Kansas Women’s Basketball Hosts Media Day

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas women’s basketball held its annual media day on Wednesday afternoon in Allen Fieldhouse. The media-only event started at 2:15 with a team photo. Head coach Bonnie Henrickson spoke at her preseason press conference followed by one-on-one interviews with the student-athletes.

Below are quotes from Henrickson and student-athletes senior guards CeCe Harper and Markisha Hawkins, junior forward Chelsea Gardner and junior guard Natalie Knight.

OCT. 2, 2013 – LAWRENCE, KAN.


Opening Statement:
“We are excited. In the many years that I’ve done this, I don’t know if there has been this much anticipation of returning players stepping into new roles and five freshman stepping onto the floor and being able to make an immediate impact in the program. That makes for a lot of energy, a lot of excitement and a lot of mistakes this part of the year, but that’s part of it. I’ve always enjoyed coaching freshmen and this year will be no different with these five kids. They bring a lot of personality and a lot of energy. These kids are skilled, they have played at a high level in their high school programs and their summer programs. That will help us as we move forward in what is considered one of the best leagues in America. In the forefront there is Natalie’s (Knight) return which has been exciting. She looks really good. She isn’t 100 percent but she has driven it into the paint and made some plays which has surprised me. From the point guard position we are going to run three people. Lamaria Cole has improved. She has gotten better and to be honest we needed her to get better. What she brings to the table is unmatched speed and quickness with everyone else. She has speed and quickness that Angel (Goodrich) had. Her speed can be an asset and it can sometimes be a detriment because she sometimes exceeds her speed then ends up being forced to make a bad decision. So once we can slow her down and limit the turnovers she is just going to get better and better. Then Natalie will play (point guard) and she isn’t going to turn the ball over. We know she is going to take care of the ball and run good half-court offense. She may not play as fast as I want to play but I’m going to like how we play because she won’t turn the ball over. And then there is CC Harper who has played a lot of point guard in her career. Sparingly here but she did quite a bit in her high school and summer teams. Chelsea Gardner has gotten better, Bunny (Williams) has gotten better and Asia Boyd has gotten better. There is some growth and progress that we need to see but they are getting there. (Marisha) Hawkins has been steady. She started the year the way she ended last year. She’s making some shots, not turning it over and getting on the glass.”
On losing Natalie Knight last season:
“I think if you look at what she did, she led the country at that point (in the season) in assist-to-turnover ratio. She played close to 35 minutes a game and we were in the middle of February and she had 13 turnovers on the year. She didn’t waste possessions and she took care of the ball, she made open shots and guarded the best girl. We did have some kids step in when she got hurt. Now did they make up for what she did? No. I think when you look at the last two years, we lose Carolyn (Davis) two years ago, then last year we lose Natalie. Then we looked around in our circle and realized that everyone had to do a little bit more and we were able to do that at a high level. It hurt us but we had other people step up.”
On team’s identity:
“We are kind of a little silly putty right now. We are still trying to form that and we are a team that has always wanted to play inside first. We are fortunate that Chelsea has had a good career here so far and we are going to ask her to do more as we are going to ask Natalie to do more. The identity is still a little weak and offensively we are still a work in process.  Defensively we need to learn how to turn people over so we can go get high percentage shots and learn to rebound the ball better. Then we need to take strengths of our freshman and be able to grow those five.”
On the five freshmen:
“Keyla Morgan is a big athletic girl who loves to run and rebound. She is able to pull up a little better than I anticipated early. Jada Brown has led us in offensive rebounding early. She has speed and quickness. She doesn’t have size but she has a knack for getting the ball off the glass and has the speed to get there. Defensively her concepts coming in are really good. She was well coached and is where she needs to be most of the time. Dakota (Gonzalez) is a kid who can put it on the ball and shoot the three. She can rebound the ball and bring toughness to the floor. Now she has been dinged up a little bit. She is going to be able to go up and down today after being limited to half court (last week). Dylan (Gonzalez) has shot the ball well and can rebound well. She also brings toughness from a competitive standpoint with lots of energy. It’s going to be a little while to get her back in the mix following her hernia surgery. Caelynn (Manning-Allen) is the most improved of the group; her vertical has improved six inches since we have gotten her. Keep in mind she’s 6-foot-4 but she’s 6-foot-7 fingertip to fingertip. She is a long, lanky girl and has gotten stronger. If she embraces how important strength is at that position and be able to hold her own and fight for her position, she will be pretty good. She runs well and she has been able to do that. She doesn’t always have the best body control and she gets a little off balance since the strength issue is her biggest problem, but she knew that coming in.”
On how her coaching has changed from last year:
“I’m more coaching on every possession. There’s a lot of teaching and lot of learning and if you do this for a living, that’s the best part of what we do. We get to teach them and watch them get better. Lamaria probably has the biggest job. She does things that Angel did really, really well. Lamaria isn’t that person but she has gotten better. She’s more in tune and has taken that position more seriously.  Off the court, Lamaria is very goofy and silly. But when we get between the lines she needs to learn to have split personalities and be more locked down and serious. On the floor she needs to own it. She’s not there yet but she has made progress.”
On Kansas men’s and women’s basketball both making it to the Sweet Sixteen in 2013:
“I think it speaks volumes to the commitment of the athletic department. Not only for the basketball teams to have success, but what track did and what volleyball did and for the other programs that are moving in that direction and competing at a high level. That’s exciting. We’ve worked hard every day from a culture to change that and from an expectation, and be so excited for everyone’s success here but eager to chip in and produce some of our own. But we believe that’s the way it should be here. You can’t do that without a commitment from your chancellor, a commitment from the athletic director and (from) the people that come to work in this building every day and try to give us a chance to be successful. We are surrounded by people who really, really care here.”
On using the loss to Notre Dame as a motivation for this year:
“I think when you look at that and you look at the Tennessee game, both games in the Sweet Sixteen, we just ran out of gas. If you look at it there are some particulars in the game, from a depth standpoint, wanting to go deeper into the bench – that’s where I have looked at it, identified it and talked about it in recruiting, as you might imagine.”
On the Brittney Griner’s graduation affecting the competiveness of the Big 12 Conference:
“It’s more even than it was in Griner’s four years. If you look at last year, we had an unbelievable senior class, that’s well documented. But so did a lot of other people – programs changing, difference makers in their senior class, so I’m sure a lot of people at the mic this week saying that they have upperclassmen in different roles and young kids that are going to have to step up and play. I don’t know who wouldn’t be talking about that right now, honestly. Are there some teams that maybe return a little bit more than some of us? Certainly, there are a few of those; but again, you’ve got a lot of upperclassmen that are going to be in completely different roles and some freshmen that are going to have to step up to play. (They) are capable of stepping up and playing because the league has a really good freshman class.”
On the team’s leadership:
“With all of them, when you talk about leadership, you’re going to naturally go to your seniors and your juniors, your upperclassmen. Natalie (Knight) does it but in a different way, similar to Angel (Goodrich); (she) wasn’t the most vocal kid and grew to be the most vocal. Natalie does everything the right way, I can count on one hand the times – and Angel- that I had to really get into Angel or have gotten into Natalie from an effort (standpoint). (As far as) attitude (goes), never. But from a lead-by-example standpoint, Natalie’s spot on. Now, you need to hear her voice more, absolutely. Same things, same conversations I had to have with Angel. What does leadership mean? It means you can influence. So who can influence? I think Natalie can, in a quiet subtle way; Cece (Harper) can influence and Asia (Boyd) can influence. They can. They’ve got to drive my vision. Your leaders need to drive the head coach’s vision. Do I think I have that? Yes, I think I have multiple (leaders). I think we have one or two, but they can all do it by committee. By design, and on purpose, we have not voted for captains yet. I’m going to let them keep trying to figure it out. We have five freshmen, and when you only have 12 players and five are freshmen, there’s no way we were going to vote in the summer because I’m not sure if they knew everybody’s name in the summer. (You’ve) got to make sure they know everybody’s name before we vote. But our committee will have it.”
On Natalie Knight’s recovery in comparison to others:
“Well Carolyn (Davis) was just so different, Natalie was maybe about a week later than Carolyn. Carolyn had the dislocation, and the ACL. When you look at Natalie on Friday, she’ll look a lot better than Carolyn did. But Carolyn had a piece that Natalie didn’t. Looking at her, I think she’s ahead of schedule. She’s frustrated because she wants to be the way she was before she got hurt, but it won’t be much longer. I think she looks good. In between her ears she’s in a really good place.”
On if Chelsea (Gardner) could possibly be the best center in the league:
“I don’t think there’s any reason why she can’t. She can score in multiple ways and she’s embraced being more physical. I think if you look at her high-post jumper, trail player especially with Caelynn (Manning-Allen) being that long, you can score around the rim, you can put those two together. Really, we played Carolyn and Chelsea a lot together last year, but Caelynn, probably as a freshman, has more confidence right now than Carolyn on a 15-foot jumper right. That’s only going to get better for her, so both are more capable, if you look at playing those two together, you’ve got more high post offense than the two of them together. It’s going to feel different for Chelsea because Carolyn got a lot of people’s attention. Not that they didn’t go to Chelsea, as far as sneaking over and allowing Chelsea to get loose for maybe some offensive rebounds, because our guys are maybe coming back, shading to Carolyn a little bit, but she understands. I think she’s ready for it. There’s been nothing that I’ve seen, when we go to her, and she understands that but there are some young kids that can help her too. And we can play Asia Boyd at the four too. We can swing her a little bit.”
On this year being important to keep the level they were at last year:
“Being successful in this league, and giving ourselves a chance at postseason – absolutely. But I think as young as you are and I know it’s boring coach talk, and I get it, you’re going to ask me the same thing. But we’ve got to focus on getting better every day. More so than any other year I’ve been here before. But for us having the success we had last year, it’s been nothing but a positive for us, and it’s going to be nothing but positive from an expectation standpoint. That junior class has done nothing but go to Sweet 16s; that’s all they know and that’s a really good thing.”
On telling the Gonzalez twins apart:
“I think I’ve got it. It took me a while. If I have them both standing in front of me, I’ve got it. In a live drill when they’re both in, I do have to kind of stop. What I have gotten down is Dylan (Gonzalez) is No. 3 and Dakota (Gonzalez) is No. 2. If they walked in here I could tell you. But live it’s a little bit tough. And Dakota wears a head band, which helps.”
On Dakota and Dylan Gonzalez’s games being similar:
“Dakota bounces off the dribble a little bit, elevates a little bit better. As far as pull-up and shooting the three, that depends on who’s more aggressive.”
On the Gonzalez’s recruitment and their mother’s involvement:
“I think Angie (Snider, Kansas women’s basketball letterwinner 1982-84) handled it really well. I don’t think that she just crammed it down their throats early. Honestly, she played it really cool. Because her family played at Bishop Miege, anytime they would come back, they would just come through, swing through a practice, come to the game. They came to the Big 12 Tournament when it was in Kansas City. We couldn’t talk to them because it was off campus, but we knew they were there, and she’s swinging by here. When they committed, we went out and did a home visit, and honestly they had more KU stuff in their house than probably anyone in here. How could they not? They have a sport court in Kansas colors. But I think she did enough – it was, ‘Here it is, here’s what they have to offer, and what a great place it is,’ and then (she) kind of backed up. And then they were like, ‘What are we doing? Why wouldn’t we go there?’ But I think she did it the right way, because if she just hammered them, I think they would have just pushed it away.”
On if recruiting is picking up:
“Those kids want to play at that level, they want to be that successful, they want to play on national television – they recognize that’s important. Now, with the new rules, you can text and call unlimited times for the senior class and the junior class. That’s really been great timing for us, to be able to get on the phone with these kids and have all that fresh.”

On how it feels to be back from injury:
“It is really exciting, the first practice went great. It felt good to be out there and play with my team because I haven’t been able to play a lot of pick-up games with them.”

On how you have stepped into the role as a leader on this team:
“I think being more vocal is important for me. We have a lot of people that can be leaders on this team. It is just a matter of who is going to step up at the right time. I think we all have work to do, but we are definitely working on it. All of the upperclassmen have been great at getting the freshman acclimated and helping them come together with us as a team.”
On the expectations surrounding this team:
“One goal is to make it further than last year, but moving past the Sweet 16 is definitely on my mind. Of course, we want to win a national championship, but I think getting back to the Sweet 16 and beyond would be great.”
On what you are most excited for this season:
“I am excited to get back out there and play with everybody. I am looking forward to seeing how we are going to put all of these pieces together.”


On how the team is doing so far:
“I think the team as a whole is a lot farther along than people may think. The team bond is really strong. The freshmen are really coming along and picking things up really well. They will all come in to their own and do well”

On her goals for the season:
“I want to do well at the point guard spot, and be able to lead the team when put in that position.”

On what she’s looking forward to most this season:
“I’m looking forward to a lot, I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen and see what it’s going to bring. We have a lot of freshmen coming in, but I know they’ll be ready. We’re just taking it a day at a time, not rushing anything and learning new things every day. We’re just preparing for the first game and games after that.”

On what the freshmen will add to this team:
“They bring a lot of things to the team. They bring competitiveness, a lot of hard-work and dedication. They’re always in the gym trying to get extra shots in and going hard in practice. They are making us better and making themselves better to prepare us for the season.”

On what she adds to the team:
“Whatever Coach Bonnie wants me to do, that’s what I do. Whatever she needs me to do, I do it. Whatever they need me to do, just to get the win on our side, I’ll do it.”


On what you have focused on improving this offseason:
“I have focused on finishing around the rim and getting up and down the court in transition.”
On how you have stepped into the role as a leader on this team:
“I have been trying to get the team to come together and making sure that I am a good role model for the freshman. I am trying to lead them by setting a good example. I have definitely been a lot more vocal this year than in year’s past.”
On the expectations surrounding this team:
“As a team, I think we are going to have a great season. We have a lot of newcomers and we need to come together to get ready for this season. I feel like I need to be more of a leader, step up to the plate and lead my team by example.”
On what you are most excited for this season:
“I am just ready to play the first game and get this season started. We have put in a lot of work this offseason and I think it is going to show.”
KUAthletics.com: The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.