Beth Burns News Conference Quotes
Oct. 9, 2012
SAN DIEGO - Burns News Conference
COACH BURNS: (I'm) excited about October. I'd like to say October is interesting and March matters when it comes to basketball. And just really, really appreciative of the opportunity that our team will have this Friday night to be included in the event that Associated Students is putting on, Madness on the Mesa.
As you can well imagine both on the men's and women's side, we've put it out, so hopefully we'll have a lot of recruits and families. And for ourselves particularly, potential season ticket holders coming to take part in it. There is a concern on mine and Coach Fisher's part that we will stay awake for the entirety of Midnight Madness, but we'll do our best to be able to do that. I think it will be a terrific opportunity.
Our team understands that we have about a 15 minute window to play in front of a lot of people who have probably never seen women's basketball. If we can do our part, our hope is that we can translate that into when the guys play on the Midway on Friday night. The next day everybody will jump in their cars and drive up to Poly Pavilion and watch the women play at UCLA and continue on forward.
We have a lot of returning parts from a year ago. Last year when I sat here, I told you we have seven new people, and I have no earthly idea what's going to happen, except for the point guard we have, Chelsea Hopkins, who is a redshirt is pretty good.
So if anybody wants to run that tape, I was correct on that statement. She was fourth in the nation in assists, and helped a young team become a championship team along with her fellow seniors.
So we have a lot of parts back, the returning Player of the Year in Courtney Clements, just spoke to Chelsea (and) our fifth-year seniors. I think Malia Nahinu is going to have a breakout season to the point where I think she'll be draftable by March. I think that much of where she's developed and come.
The biggest difference in a college athlete is from their first to second year. We have had two practices and the most exciting part is what I see from Erimma Amarikwa, Chairese Culberson, Khristina Hunter, Ahjalee Harvey. The people a year ago that didn't know which end was up, they were just pretty good athletes and they've retained and improved a lot.
So we have high expectations. We also have maybe the most challenging non conference schedule we've ever had. So a lot in front of us and just excited to get it started.
Q. Did you work hard in the offseason? You've seen these kids in practice. Do you feel like they really stepped up the program after winning a championship last year?
COACH BURNS: I would say more you don't know what you don't know if you don't know it. When you're a freshman, everything that hits you is hitting you for the first time. Then they can have an offseason. An offseason where you've had success, you feel a little better about yourself.
So I think they know what it's like to play at UCLA. They know what it's like to play at LSU, at Washington State, at Wyoming, at CSU and at home in big games. So they know how they had best work to improve to be ready to play. So I think that knowledge, more than anything for us, every facet of the game. We didn't have five people who had ever played together in a college basketball game a year ago. Think about every facet of a basketball game: Starting a game, finishing a half, finishing a four minute segment before media, last second shot. Every facet of the game had to be taught from scratch, starting with our point guard.
Players always think they can play. They probably think we could play UCLA tonight. I'd be petrified, but we could fake it. We could go out there and fake it tonight. We could play. A year ago, I would have had the bus driver get lost. So we're ready to go. We'll be ready to go. It's exciting. Our team's really excited and they are really excited about Friday night. Who knows what we'll see. But we will not just scrimmage. I guarantee you that. It is worth coming. That is called a tease for all you media people. There will be some value to coming to see the women's basketball team.
Q. Is the ranking flattering or not worth anything?
COACH BURNS: I wouldn't really say flattering. I would say more than anything, coming in, I was probably most concerned when you've had so many new people and have had so much success, and you and I know, because you're experienced, and it was the weakest Mountain West Conference that I've ever faced in my seven years here. I'm not being disrespectful, just presenting a fact.
We had really good athletes and a great point guard. Every game was close. But because we had great athletes and a really good point guard, we were able to come out on top. So I was a little concerned that we had a false sense of this whole college thing is pretty easy. In answer to your question, confidence and swagger are a good thing. Believing you're going to win are good things.
Again, we've had a lot of close games and we came out on top, 25 times. So I think the validity more helps us. Everybody's excited. We know our men are going to be great, and we expect our women are going to be great. Just that excitement, where we can say collectively, only 16 universities last year had men and women's basketball teams in a tournament and football in a bowl game. We're one of those 16 and that gives us confidence.
Q. Does that sort of validate your progress in the program?
COACH BURNS: I would guess. But we're 25th, and UCLA's not ranked. We open at UCLA, so we'll know a lot more on November 11th. With that said, we earned that. That's what I told them. All October is who was good last year. We'll have conference rankings come out in a couple of weeks.
I'm not the Amazing Kreskin here with the crystal ball, but Courtney Clements was the Player of the Year a year ago, so I wouldn't be shocked if someone thought she might be the Player of the Year this year, and I don't think anybody was here watching her this summer. I think it's because she was Player of the Year last year.
We're Top 25 because last year we finished in the Top 25. So they know that. I'll remind them of that if they don't know that.
Q. What does your team have to do to stay in the Top 25?
COACH BURNS: There is so much conference stuff. We felt it really important with a veteran team. We'll have key new parts, but with a veteran team, that we had to play and win in the non conference. I have no idea what we're going to face in the Mountain West Conference, and I won't really know or worry about that for another couple of months. So we're playing at UCLA, USC here. We're going to a Colorado tournament and playing Auburn. Our own Surf-n-Slam has Oklahoma State who is ranked 8th, Oklahama State, Harvard and SMU, all top-40 teams. Someone's going home from our Christmas tournament that could get into the NCAA Tournament.
So when you look at all those games, we have very little margin for error. So it's going to give us an opportunity to continue to, regardless of what happens in January and February, we want to play not just to get in. We don't want to be a program that gets in. We want to be a program that sustains and helping yourself with the seed is a big part of that.
So without question, our non conference, if we're able to have success in 70 percent of those non conference games, then we can pretty much insure that, should we put ourselves in a position to get in the tournament, we'll have a better seed.
Q. Are you anticipating a quicker start to your season because of your veterans returning?
COACH BURNS: Have to. Have to. One of the things we were able to play either two exhibition games. You have two opportunities to play before you start for real and we can have a private or closed scrimmage, if you will, then an exhibition game. Our closed scrimmage, we kind of changed some things. For the reason of as soon as I knew we were going to open against UCLA, I knew that we couldn't have a scrimmage to get the kinks out. I was hoping we'd have a scrimmage that would kick us hard. Because I know the kind of team that they're going to have this year, and the level of athletes she has in her program.
So we have to fast forward everything because of the kind of schedule that I just told you. UCLA with the number two recruiting class in the country last year, and we lost last year. So we've got to be ready to go.
Q. What does Coach Barrett bring to the staff as a coach and recruiting wise?
COACH BURNS: He brings a ton in a lot of different areas. He most recently was at Albany. But he was a very successful high school coach in the Northwest at Auburn Riverside and won several state championships, and then had one of the best club teams on the west coast. So I was really familiar with his coaching style, which is similar to how we like to play here.
He's a really high energy guy, knowledgeable guy, and he's a very good individual teacher. He's someone that I had kind of targeted to bring in and he's hit the ground running. We can't speak to recruiting yet. But the combination of us expanding somewhat to the Big East and him coming from back East has enabled us to open doors where we've had several visits back east. So that is probably the first impactful thing that he did, because that is the first thing we do in the summer is recruit.
It will really pay good dividends on the floor. Excited, kids are excited. He's a huge part of our staff. Coach Y, Tammi Reiss, Adam, myself, I just think we have a really good blend of strengths from what we want to try to do.
Q. Want to ask who are some of your picks for the dunk contest, and do you think any of your players could really challenge some of the guys?
COACH BURNS: Picks for the dunk contest? I'm impressed that you think the volume of my knowledge is into who I'm going to pick for the dunk contest. If I went with Jamal, that was probably the most obvious, because I've seen him do it so much. I have no earthly idea. But I'm going to go for the dark horse and put Deajanae Scurry as my dunk contest (pick). I'm going for Nae Nae on my team.
So if you don't know who Deajanae Scurry is, she was a redshirt freshman in our program a year ago. So she will be an athletic freshman this year. And I have seen her with these eyeballs downstairs do standing (vertical jumps) to the 52 inch boxes. So put 52 inches up and standing and jump on it. I've seen it.
Now she doesn't usually do that with a few thousand people, but I'm putting my money on Nae Nae. Did you ask me a second part of that question?
Q. Three point.
COACH BURNS: I don't even know who is in that. I really don't know who is in the dunk contest either. I would say for the three-point, we still have to do a shoot off on our team to see who. Again, I don't like to go with the favorite. You'd probably say Chase (Tapley) and Courtney (Clements) might be the two best percentage shooters.
But I'll say this, neither of them will win it. We'll see. You've got to come Friday night. You've got to stay up. You've got to come. We have some dark horse entries that are going to be impressive. I don't know who they are yet, but they'll be impressive. So come Friday night.
Q. With the experience you're bringing back, do you almost put more on the play as far as adding new plays quicker because of the experience?
COACH BURNS: Without question and that's probably when I spoke to the growth of the freshmen. We were so limited. You're only as good as what can you do. We were really limited in what we were able to do a year ago because they had to learn so many facets of the game. There is only so much you can ask them to learn.
The positive for us was because our point guard play was so good, she could keep the ball in her hands when not everything being run is what we had drawn. But she could make plays. She made a lot of great plays. That is the biggest growth. We are way past a year ago.
Last year's stuff is quick review. We got it, and we're moving forward. So we will be a much better, much more balanced offensive team because we can do a little bit more.