Jayhawks Welcome Reporters for Annual Media Day

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Just one day after kicking off the 2015-16 season with the first day of practice, Kansas women’s basketball opened its doors for media day on Wednesday, Oct. 9, inside Allen Fieldhouse. The media-only event began with head coach Brandon Schneider’s preseason press conference followed by one-on-one interviews with every member of the team suiting up this season.

The Jayhawks will conduct their second practice of the season this Thursday as the team gears up for Late Night in the Phog, set for Friday, Oct. 9.
Below are quotes from Schneider and the student-athletes.

Kansas women’s basketball head coach Brandon Schneider 
Opening Statement:
“Well, I think first and foremost, I’ve been really pleased with our players throughout the summer months and here early in the fall in terms of their work ethic and their leadership. I really think we have some veteran players, and in our program right now a sophomore is a veteran, we have some veteran players that have really stepped up and tried to demonstrate a work ethic and an approach to the process that we really like. Anytime you have good leadership, I think it’s really important that you also have people who are willing to be led, and I give a lot of credit to our newcomers. They’ve come in with the right type of mindset, and I think just in general, everybody in the program wants to get better, and they see the need that we have to get better.”

On the impact of the team’s first training camp:
“I think I said in this same room back in April that conditioning was going to be really, really important to us, and that was not to mean that I was going to come in and be some sort of taskmaster. The rules dictate that we become in better shape because now we’re playing four quarters, we have fewer timeouts, we have a scenario where if a timeout is called at the 8:30 mark of the first quarter, it’s going to wipe the five-minute media, so that’s eight minutes and 30 seconds you could go without a time-out.Sophomore Lauren Aldridge interviewed
during media day.

And then you add to that maybe pace of play is going to be a little bit different than what the players were accustomed to. So, I think it wasn’t just us coming in and saying you have to get in better shape, it’s more about here’s why, and then here’s the plan and how we go about it.

I think what training camp does, that three-week period, is they have to come together to really — I don’t want to use the word survive it, but to attack each day and kind of help each other through it. I think that brought them closer together.

Our big mantra, it’s all over our facility now, is “tough and together.” For you to build that toughness and that togetherness, then you’ve got to have some built-in adversity, and I think that’s what Coach Glenn and Coach Hudy did a really terrific job of in September.
On the style of play this season:
“Well, I think the hardest from a position standpoint, is that we don’t really play a true power forward. Our offense is a lot more four out and one in, so to compare it to football, we wouldn’t play a tight end or a full back. We really spread it out.

A player like Jada Brown, who is used to playing more on the blocks and at the high post and those areas, now she’s having to move her game away from the basket a little bit more. We’re asking her to really work on her three, asking her to work on getting the ball into the paint more off the bounce. So there are players who maybe weren’t accustomed to playing a certain way, and now we’re just – through player development – trying to better prepare them for those situations.

I really felt like a mistake that I made at Stephen F. Austin was trying to come up with a scheme that fit the personnel, even though it wasn’t how we were going to play in the future and I felt like we wasted a year. So regardless of the personnel we have, we’re going to try to play the way that we would like to play in the future, and I feel like we can get a leg up maybe on year two and year three.”

On what type of culture Schneider is hoping to establish early on:
“Just the toughness and the togetherness. Culture-wise, a lot of times you go into a program and you inherit a mess. That’s not the case at all here. We have terrific kids and they work really, really hard, and they want to get better. So, it’s not like we inherited a bunch of bad apples at all. That makes it a lot more fun to come to work every day, because again, they recognize that we need to get better and they have a burning desire, I think, to improve.”

On what promises can be made to fans:
“We’ll play really, really hard. We’ve always been a team that would rotate and take a charge, that would jump over the scorer’s table after a loose ball or would dive on the floor. I want us, especially here early, for fans and media and parents and everybody, to just evaluate us on how hard we play, first and foremost, and then can you see some evidence of togetherness.

There’s always those times in games where you see teams fragment. Maybe it’s at the free-throw line and you should have a huddle and you should have good communication, but one guy is over here, one guy is over there. So those are the things that are going to be really important to us early on. How hard are we playing, and are we really promoting the unity that we’re talking about on a daily basis.”

On what area or position will be this team’s strength:
“Well, I think we have the most depth at the point guard or the combo-guard position, because we do return Lauren Aldridge and Timeka O’Neal, who has, I think, really recovered well from the ACL injury. She’s another player who has shot the ball extremely well all summer. Then you have the two freshmen in Aisia Robertson and Jayde Christopher, who bring a lot of athleticism. We feel like they’re going to be players that can really get into the gaps of the defense and make some plays.

Now, here early, we may throw it to the cheerleaders and the band a lot, but you know, that’s okay for me. Early in the season I want them to play without fear of making mistakes a little bit early. I think you can always maybe rein it in a little bit.”
On individual improvement:
“I think right now, everybody has things that we’re really focused on that we’re trying to improve, but there are two players that maybe have not played a lot of minutes in the past that I know we’re going to expect to do so,  who I think have made a lot of improvement. Jada Brown is a player that I don’t think has ever had a lot of confidence in her offensive game, and we’re really working with her to kind of develop her game and understand what her plays are. Not everybody’s plays are the same. But we want to get her comfortable in what we call her plays on the offensive end. And then Caelynn Manning-Allen, has been playing behind Chelsea Gardner for a lot of years, and we see a lot of really positive things in what she can potentially bring to the table. We’ve seen a lot of progress with her over the summer.”

On what each of the newcomers bring to the table:
“Well, I think Kylee is shooting the ball really well. We’re going to rely heavily on her three-point shooting especially. She’s also a terrific passer for being a bigger guard.

Tyler Johnson, I think her and Caelynn Manning-Allen probably would be the two right now that would see the most time based on what I’ve seen to this point at the center position. Tyler is going to be undersized at that position, but I think, is a very skilled player. I think the rules benefit her too, as a big with her ability to face the basket. Then you’ve got Aisia Robertson, who will probably play the 2 spot for us this year. She’s very, very athletic. She can shoot the three, but I think probably prefers to make plays off the dribble.

Jayde Christopher is as fast with the ball as any player I’ve ever been around, and she’s going to be one of those players, I think, that could really have some electric moments in transition. We’ve got to get her looking for her shot a little bit. She’s so locked in to making plays for others, but I think when you’re in that role, you also have to understand that when I can get in the lane as much as I think she’s going to be able to, she’s got to be able to have a mid-range game or a floater game and get some baskets, as well.

Chelsea Lott provides us with some depth, again, at the center position, as well as returner Lorraine Enabulele. Kelea Dennis is still coming off an ACL injury, so she hasn’t participated a lot in our five-on-five stuff. But, I think when you see her, her length, she’s about 6’1″, and has very, very long arms. As we move forward in recruiting, I think it’ll be pretty obvious as to the body type that we’re really looking for. I like guys that can run. I like guys that have longer arms than what their height says that they should have. But most importantly, we like basketball players, people that can dribble, pass and shoot.

Sometimes you’ve got to remind everybody we’re not recruiting a track team.”

On what to expect from Chayla Cheadle this season:
“I’m excited about her versatility. We’re going to play her at two different spots. I love her work ethic. I think that she’s going to have to be one of those players that could develop into a double-digit scorer. We have some candidates out there, but she should be one of them. But I think from a defense and a rebounding standpoint, I think she’s got the potential to really be a lock-down defender and take a lot of pride in that role.”

On Lauren Aldridge’s development and how teams will scout her this season:
“Well, I can’t really speak to how people might game plan for her yet. I don’t know that we’ve had enough practices. But what I will tell you is her work ethic and her attention to detail are tremendous, and just from a lead-by-example perspective, and this is where McKenzie Calvert and Jessica Washington, all of our freshmen, doesn’t matter who you are, you need to strive to try to work like Lauren Aldridge does every day.

If we can as a program and as a team try to keep up with Lauren, then we’re going to get better.”
On the newcomers that Schneider recruited:
“Well, I think when we were hired in April, there were really six players that were here on campus, and addressing the issue with the numbers is something that we wanted to do right away. I think we accomplished that through a lot of different avenues, whether it be Division I transfers, whether it be a junior college transfer or freshmen. The players that were signed by the previous staff back in November, all four of those guys are doing really, really well and feel like they’re going to have the opportunity very early on in their careers to contribute.”

On how the Division-I transfers can help a young team face the strength of the Big 12 conference:
“The biggest thing that those two guys (McKenzie Calvert and Jessica Washington) bring is some swag about them. They are ultra-confident and I don’t think it hurts to have that in your facility every day, because those are the caliber of players that we’re playing against. When you face that in practice, it’s going to do nothing but make you better.”

Chayla Cheadle // Sophomore // Guard
On how it felt to officially start the season:
“It was great. I felt like last season went by really fast and so I’m really excited to start this new season.”
On what she is most looking forward to this season:
“The solid offense that we’re playing this year. It’s going to be fast-paced and I’m really looking forward to it because I feel like it fits me well.”
On the biggest strength of this team:
“I think our unity on the court and playing as a team. I think that will be huge this year.”
Caelynn Manning-Allen // Junior // Forward
On how it felt to officially start the season:
“It was amazing. Just being out there and able to compete with my teammates and just make everybody better and to be made better was just a great experience.”
On the biggest strength of this team:
“Togetherness, toughness and just our ability to compete.”
On what she is most looking forward to this season:
“I’m looking forward to learning a lot from coach Brandon. He’s great. He’s a great person and he’s very influential and he pushes us. I’m just excited to get back out there.”
Tyler Johnson // Freshman // Forward
On playing so close to home:
“It’s great. I mean it’s awesome knowing that my family and friends can come watch me and it’s awesome knowing that I can just go home whenever I want. It’s really cool.”
On the biggest strength of this team:
“Probably just our toughness and how together we are. It’s going to help us do well in a lot of games. We have a lot of chemistry.”
Jayde Christopher // Freshman // Guard
On getting out on the court and getting the season started:
“I was nervous, but I think we did really well. I like the way we are moving into things. I think we are going to do really well this season.”
On what she’s looking forward to this season:
“Going out there and playing our hardest every game and trying to win the Big 12.”
Kylee Kopatich // Freshman // Guard
On playing in Allen Fieldhouse:
“It’s spectacular. When I was a little girl I would come to games. Now to actually be a part of it—words can’t even describe how excited I am.”
On what she is looking forward to this season:
“Having the chance to play in front of people who knew me in high school, and now they get to watch me in college.  Having my family come. Just, everyone being able to watch me in a Kansas uniform. It’ll be pretty sweet.”
On the team’s strengths:
“I think we are going to be pretty aggressive this year. Coach is pretty big on that and I think we respond really well to his encouragement.”

Kelea Dennis // Freshman // Guard
On how it felt getting on the court:
“It felt great. I’m coming back from an injury, but it feels good.”

On the team’s strengths:
“I think our biggest strength is going to be our defense, and how well we play together.”

Aisia Robertson // Freshman // Guard
On Late Night:
“We’ve been practicing our skits for about a week and a half. Every day after weights and practice, every day. It makes the day fun. I’m excited to be a part of the history, but I’m nervous because the crowd is going to be excited and expecting a good show.”

On what she’s looking forward to this season:
“I’m looking forward to our first game and seeing the growth of the team over time and how far we get this season.”

On team’s biggest strength:
“I think our biggest strength is getting up and down the court.”

Lauren Aldridge // Sophomore // Guard
On the newcomers that have impressed her the most:
“All of them have really impressed me, to be honest. There are nine newcomers and to have that many newcomers on the team is crazy. They have really adjusted well on and off of the court. On the floor, I’ve been really impressed with Kylee (Kopatich). The girl can shoot lights out, which is huge in his (Coach Brandon’s) offense. All of the freshman – Jadye (Christopher) and AR (Aisia Robertson), they are going to do a really good job of pushing tempo and being the leaders on the floor. Chelsea (Lott) and Tyler (Johnson) are going to bring us some inside presence, so each of them are going to be able to contribute in a different way but all of them have shown bright spots.”

On how she can provide leadership in addition from last year:
“I think this year I can be a little more vocal. Coming in as a freshman, everyone is kind of like ‘Oh shoot, I don’t really know what to expect here,’ but now that I kind of know the ropes, I think that I’ll be able to think things clearly through my own head a little bit better, especially early in the season. That will allow me to vocalize a lot more on the floor and be more of a vocal leader for my teammates, which I think will be huge.”

On the added pressure being a team leader as an underclassman:
“I don’t think it adds any pressure at all. I think it’s a really cool responsibility, but with the opportunity of taking that name and taking that role, there is responsibility with it – a lot of responsibility with it.  I’m going to go out every day and work hard like I always do and hopefully things will turn out how we want them to.”

Jada Brown // Junior // Forward
On the pressure of being a team leader:
“Not at all, I think it’s just kind of a natural thing. Once you get older, it’s a natural position that you have to take. We’ve been in this position before as a freshman.  So it’s easier to help them out when you’ve been in that position, step up into a new role and get out of your comfort zone with the new offense and the new coach.”

On her expectations for the season:
“As a team, I would definitely like to play in the postseason. It’s definitely one of our biggest goals. Of course, the ultimate goal would be to win a Big 12 Championship, but I definitely just want to be able to advance to postseason play and finish in the top half of our conference.”

On how realistic it is to make a postseason berth:
“I think it’s very realistic, especially with the new players and the buy-in, with the chemistry and new tempo. I think we’re very capable of doing it.”

Lorraine Enabulele // Sophomore // Forward
On how it feels to be back on the floor:
“It feels really good.  It’s really different with a different tempo and it’s high-paced. It’s a lot faster, but we’re in really good shape because of training camp, so everything is really fast.”

On helping the newcomers:
“I know what they are going through and I know how I handled it. I know I had my teammates to support me and I’m going to be there for them through it.”

Timeka O’Neal // Redshirt Junior // Guard
On her recovery process from last year’s injury:
“I am doing a lot better. I would say I’m about at 90 percent, going full swing at practice and looking forward to the upcoming season. I’m still playing in my brace, but I’m feeling really good about my knee.”

On the intensity of practice:
“Physically, it’s been about the same as last year, but mentally it’s a little bit easier. You’re allowed to make a mistake and still push yourself because you have your teammates to back you up. Physically, he (Coach Brandon) pushes us. We’re running a lot this year, so the conditioning level is definitely there.  We run a lot of sprints in practice, so I’m sure it will show in the upcoming season. We have a lot of quick guards, especially our freshman, pushing the ball up the floor and making sure that we’re beating our opponents up and down the floor.”

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