bleedCrimson.net: Madison Spence earned Second Team All-WAC honors and Jasmine Rutledge became the fifth Aggie in the past four seasons to be named to the Freshman All-WAC team.
Darin Spence: I think they're both very deserving. They've both had pretty good seasons in their own right and have added a lot to our season. We know Madison's story, she's been one of the best kids to come through this program in a long, long time. She's been that one dependable kid every single day. She's very deserving. Second Team is about where I thought she'd be just because we're the fifth place team in the league and that's where you're gonna have kids fall on the teams. There were some good players in our league this year that got on the first and second team and I thought they were all deserving. I was proud that Madi can now say she is one of, I think there's only one other, player who can say she was pre or postseason all four years of her career and that's pretty special.
Jasmine, she just was very patient this year. She sat and learned and watched and practiced hard and just grew daily and then when she got that chance to step in as a full timer she's done good things for us, just that energy kid. She's got a bright, bright future here. It's nice to have yet another freshman on that WAC All-Freshman team. That says that we have brought in some good young kids in the program over the past four or five years.
bc.net: What is Jasmine's potential as she heads into next season, as a freshman in conference games she averaged 6.4 rebounds per game and would have likely been the top freshman rebounder if not for Kamilah Jackson at Hawai'i.
DS: Yeah and she's a much different type player than the kid out at Hawai'i. She's not a post player, she's an inside-outside, outside-inside slasher type kid that I've said before, in the big picture of the season for me, being able to see Jasmine Rutledge and Camila Rosen on the floor at the same time, those are the type of kids that we really want that are long and can play different positions and are interchangeable. We'll have to wait until next year to see that combination. She's been a competitor every day, she's coachable, she's been honest with herself in what she can do. She's worked hard to improve in areas and I really think her field goal percentage, her free throw percentage will go up when she heads into her sophomore year with a little different role where she gets a little more freedom to put the ball on the floor and attack the basket and she's had some moments where she's shown how good she can be at that. We know she's a very good rebounder and a good defender. The sky's the limit and it's going to be really fun to watch her develop.
bc.net: Taking a step forward and looking at next year's lineup you have Camila Rosen who was named to the All-Freshman team last year, Kaitlyn Soto and Tabytha Wampler who were named to the All-Freshman team two years ago and Jasmine Rutledge who was named to this year's All-Freshman team so you've got four kids who have been on the All-Freshman team in next year's lineup.
DS: It could be a good group. We'll have to tinker with some things and figure out just where we're going to get points and just how we're going to play. A lot of that really depends on the depth that we have. The big picture when I got here eight years ago was to be a lot more of a full court pressure type of team. Just from injuries and depth issues we just haven't been able to do that. That's something that I still have as something that I want to do and I see this team as being able to do. Those kids give us a pretty good base. We're going to have to figure out how we're going to play offensively. We're going to have to have new kids step in here. The two that we signed back in November, Hannah Womack up in northern California and Keyora Wharry from Fresno, both had just remarkable senior years. In one of Hannah's playoff game's she put up 36 points. She's a point guard that can really shoot. Keyora is a lot like Crystal Boyd, she can play the point, the two, the three. At 5'11" she's very athletic and very skilled. We're going to sign a few more this spring and the ones we have in mind really have a chance to step in here and play. It'll be fun to see that new team and how we can put it all together.
bc.net: You get a big win over Boise State on Saturday to generate some good momentum heading into the WAC tournament this week and with the win over Nevada the week before that, your team has really started to settle into that defensive-minded team.
DS: We are. Probably the one frustrating thing for me has been our team this year just go in and out of phases where they are committed to being that defensive team. We've had moments where we've been really really good but we've had moments where we haven't been good at all. Unfortunately a lot of those bad moments have been at home where we've come off of tough road trip where we could get a win or two and were just flat at home. We need this group to really buckle down and say you know what, we're going to come out here and defend first and try to score second. The lineup we started the other night I really think helps us. You've got Madi, Day Day and Tabytha as your three scorers and then Jasmine Rutledge and Ariella McGhee as the defensive rebounders and I think that really sets a better tone for us and it got us back to our roots of where we're going to go out and guard. We've been the other way around where we're going to try to go out and outscore you and we're not built that way, we're not that type of team. If we can recommit and stay committed for 40 minutes, any given night this team can be a really good defensive team.
bc.net: Madison, Danisha and Jasmine all had really solid games in their final games at the Pan Am, a really nice way for them to end their home careers.
DS: Yeah it is. We've said all along that we're going to go as those three go regardless of what Tabytha does as that fourth player. Those seniors guards are your team leaders. They can lead you in an awfully good way and you just hope that they don't lead you in a bad way for long stretches in a game. It was really fun to see them come out and play like I've know that they're capable of doing all the time, stepping up and playing on both sides of the ball and being more vocal and having little more energy. It was fun to do against Boise State who we've developed a little bit of a rivalry with and we've gotten the best of them for the past few games and have actually done pretty well against them. They've had a rough, rough year but it wasn't enough to keep Coach Presnell, they worked out a four year, $180,000 a year deal to redo his contract. We've beaten them four straight, it's kind of a neat thing for us to say, you want to leave the league and go to the Mountain West, well we got the best of you.
bc.net: You take on Hawai'i in the first round the WAC tournament, you beat Hawai'i out at Hawai'i and lost to them here and I'm sure your kids still remember that loss.
DS: Yeah. The interesting thing is and we've talked about this before. I knew going into that home game with Hawai'i that it was going to be that flat. We'd had those tough tough LA Tech/LA Tech back-to-back games, those are difficult to bounce back from. We'd beaten them by 20-plus at Hawai'i and human nature set in and we were flat and we were just kind of lethargic. Even through it all we took a late lead and if we could have just hung on to the lead and made some plays we'd have won that game too. Sometimes that's not for the better. Sometimes you have to learn a tough lesson as a team to get you refocused and back on the right path. So, yeah, we're excited to play them but at the same time I'm pretty sure Hawai'i is excited to play us too. Now we've got a number of kids that have had some success in the tournament and now it's just a matter of us going in there and having a short memory and playing to win each possession and getting after them a little bit. I think it's a good bracket position for us and now we've just gotta go take care of business.
bc.net: After an up and down regular season, what's the team's mindset heading into the tournament coming off the win over Boise State?
DS: The up and down season, that's women's basketball. For the average fan out there that watches team play and says, "Golly, they're good and then…" Yeah we've been that way but welcome to women's basketball. Look at the halftime score of last year's national championship game, it was 19-12 at the half or something like that. Connecticut and Stanford, the number one and number two ranked teams in the country. That's pretty inconsistent. That's just the way it is. The teams that can minimize those inconsistent moments are going to be the better teams.
Our group, we just try to be the best we can be each day. We still have kids that are really good teammates. The coaches work their tails off to gameplan, to put something in writing and then carry it out on the floor and do it. This time of year, it's that special time of year that the group of kids, no matter if they're wearing white or crimson or black or green, that one group for that one particular night, if they decide they're going to do all the little things and they're going to compete that's the team that's going to find a way to win. You talk about survive and advance. My record in tournament play speaks for itself. We're not going to do any magic tricks. We're just going to be ourselves and go in there and be as good as we can be on that first night against Hawai'i and see if it's enough.
bc.net: Your teams have had success in the conference tournament, reaching the championship game three years in a row. What similarities are there between those teams and this year's team?
DS: We've got some seniors in the right place. I think the biggest thing is we have some kids that can shoot the ball, especially our three guards, our three seniors. We've got some kids that can shoot the ball that if they catch fire a lot like when Coach Cecilia Russell-Nava played and Monique Bribiescas and Irma Kmataite-Smith. Those kids, Sherrell Neal, that's the common thread right there. We've got enough kids that if they catch fire, we could be a very tough team to beat in a tournament setting.
bc.net: What's your schedule with the team going to be heading into Wednesday night's game where you play the last game of the day?
DS: We started all today, we practiced and worked on some things, watched some tape. We'll leave tomorrow morning. We practice at 1:30. We'll watch some more tape and have our dinner. Wednesday we have a 10:30 shootaround. Tournament time you have 25 minutes. What's interesting is that a lot of teams get in shootaround and they go an hour or longer and after about our first four or five games we really started cutting it down to 45 minutes or 30 minutes and it's all geared up. It's all geared up towards this time of year for a tournament run. By the time we get here we're used to it. I think that's been a lot of reasons why we've done well in tournament play also. We'll get in there and run around for 25 minutes. We're thinking we'll take them over and watch maybe the first half of that first men's game just to get them to feel that atmosphere. Then we'll go back and do our normal routine that we do, our pregame meal and get into the arena around 7:30 so they can watch some of the game before and keep that enthusiasm bottled up so that when it's tipoff time you just let it go, take the cork off and go run, shoot and holler.