Ivy Midseason Teleconference (audio)
PHILADELPHIA - At the midseason Ivy League women's basketball teleconference Thursday morning, University of Pennsylvania head coach Mike McLaughlin answered questions about the current state of the program.
"We have a great group of young ladies. The program is developing. They play hard. They respect the game. They're competitive. All great signs. We are improving on a daily basis. We've played all types of teams in the non-conference season. We played big, strong teams and we have played some smaller, athletic teams. So we have been challenged in many different ways and we are learning to play against different styles.
"We have a pretty young group. We are starting three sophomores, a freshman and a junior. And we are getting contributions from senior Brianna Bradford. So we are a fairly young group, but we are learning. We are getting contributions in a lot of different ways. Kathleen Roche is one who has probably developed the most over the last year. She gives us the ability to spread the floor a little bit. She can shoot the basketball and a really big wing - close to six foot - and a pretty solid defender who rebounds the ball. I'm really proud of her individual developement. She is an ultimate team player and I'm glad to see she has had some early season success.
"After Princeton we go back into two non-league games against Villanova and Temple to finish out our Big 5 schedule. So we'll be challenged. And we are looking forward to playing Princeton on Saturday. They are obviously the best team in the league and have been for the last three years at least since I've been a part of the league. I have a great deal of respect for what Courtney and her group do. They are continuing to get unbelievable players and run their program in a great way so its a great challenge - not only for Penn but for anyone that's going to play against them. And I will just say the same thing that I have a great deal of respect for our league, the coaches in our league and the players that compete in our league. I think it is the best league out there and I'm just proud to be a part of it. Hopefully Penn just continues to develop and represent our league the best way possible everytime we are on the court."
On the return of experienced players:
"A lot of our sophomores played a lot as freshman and I think that's a good thing. Experience is always valuable. We are always trying to develop players here. Whether its the freshmen or sophomores. Even if a sophomore didn't play much going into their junior year - we are getting contributions from Courtney Wilson, who didn't play much her first two years. So she's developing as a player as well. There's nothing that replaces experience. This is a competitive group that wants to be good at what they do. Its a great group to work with everyday. Its a prideful group and we will continue to develop from day-to-day."
On junior captain Alyssa Baron:
"Alyssa is the ultimate competitor. She wants to be the best in everything she does. She makes our team better. If you look at the numbers she obviously shoots the ball a little bit more than everyone else because she has the ability to get a lot of shots. But she is really selfless. She gives the ball up. She plays the ultimate team game for us. And like I said, she is extremely competitive. When we do any drills in practice she is usually the one that is going to lead just because she wants to win. And she is still developing. She is a much better defender than she was a year ago. We are adding a little bit more depth year-to-year so it is helping her become a better all-around player. But she is the one that has helped the program the most since I've been here in terms of visibility and her ability. And I think there are even better days ahead for her. She continues to get better and I'm excited to see her develop this year through league play and also into next year."
On the biggest change in the team during a 7-2 stretch:
"IWe opened the season and didn't play very well our first time out. But then we bounced back against a very good Virginia team at home. Although we came up short on the scoreboard I did think we did some unbelievable things there. We had a large lead in the second half that we gave away and I think that actually helped us as we went along here because we were right there with them but we were just a play or two short. I think we practiced with a lot of confidence leading into that game. I think we left that game with some confidence. And then we were involved in a lot of close games. We were able to win most of the close games we were in and I think our confidence level is pretty good. Hopefully leading into Saturday our kids feel pretty confident they can play some pretty good basketball."
On Keiera Ray as yet another freshman in a starting role for Penn:
"Keiera has done some great things to start her career. We lost our point guard, Meghan, who tore her ACL in the middle of the third game. So it expanded Keiera's role immediately. She's done a great job with it. She's a competitve kid and comes from an unbelievable high school program. So she's played against the best and she's not intimidated. She has a really good competitive fire to her. She is learning the game. She is playing the (point guard) more than we anticipated so it is a process for her. But she studies the game and she is doing really well. I'm really happy with where she is at. I think she will continue to develop and hopefully have a really solid Ivy League year."