bleedCrimson.net will be conducting weekly interviews with Aggie women's basketball head coach Darin Spence throughout the 2008/2009 season as the Aggies take aim at a conference championship. This week we spoke with Coach Spence about the first exhibition game this past Sunday and talked about the youth movement on his team.
bleedCrimson.net: What are your thoughts on Sunday's exhibition win?
Darin Spence: It was a great opportunity to get out and kick the season off. I didn't realize how inexperienced and how young we were until I saw us out on the floor. Especially when you consider our experience comes from Tyshae Walton who started a bunch of games for us and is a senior and Madison [Spence] who's a sophomore. I think with Danisha Corbett, "Day Day" playing a lot of minutes, I don't know of any game last year that she played over 20 minutes. So it just hit me like a ton of bricks. We are just really young and green and we're gonna have to figure it out as we go. But I was really pleased with how we kept trying to find ways to make plays and for the most part defensively we were pretty solid. Offensively we were horrible but it's the first time out and we'll get better as we move on.
bc.net: Danisha had 18 points and five steals. How much pressure will she take off of Madison to have to score?
DS: It does and that's part of what Day Day brings, she's just an explosive player and she can score. The next step for her in her growth is shot selection, mixing up perimeter shots, drives, getting points off steals and just her finding her way and just getting some experience out there. It takes a lot of pressure off of Madi, especially since Madi's been out fighting that mono bug and stress related ulcer. She's not in her game condition which is sad because she worked so hard over the summer then it just hit her. So her timing was off but with Day Day picking up the slack it really helps. We've got others who can do it as well but Day Day's got to concentrate better on her defensive play and also has to help us on the defensive rebounding.
bc.net: With Madison getting over mono, how limited will you keep her playing time?
DS: I think it's a day to day process with her and how much she can go. We're trying to limit her minutes early in the exhibition games and I can't remember how many she played but I wanted to keep her to under 20. We put her in at the end of the game last night just to get us kinda back under control and she goes in and she hits two shots and just kinda brings some calmness to us. Her conditioning will come, she's just gonna have to battle it and hopefully it won't take all year. What it does is it frustrates her. I noticed last night she's not going to force shots but she needs to shoot the ball for us but if her strength and her legs aren't there it's going to be a double-edged sword for her. But she's just going to have to work her way back in and rely on her teammates to help her through it.
bc.net: How much will Madison's limited playing time help accelerate the growth of Kaitlyn Soto and some of the other young players?
DS: It will speed that up drastically with Kaitlyn and Brittany Palmer both trying to fill in and run some point for us and take those duties over. It also may end up with us getting beat a couple times early in maybe games that we shouldn't because we don't want to sacrifice January, February, March for November and December no matter what we want our record to be. I just think we have a world of potential with this group but I think the early minutes that those other kids can get is just gonna make us better when we get down the road. And I think maybe the limited minutes on somebody like Madison will help keep her healthier for the year. I don't have any reservations playing those other kids. I think we're deeper, more talented and it's just a matter now of putting it all together.
bc.net: Freshman forward Tabytha Wampler looks to be a ready made, set to go player for you in the post.
DS: She is. She can do a lot of things. Last night she looked comfortable at times, she looked uncomfortable at times but again she's a freshman. But she's a freshman who's ready to play. There's a difference between freshmen who come in, deer in the headlights look and those like Madi did last year that stepped in and are ready to play. Tabytha can play a couple different spots for us. She's just gonna get better as each day comes and goes. The thing about her is she's a tough kid. She's a battler and she'll fight you tooth and nail. It's just a matter of her settling in and where she's gonna get her points from. She's a solid defender, good rebounder and I think every day she's on the court is just going to help her.
bc.net: Talk a little bit about her range. I've watched her a couple of times now in the pregame warmups and she's probably a good foot and a half behind the men's line hitting shots that are nothing but net.
DS: It's easy to say she's better than what we thought. I knew she could play but at this stage of the game she's better, she handles it better, she does a lot of things. Her shooting range is better. She's such a strong physical kid and as she keeps getting in better game shape and keeps working in the weight room that's just going to increase. She's got good size, good basketball build to her. An athletic kid, smart basketball player. The thing with her is to not let her settle on deep threes and have her mix it up, go in the post. It'll just take some time for her to learn when and where. But she's obviously an important part of our season, of our team.
bc.net: How important are these first few games in terms of cohesiveness and getting the kids comfortable playing with each other?
DS: I've referred to us a few times as just a bunch of little puppies running around the back yard. All of the sudden you see one kinda take over and the rest follow and we're still kinda in that pecking order establishing time. Who's gonna play what minutes, who's gonna back up. We're still kinda in that mode. These early games give us a chance to get a feel for who does what when the bright lights come one. It's one thing to do it in practice and you have to carry it over to the game. Things change once those lights go on. It's kinda like you gotta take your game from the driving range to the course. That's kinda where we are. It'll take a while for us to do that. I think that first game last night will probably open up a lot of eyes as we go into practice today and later on today when we go and watch the tape and break things down per person and by position. I think the game minutes are huge for us right now. It won't get fixed in those two exhibition games, it may take down the road four, five, six games but we're working hard and the kids are doing everything we ask.
bc.net: Last year it was pretty clear that the emotional leader was Anikia Jawara. How important is it to have someone like that and has anyone emerged from this group to fill that spot?
DS: No. It's a group that's kinda going by committee right now. The majority of them are on the same page and their goals are all the same and they want to win and that's a good thing. You'd want to look to your seniors, Tyshae and Niki as those leader out in front. Tyshae's not the most vocal one and so she's gotta do it by example and Niki can do it vocally but then those vocal leaders have to do it physically as well to get some respect from the teammates and Niki's confidence is high and she's doing well. Those two have to be the ones to do that but Madi can lead, Tabytha Wampler, Kaitlyn Soto is pretty vocal. Crystal Boyd who's not playing for us, sitting out this year, was really good on the bench last night talking to them. She's got all that BIg XII, Division I, NCAA Tournament experience so she was a big help to us as well. I think it'll just take some time for us to develop that one. Who are we are going to get our points from, who's going to pick us up when we're down and I think we're still a work in progress there.
bc.net: You talked a little bit about Crystal Boyd, what kind of addition has she been even though she can't play, what has she brought to the team in the practice gym?
DS: She's been just a great help to all our guards, all our perimeter people because she's so hard to guard. She's a good defensive player, she's long and athletic. We won't see many players like her in our league or who we play. She's a high level player and like I said, on the bench during home games, just her experience and her telling kids what to do and when to do it is really going to be huge for us. She's got a huge role even though she's not playing. I think it'll allow Crystal to grow up and see the game from a different angle as she goes into next year.
bc.net: On Wednesday you've got another exhibition game, this one against the Melbourne Roos.
DS: Yeah the Melbourne Roos, they've already played two games. They played at West Texas A&M. They lost that one and then got beat really bad at Texas Tech. Then they'll play at UNM on Tuesday night and here on Wednesday night. They're a longer team, they're going to try to spread you out, drive it and kick it out and shoot some threes and mix up some man and zone. I think it's a team that we need to be conscious of their three point shooting, keep their drives in front of us and more so worry about what we do and kind of take a step for our program. Get in better position defensively, running our offense better, it's going to be a chance to grow. Of course we want to win the game. When there's a scoreboard on and the lights are on and there's referees you play to win. So we'll keep learning and try to do better and improve in that second game. That's kind of the way it always is. You improve after your first game. After that first exhibition game you should take a huge step and that's what I expect us to do.