Weekly Coach Spence Interview :: 11/11/08 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 their exhibition game against Melbourne this past week and talked about the start of the regular season with games against UC-Irvine and Cal-Poly. What are your thoughts on the exhibition game with Melbourne?
Darin Spence: I thought we were much improved from game one and that's what you should be. Basketball teams always take their biggest step, especially early in the year, from game one to game two. In this case it's our exhibition games. I thought we played a good first 16 minutes. Defensively we were pretty solid. Offensively we got up and down and took some good shots. After that we started tinkering around with some lineups and I think we kind of lost our intensity there after we had built up a pretty good lead. That first 16 minutes was pretty solid. There were quite a few pretty good examples during the game of what this team is able to do in terms of scoring points quickly.
DS: Sometimes this team surprises me right now early with just what we can do and how quickly they grasp the concept of what we're trying to do. They haven't always done everything correctly, and I'd be really scared if we did this early in the year but they've been a group that's attempted everything we've asked them to do, they've worked hard and they've picked up on things really quickly which is a good thing. Because of our defensive positioning, we always talk about deflections first then steals second and then try to turn those into points. We have the capability of doing that with Tyshae [Walton] and Day Day [Danisha Corbett], Madison, Kaitlyn and Tabytha, they all anticipate pretty well. And Ashley Scroggins and Niki Holt played pretty good defense in the post as well so we came up with some deflections that led to steals. I just think once we keep putting everything together we might be pretty solid defensively. Defensively last year you were very high on your team's length on the perimeter, how does this team compare to last year's team in terms of length?
DS: We're bigger. We're a lot longer when you consider that a lot of times Anikia and Sherell did some good things for us, but they were 5'11" at best. Now we're playing 6'4" and 6'1" and a couple of 6'2"s in those spots. Granted, they're a little bit different type of player but we are bigger and longer. The way Day Day's grown up and has come back, she's longer and athletic and more of a guard player. Tyshae is Tyshae and Madi's a year older and I think what really helps us is our ability to pressure the ball a little bit better. Tyshae and Day Day are so active and then you throw Kaitlyn [Soto] and Brittany [Palmer] out there, they do a really good job of getting on the ball and trying to force the issue. It plays right into us being athletic and longer and bigger all around. Does that open up your defensive playbook a little bit more having longer players, maybe some things you couldn't have done in the past but can do now because you can close out so quickly on shooters?
DS: I think so. We haven't tinkered with much, we haven't played much zone, we haven't gotten into it a whole lot. It's something something, and our press as well, we've been working on that and I think we can be pretty good in that because we can push the ball to certain spots on the floor and it's just a matter of getting better at reading and setting good traps. But it's something we've been working on. The negative thing about some of the exhibition games is you build a big lead, you don't really want to throw the press on but you've got to work on it. So we did it a little bit the last game but I'm not one that wants to rub people's noses into things. But at the same time we need to work on stuff and then all of the sudden you start throwing in substitutions and you lose all continuity out there so we really haven't had a chance to work on it in a game situation but we will this weekend as we start playing. I think it'll just add to our attack defensively when we attack different areas. That's something I think we'll be pretty solid at down the road. Areyal had 15 points and 11 rebounds in 19 minutes. Is she the type of player that you want her to average a double-doube and as a comparison to a current college player, have the same impact as say an Ashley Paris (Oklahoma)?
DS: Areyal has a lot of ability, she so skilled and she understands the game pretty well. She knows what to do, when to do it. With her, she did a really good job of coming off the bench. She was really embarrassed and upset at how she played the first game but again that's the adjustment from junior college to Division I. She was fighting those nerves. Second game we brought her off the bench which could be a good comfortable role for her. That remains to be seen. She's that position scorer around the post that we need. Her rebounding will continue to get better. She wasn't a great rebounder but she can because of her size, she can create some space. She's not the best jumper out there but she's more of a position player. If we can get a minimum 10 and 10 out of her every game then yeah that's a huge plus for us and that's something she's very capable of doing. And then there'll be nights when she has 20 plus. We definitely need her to try to get that 10 and 10 mark every night. You open up this weekend with two Big West teams. Friday night you have UC-Irvine, they were picked to finish 8th in the league. They've got a whole new coaching staff and a fair amount of junior college players. What are you expecting first game out?
DS: I want us to, regardless of our opponent, to go out and take step number three. Every game for us we number them, Step One, Step Two, Step Three, towards our goals. This is just step number three for us. First of all we want to establish that this is our home court and that it's tough to come in here and beat us here. We had a lot of success with that a year ago. We want to be good defensively and we want to rebound better. I want to see us take a positive step on our offensive side as well. UC-Irvine, we've played them the last few years, we're pretty familiar with them and their players. They have a new coaching staff and Molly Goodenbour won a national title playing at Stanford and was a pretty successful Division II coach at Chico State. She's working those kids pretty hard. I think they were talented in years past, they just didn't have that fire or just some of that structure and now they will. I'm expecting them to come in here and fight us tooth and nail. It looks like one of their go to players is going to be Rebecca Maessen, she had 23 points in their exhibition loss. We talked a lot last year about how you prepare defensively and you don't really key on one player. How will you prepare for Irvine knowing that she's a major focal point in their offense?
DS: I thought the last two years we've played them that she's a pretty solid player capable of doing pretty well and scoring a lot. She can drive, she can pull up and shoot. She's not bashful of taking shots. Kelly Cochran is their best player. She didn't play in their exhibition game, I don't know if she's hurt, we'll have to wait and see. She's a physical kid that bothered us a year ago. Then the Barnes kid is a big post kid, 6'3". I think both Barnes and Mason, they're international kids but they're both pretty solid and do a good job. We've just got to limit Maessen's easy shots. Make her work for everything, don't lose her, don't give her anything easy, don't put her on the free throw line too a lot. Just kind of be solid. We'll probably throw Tyshae out there at her and let her be Tyshae. Sunday you play Cal-Poly, they return three starters and were picked to finish 5th in the Big West.
DS: I think they're going to be much improved. They're one of those teams that hit a little surge at the end of last year and got on a roll. They feel that they're going to have a much better year than what they were picked in their league, just like we do. They're kind of a free floating team. They'll play a lot looser than what you think they'll might. Megan Harrison is a good scorer and Lisa McBride is a long kid that does a good job. They've always played hard, we've beat them twice since I've been here, once here and once at their place. They're always a tough team. They're scrappy and they'll shoot a lot of early shots and try to spread the floor. I think both Irvine and Cal-Poly will both be really good tests to open the year up. What will you be looking for in these first two games as far as lineups go?
DS: That' a good question. I tell our kids to come into practice every day and show me who wants to get their name announced as a starter and who wants to play more minutes than what you played the game before and don't ever just assume that I'm going to lock in on one lineup. That could change daily and we need to always keep an open mind about it because you never know what's going to happen in the injury department. We tell them to be ready all the time and don't just accept that you're going to come off the bench. But at the same time forget about starting, who wants to be in at the end when it's crunch time? That's another issue right there.

I'm pretty comfortable with Madison and Tyshae and Day Day in our 1, 2, 3 spots and we've started those three together both exhibition games and then changed around between Ashley [Scroggins], Areyal [LeDeatte], Tabytha [Wampler] and Niki [Holt] at the 4 and 5. Friday I might try to go with Tabytha and Niki this time and just see how they work together. Niki probably needs to be in there because she's long and she runs and she's the better defender. Ashley's a pretty solid defender at times but she's new to it. I think getting us started on the right foot defensively, I think Niki gives us a pretty good chance to do that. Tabytha gives us another kid who can score in a couple different ways and she's becoming a pretty solid defender as well. But those four could change, what we do Friday might not be what we do Sunday. How nice does it feel to be able to sub in five players at a time and not really experience too much of a dropoff?
DS: Oh it's nice. It's a nice situation to be in. I hope it stays that way throughout the year. If these kids keep progressing in practice like they have been and carry it over to the games. That's the big issue, who can carry what over into the game and be productive? But we can throw out a couple of different lineups. We can go a lot faster and quicker, we can go bigger. At one point in time, especially if we play our zone, it's a goal of mine to have Madi, Erica [Sanchez], Tabytha, Niki and Areyal and just be huge and play our zone defense of course. But that's been a goal of mine, we've done it in practice, just to see how that goes and put Tabytha at the 2. But that's probably way down the road.

But we can go big, we can go small, we got some flexibility in our lineups. Now they've just got to keep working and keep challenging each other in practice every day.