendous presence in the lane that will allow Martha some rest time that she hasn’t gotten in her time here. And, somewhere down the line, don’t be surprised if you see both of them on the floor at the same time. You just have to understand that when those two are on the floor at the same time, that four-five tandem because a pound it group. Neither one of those kids are going to be able to stretch a lot of people from the standpoint of offense. They’re both low-post players.”

On Dominique Dillingham …

“I describe her shot as inconsistent at best. Again, the thing that’s keeping Dominique from being First Team All-SEC is her shot. It’s her stroke. One thing you have to understand is with my team, they’re competitive kids. And they’re not just competitive in basketball. They are very cognoscente of their academics, and they want to do well in school. So every waking moment that they’re not in basketball, they’re studying. They’re trying to get a nap in so they can study to two or three in the morning. Dominique is one of those kids, as is Blair [Schaefer] and a couple of our other kids. Right now, my fight is trying to get them shooting in the gym on their own. There’s not enough time in a practice for us to get shots up that are necessary. It’s about trying to teach them to handle their days appropriately in their time frame. Dominique is highly motived to do well in school. But it’s about getting her in the gym. That’s all it takes. If you can get in the gym for three days a week for 30-45 minutes, you’ll fix that stroke, and you’ll fix that shot. For Dominique, she’s my crowd favorite. She plays her guts out. She’s on the floor. She’s not scared. She’s a tough, physical and aggressive kid with a great personality. And that’s [personal workouts in the gym] what’s keeping her from being First Team All-SEC and playing a long time. She does a lot of things that a lot of student athletes won’t do, guy or girl. They don’t have that toughness and competitiveness about them. A lot of kids are, but they’re not to the degree she is. She took six charges last year in one game. I ask anyone in the room to go back and find me a guy or girl who took six charges in a NCAA Division I college basketball game. You find them. I’m going to say it’s never happened. That’s that kid. Remember, she gets elbowed in the head down here. They couldn’t find where she was bleeding. They take her back to the locker room, put a piece of glue on her scalp and she’s right back in the game. She’s not worried about any headaches or possible concussions. She’s competitive and wants to get back in the middle of the fight. That’s what you have to have to win. That’s how you win SEC championships and SEC basketball games. That’s how you win in the SEC; I don’t care what sport it is. So, for Dominique, she just has to develop some consistency with that shot. At the end of the day, you can’t get her off the floor. I don’t care who you have, the bottom line is the kid gets it done.”

On Dominique Dillingham’s shot …

“Again, I think with her it’s about developing a consistency. I can usually tell when she shoots the basketball. When it comes off and has great rotation, it has a good chance of going in. When it comes off as a knuckleball, that’s when she shoved it, and it didn’t come off her fingertips properly, and that’s when it’s not going in. I think you can do that with any kid. You can find our shooters, Kendra Grant, Blair Schaefer, Breanna [Richardson], Victoria [Vivians], and all of those kids have a good stroke and great rotation on the basketball. Your more inconsistent shooters are the ones that don’t have that great rotation. So, I think for her, it’s just a matter of developing that consistency.”

“Look, you usually don’t recruit kids and change their shot in college. It doesn’t happen. The thing with Kendra was she was right-eye dominant. When you’re right handed, you’re supposed to be left-eye dominant. So, we tried to move the ball off her forehead just a little bit. But then, you have to retrain that left eye. Again, to develop consistency, that’s where that ball needs to be. She could go for 20 one night and zero the next night. I need her to go for 20 one night and 20 the next night.”

 

I have covered Mississippi State in some capacity since 2004 and joined the Daily Journal staff in 2013. I enjoy short walks on the beach, performing concerts in my car and watching professional wrestling.

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