Schaefer ready to start practice

Mississippi State women’s basketball coach Vic Schaefer will start preseason practice on Tuesday. Schaefer shared his thoughts about his team which reached the Sweet 16 last year on the eve of the first practice.

Opening statement…
“It’s an exciting time. We have a team building group here right now. We’re 40 days out, and we’re excited about the opportunity. We have a veteran group, and they’re our first class that we recruited four years ago. We’re looking for a great year. We’ve had great conditioning, and they’re all working hard.”

On the difference between starting last season and this season…
“Last year we were young. We had only come off of one really good year where we exceeded expectations by going 27-7. Going into last year we were trying to do it again, but we were a really young team looking down the roster. We had lost some key seniors, and we were anxious to see what that was going to look like and just trying to get better. This year we only lost one player, and had everyone coming back except the two freshman. There is some familiarity coming back this year. It’s a matter of how much have we improved, what’s our motivation and if there is still a taste in your mouth from last year. There is always a chance that things don’t work and won’t click. I’m just coaching to make sure that doesn’t happen. I’m coaching against the ghost. You’re hoping that your team is still driving and has been working when you haven’t been around because they don’t want to let that happen.”

On the newcomers…
Ameshya (Williams) is explosive. She’s long and has the best vertical on the team. She can jump up and grab the rim. She’s competing with two seniors right now, and she’s looked really good in individual work. Iggy (Jacaira Allen) has the SEC body. She’s athletic and, physically, she’s going to be able to match up. Both of these kids are scary. They’re good. Roshunda Johnson is coming back, working herself back to playing speed. She was the best player on the team this time last year. What the other 10 players need to know is that these three are coming, and they are coming fast.”

On Jazzmun Holmes…
“I’ve been really encouraged with Jazz. She got some great reps last year, she got a lot of reps in the spring. She got some experience last year with Morgan William hurt. She ran a lot with the ones. She is just having to learn everything that goes into being an SEC point guard. It’s not about scoring; it’s about making sure you’re running the team, getting people in the right spots and defending.”

On when you know a team is great…
“I’ve got the all airport team right now. They look great walking through the airport, but that doesn’t win championships. We have to find out where our guts are. What’s inside that breastbone is what matters – the guts of each individual. You don’t know that until you get into some of those adverse situations and see how the kids respond. That’s what you’re working for and trying to find out. Seeing how you work. Then your leadership. That’s what separates great teams between talented and good teams. We know how we reacted to that last year, and that’s who you are. But I don’t feel like that’s who that team was. UConn was that talented, and the situation made it the perfect storm. We didn’t play well, and then it went from bad to worse. You don’t know that until you get into some of those adverse situations and see how the kids respond. That’s your leadership piece. That’s what separates great teams from talented teams. You have to have leadership. The leadership starts with me, and it’s my job to start cultivating and preparing leadership.”

On this year’s expectations against last year…
“The jury is out on our team until we see how they respond to situations. We’re going to figure out a lot about this team early in the season. We’re going to find out early and often what we’re made of. We’ve got games that most people play in January and February in November. Playing teams who are as good as us on a neutral court or at their place. So we will find out what this team is about and made of early and often. That goes back to your preparation and focus. I made this schedule because I knew we had a veteran team and that we could handle it.”

On recruiting Ameshya Williams…
“To average 26 points and 12 rebounds, you aren’t just standing around. She was active with a high activity level. We saw an in-state player that could play in the SEC and we said ‘Hey, we have to have her.’ She had a great high school career, but this is different. I’m interested to see how she responds to the intensity and the demands of being an SEC athlete. It’s about how fast you can adapt as a freshman. She’s long, can alter and block shots, and she’s an athlete. I’m eager to see her in a team setting.”

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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