Here is the transcript from the ACC Teleconference with Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie. Duke is preparing for this weeks ACC Tournament and their first game on Friday evening.
Opening remarks as Duke heads into the tournament as the third seed with an impressive win on Sunday over UNC –
“We’re just working hard coming off of the last game on Sunday night, and looked at that film and had to break some things down to get better at so we looked at that and had some practice. We’re really excited for the tournament it’s such a great tournament. Greensboro and all the folks in Greensboro did such an amazing job with the tournament so we’re excited about that. We’re just back at practice tomorrow and ready to get started.”
Could you talk about how the ACC has come up with a stat of 27 players throughout the league from North Carolina and why you think that is so?
“That’s tremendous. I’m new to the area and new to the ACC in a lot of ways, compared to the great longevity of some of the coaches. But it’s just not really a big surprise to me relative to what I’ve seen in terms of the talent across the state and trying to be out more and more; we’ve been recruiting hard in the state. It just makes perfect sense when you think about the triangle and you think about the rivalry and the great basketball traditions. It’s an exciting thing, if we can recruit locally and have great North Carolina players at Duke that’s exactly what we want to do. It’s great that Duke is global and that we can go worldwide; we’ve got a girl coming in from France next year, and that’s very exciting for us. But at the same time if you can go half an hour, 45 minutes or a couple hours down the road and find the best players in the country that’s very exciting for us as well. So I’m not surprised, I’m learning the state, obviously we’ve got a lot more to learn about meeting being, being out and that type of thing but I think it’s a great thing.”
Florida is known for a football school, Texas for a football school, can you say the same about North Carolina for basketball, women’s basketball especially?
“I think that Duke and North Carolina and N.C. State, this area is absolutely basketball country, and I don’t think that any school has the monopoly. Certainly I think that’s what makes the beauty of it. Some of the schools you mentioned might have more of a monopoly, or seem to at times, but the reality of it is there are just some really, really great programs in this area and I think they just feed off of each other. I think about our fans, 9,200 people jam-packed into Cameron [Indoor Stadium]. When we played some teams even last year, there were a lot of empty seats. It was a sellout but it wasn’t a true sellout. The neat thing for us on Sunday night was it was a true sellout. It was hard to find a seat in the house. So I think it’s very exciting, those types of things occurring, getting our attendance up. I know we’re very prideful about our attendance and leading the triangle in attendance and also trying to build that nationwide. So it all revolves around the same thing, which is that this is a basketball place, and it’s one of the key reasons why I came to Duke and came to this area, after really enjoying my time at Michigan State.”
Just to clarify Coach, when I was saying state I meant Florida the state and Texas the state in terms of prep athletes – those states are football states. Do your comments still stand if I were to ask you about North Carolina as a state?
“Sorry, but yes, I think that North Carolina just coming on so strongly, a lot of great coaches, talking about the high school and AAU level, there are a lot of great coaches and a lot of great students. But I think it’s all interwoven; if it’s football down there, it’s basketball here. And it’s interwoven by the high school student-athletes and the coaches, as well as what’s going on in college, with the Duke’s in the world, North Carolina, N.C. State and that type of thing.”
I was wondering how you think Chante Black’s defense has improved over the years and how big of an effort she’s made on that as a forward this season?
“I think Chante has improved in all areas, I don’t think I would even pick one area specifically because I think she’s just grown. She competes everyday in practice, she’ll never take a play off, and she’ll go harder than most ever would. I agree with you I think she’s improved dramatically because she’s getting quicker, stronger, a little bit more savvy. I was very saddened that she only got to play 18 minutes in Sunday’s game; I really did not feel that she was going to be up for disqualification in any way. I think she’s a great player; she’s got to be on the floor, she’s a player who is aggressive but she’s smart, and without question has improved in all areas. Her shot blocking, her timing, aggressiveness there has improved. I think her best basketball is ahead of her. It’ll be after Duke, it’ll be someplace else.”
How has Jasmine Thomas developed in your system, she had such a good game on Sunday, how have you seen her progress?
“I think Jasmine’s really done incredible things. Being a sophomore I think people don’t give her her due. She’s a sophomore point guard, she’s got so much to learn, and she’s been getting better every game. She’s had many, many great games this year, whether it was at Virginia, at Tennessee, Stanford, against Carolina on Sunday. She has risen to the occasion so much this year, in many interesting games, in Maryland at home, and I just think it’s part of her competitive spirit. Jasmine is a kid who works really, really hard. The thing about it is she’s not a true point guard, but she plays point guard in an excellent way. She’s really a 1-2-2-1, because she thinks like a two, she wants to score – definitely a scoring point guard. So I think its been very exciting to see her command the point guard position, without being as true as a point guard can be in that area. It’s really great to work with her, she’s just such a great person, and I know she’ll continue to get better and I know she’s excited for what’s coming up for us.”
How have you been able to live with your assist to turnover ratio this year, I’m sure it’s not what you’d like, but how have you been able to deal with the fact that you guys do have that negative assist to turnover ratio, and there have been times when it’s hurt you?
“I look at that kind of scientifically. We have 12 people on our team, and we have one true point guard. And that true point guard is a freshman, Chelsea Hopkins. She’s played point guard her entire life and grown up a ‘point guard coach’s daughter.’ The rest of our team is made up of combination players; two-ones, two-threes, three-twos, four-threes, and things of that nature. So I have a little bit of patience because I understand that the assist to turnover ratio when it’s at its best comes from a point guard, and sometimes having two or three of them on the floor at the same time. We don’t have that luxury; we’ve got a lot of attacking guards. So we’ve got to be patient about it, but in the same sense be impatient, because I think our guards are getting more experience and that’s a good thing in order to try to make that a better number.”
Is that sort of the classic case of “okay” turnovers, turnovers you can live with, and then some that you do need to think about; is that something you have been teaching them this year?
“I don’t know. I think that 14 or 12 turnovers for a game is something that we’re always going for – even though I know it doesn’t look like that – but we are. And that’s 14 to 12 every single game, or less. And I think that our assists have been climbing recently to 15, 16, 17 a game – ideally it’s 20, 22, 24. So that number needs to go higher. But I just think it’s a matter of growing as a team. Out of our three guard spots that start, one’s a sophomore, and one’s a young lady who has now started a game at Duke, I told her this year she really got going, and that’s Bridgette [Mitchell], but she’s not a point guard in any way. Then you’ve got Abby [Waner] who has got great experience, but she still is the truest two there is, with her beautiful ability to shoot and score and all of that stuff. So we’ve just got to roll with it, we can’t worry about what we’re not, we’ve got to be what we are, and I’m just really proud of our attack mentality. So hopefully that will make up for those negative turnovers.”