Kansas Women's Basketball Participates in Big 12 Media Day

Oct. 28, 2004

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas head coach Bonnie Henrickson, senior Blair Waltz and junior Crystal Kemp spoke to the Big 12 media at the Embassy Suites in Kansas City on Thursday morning.

Below are quotes from Henrickson and the student-athletes from media day.

MODERATOR: Good morning, everyone, and welcome. Day two of Big 12 Media Days has begun, and we are proud to have the Kansas Jayhawks up first. A couple of things to remind you of: Would you please turn your cell phones off or put them on silent, if you would? Also, a reminder, it is very important we hear your questions, so speak up loudly so we can hear what your questions are, and we will try to make this compatible for everybody. Good morning, Coach. If you would like to make opening statements and introduce your players.

COACH HENRICKSON: Good morning. I hope everyone has had as much coffee as I have today. We are excited because we got to start practice. Let me share with you how excited we are about the effort every day. We have issues as far as depth and size, but we don’t have issues with heart and intensity in practice.

As a coach it doesn’t matter who you coach or where you coach, if you get great effort you have a chance. Certainly since our spring practices, it has been encouraging. I’m sure there are questions about expectations or goals for the year. The goal is to be better this evening than last night in practice.

As simple as that sounds, that’s the most important thing to do right now. We are excited to get started in what is arguably the best women’s league in the country. We have our hands full and a tremendous amount of growth to make and some improvements to make, but we are excited about that challenge.

To my left, Blair Waltz, who is a senior, and Crystal Kemp, who is a junior, young women who will be counted on heavily throughout the course of the year.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach. We are ready to take questions from the floor.

Q. What was the most appealing reason for you to come to Kansas?

COACH HENRICKSON: The most appealing is one, the passion and vision for basketball in the state of Kansas and certainly at the University of Kansas and Lew Perkins and his vision, and Chancellor’s Hemingway’s vision with regard to basketball. The program has had success historically, in the Big 8 and Big 12 from ’98 through 2000.

Right now my responsibility and my staff’s is to reestablish tradition and certainly proud to follow Coach Washington and her tenure at University of Kansas and build this into something very, very special.

Q. It’s never easy to replace a legend.


Q. Do you feel extra pressure on that? Do you think that’s a ?? why do you think that some coaches have a hard time replacing legends?

COACH HENRICKSON: It depends on your situation. It depends on ?? I don’t think ?? from Coach Washington we have had nothing but support, and our communication with her has been nothing but positive.

The most important thing, the best way I could follow Coach Washington is do the best job I can and love and coach these kids that she recruited as best I can, and I promise these kids I will do that.

Then, to continue to recruit talented young women who can represent us both on and off the court in a manner that the program should ?? and certainly things that she had done in her career. So the biggest responsibility I have is to the players and the program.

If I do the best job I can, I will represent and follow her in a manner that she would be proud of.

Q. Where do you feel your recruiting base will be?

COACH HENRICKSON: We actually ?? it’s hard to look at us geographically. If you can go East, why can’t you go West? If you can go North, you can go South. These are contacts from the East Coast, from the Midwest, and from Minnesota and Iowa.

There is a tremendous amount of talent in the South and the West Coast, and the men have had success on the West. There is a name recognition. Really, there isn’t a phone call that you make that there isn’t some recognition to the University of Kansas basketball. Someone on that staff has some certainly history with the program or certainly knows right away.

If it’s the men’s success that gets someone’s attention, we will use that. That’s a power for us. There is nothing negative about women’s basketball in Kansas in the quality and success the men have had. We will use that to help us.

Q. You describe the challenge of recruiting in the same regions and areas (inaudible)?

COACH HENRICKSON: Certainly Deb [Patterson] has done a fantastic job and is ahead of us as far as the relationships she has built in the state. That’s why we are excited. We have a Coaches Clinic on Saturday. We have over 100 coaches from the state of Kansas and surrounding states.

That’s a great way to meet our staff and watch our kids practice, teach them what we are teaching, and again cultivating relationships. Certainly we want to be the best team in the state of Kansas. We realize we have to beat K?State to do that. That’s, in recruiting, on the court, and we realize we have our hands full. I wouldn’t have come to Kansas if I thought that was impossible.

Q. Good morning. You just touched on this, about the men’s program success. You point to places where they have (inaudible). But is there any ?? I guess it depends on how much support you get.

COACH HENRICKSON: Right. Certainly. I think typically if there is a women’s staff that feels I get (inaudible) from the women’s administration, you have to look at their administration. That is where Lew Perkins not only has a vision and expectation, he has lived that.

Our opportunity to participate in late night for the first night ever, that’s something that should happen. Our players should be able to get out in front of 16,000 people and play and let fans see our product. I don’t disagree.

I think there are women’s coaches that probably feel that way. We don’t feel that way at Kansas. Bill Self has been wonderful in our transition. He will meet with every recruit we have. Danny Manning has been fantastic as far as meeting people and families, so they are willing to help.

Obviously, Lew Perkins is going to make the right decisions to help our program in any way he can.

It wouldn’t help us if the men weren’t good. We certainly don’t want that to happen. We both can’t be negatives. So it can’t hurt you if they are bad or if they are good. It has to be one or the other.

I am a firm believer in the whole department’s success. The win in football, that helps us. The more positive the department, the more it helps the program.

Q. Blair, how tough is it for you and the other seniors to pretty much start over with a new coach coming in during your senior year?

Blair Waltz: I wouldn’t say it’s hard. It’s basically going back to being a freshman again. We were all there at one point. It’s just kind of going back to the basics and, again, doing the best that we can. Again, you know, as long as we go out and work hard every day, we make it easy for all the coaching staff to be as coachable as possible.

Q. After a couple of weeks of practice, not that you don’t have a lot of detect in the post, do you see any improvement?

COACH HENRICKSON: Alicia Rhymes has done a great job. The day, actually, we got on practice as a staff, she had two screws removed from an ACL injury. Deep in the post, no. High post, she has done quite a bit. Shot at the high post, giving us some offense there. She has gotten herself in shape. She is healthy.

I think of that group of four, outside of Crystal, the two freshmen and Alicia, she has made the biggest impact inside.

Q. Anyone else surprising you, maybe a player you didn’t know a whole lot about that has made a lot of strides here?

COACH HENRICKSON: I think consistently we are just pleasantly surprised with the improvement we have had since April. Kaylee has gotten in great shape, best shape of her life, she shoots the ball well. Blair shot the ball well. Crystal is healthy and getting touches inside. Right now I have 10 freshmen, and two true freshman.

I am not sure my voice will cover throughout the year. Hopefully it will. Give me five upper classmen, they don’t know what I am about to teach or run, so they have been in a college program before, but I think everyone has improved and been coachable.

I know that’s probably not the answer you are looking for, Jason, but that’s a good answer for me, that I don’t have just one. I think right now it’s a combination of trying to break it down and control everything, but we have to let it go live because I have to get a feel for what decision makers we are, it gets ugly, and then we watch it on film on practice.

We are going to watch last night’s today. We have to learn how to play, good shot, bad shot, defensive rotation, all the ways to defend inside. As we said yesterday, we are going to defend a catch in the post eight different ways and screen probably five different ways. Now, we will be able to handle that change night in and night out? Yes, because we have quality players and quality coaching in this league, and we try to find a way to win.

It might look different every night. That’s not typically as a staff how we like to operate. If this isn’t what’s best for our personnel, we are not going to do that.

Q. (Inaudible) doing whatever is best for these guys or is it a given to think they can win, have confidence, is that part of it?

COACH HENRICKSON: I have been pleasantly surprised with their confidence and self?esteem. The more we are demanding as a staff, we are not demeaning or disrespectful. We clearly communicate what’s a good shot, bad shot. We talk ourselves through things. I think understanding concepts has been ?? which is just a new philosophy and just a different way to teach things, right now this is a group that doesn’t beat themselves up.

They have a self?esteem maybe that most of you that don’t know them would be surprised because this group expects to be successful. Now, my job is to help them understand how does that happen. That happens by coming in ready every day, by giving great effort, great focus every day, picking up offenses, all the new things we put in already. They know we just touched the surface of what we have to put in.

I would say just the new style and different things we are going to do from an Xs and Os standpoint, more than self?confidence.

Q. Blair, how different is what you are doing now from what you did before, which was the style, the system, the terminology, the relationship that the coaching staff has with the players? How different is it? A whole lot different or not much different?

Blair Waltz: It’s different. I can’t really put a quantity on it. I mean, any new coach that comes in is going to be different. Again, I have been used to Selby for three years, so anything different is going to be new. Just the terminology is different. Again, we are all freshmen. We are all trying to learn the system that Coach Bonnie is going to put in. So it’s just ?? I mean, it’s just different.

Q. Like night and day almost?

Blair Waltz:I wouldn’t say that because, you know, both Coach Washington and Coach Bonnie have different qualities, and they both have their strong attributes and so I guess ??

COACH HENRICKSON: Blair is being politically correct. She has been watching all this ?? she is neither a Republican nor a Democrat right now.

Blair Waltz: Anything new is going to be different. I can’t put a quantity on it. It’s just they are two different styles.

Q. Blair, I asked Bonnie about self?confidence. She said you guys aren’t beaten down ?? I am not sure that’s the word you used. Did you feel that as a team? You guys haven’t won for a while.

Blair Waltz: Definitely, but as long as we come and practice and get better every day, that’s what we need to accomplish. I definitely think that we are confident enough in each other as a teammate.

I know that Crystal is going to go out tonight in practice and give all she has got in practice. I think that’s the kind of confidence we need to play and compete night in and night out.

Q. I didn’t mean for your coach, I meant did you guys bring a level of confidence into this thing even though (inaudible)?

COACH HENRICKSON: Considering the history?

Blair Waltz: Oh, yeah.

Q. Is it part of your personality? You always smile, I don’t know.

COACH HENRICKSON: I think it is just mostly we have more confidence in each other. Through April and through preseason we have come so far just in our strength and conditioning workouts that we have, we have developed that self?confidence, and that mental standpoint that we can do whatever we put our mind to.

Q. For each of the players, are you guys worried that Bonnie can be successful in (inaudible)?

Crystal Kemp: The type of people she brings in, they are all different, but they have that talent right off the bat. A lot of times people bring in freshmen who may need to develop a year or two, but the ones she has picked that I have seen look like they are ready to come in and play.

Blair Waltz: I think definitely the thing that surprises me the most about the recruiting is how much interaction we get to have with the recruits. I think that is very, very vital to the recruiting process, and to get some of the top players in the country to come to Kansas.

Q. Bonnie, how do you prepare Crystal and the forwards for these 6’4″, 6’5″ girls you are going to be seeing?

COACH HENRICKSON: That’s what we were working on last night. It’s not how big you are, it’s how big you play. We are obviously going to have to bring some help and bring it from different parts of the floor and be creative and create some confusion, as long as we are not confusing each other, which is the dynamic that’s most important.

It is the combination of different defenses. Offensively, to get Crystal in transition, it is hard to double?team someone in transition and double?team an offensive rebounder. To do those things you have to be in great shape, fit, and determined to get that done in those areas. I think that’s the most important thing.

Again, right, we understand what’s coming at us as far as size. In my career we have played against Rutgers, Notre Dame and all the Moorheads and Connecticuts.

We have had a bigger team. I think we had one kid that was below 6′ and everyone else was above six foot. I have to rely on some things I did earlier in my career when we weren’t big or one of the little ones guarding those kids.

Q. Bonnie, I know you have to take one step at a time.


Q. Right. I am sure, too, that you and Lou have looked ?? you have had a chance now to assess the program and assess where you are. What would be a reasonable length of time for a Jayhawk fan, do you think, that they could expect your program to be on a par with, say, Kansas State is now?

COACH HENRICKSON: Well, that depends. Fair question. Tough answer. I think for us, when you look at our first two and three recruiting classes will be the biggest key for us. As you know, we are all better coaches with talent.

Anyone that doesn’t tell you that is not being honest. You can train the donkey all you want, it’s not going to win the Kentucky Derby. You have to compete at this level and compete in this league. That’s most important now. If you are looking at two, three recruiting classes based on the sheer number of scholarships we have in our first two years, those years will be critical for us.

MODERATOR: Well, thank you all very much. We are going to ask you to step to the back of the room if you would and go to the round tables and take the one-on-ones. Have a great season.