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Lady Tigers hold annual Media Day before first exhibition game

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From LSU Sports

BATON ROUGE -- Two days prior to its first exhibition game, head coach Nikki Caldwell and the LSU women's basketball team held its annual Media Day to preview the much anticipated season on Monday at the LSU Basketball Practice Facility.

Caldwell addressed members of the media for 30 minutes, discussing everything from personnel breakdown to the team's season motto "earned, never given." The third-year head coach talked about the squad's goals and mentioned how beneficial men's basketball coach Johnny Jones has been for the program. All 13 Lady Tigers then fielded questions from the media.

"Although we have our future destination for us down the line, if we're not taking care of business right here and right now and trying to fast forward the process, then I think we'll fall short of our goal," said Caldwell, who has produced a 45-23 record in two seasons. "You have the support that we receive from our fans and the LSU community, it's an insult if you're not playing in that (NCAA) tournament.

"They (team) need to understand what this program was built on. Sue Gunter had a vision for this program, and it's a vision that I share with her. That's to have competitive greatness. So, if we're competing at that level every day, then playing at home for the first and second round will take care of itself."

Fans will get their first chance to see the 2013-14 LSU Lady Tigers at 7 p.m. Wednesday in an exhibition game against Tennessee Temple in the Maravich Center. Admission is free of charge. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

Season tickets and mini-plans for the 2013-14 season are now on sale at www.LSUtix.net or by calling (225) 578-2184.

Below is a complete transcript from Monday's media day:
LSU Women's Basketball Media Day (October 28, 2013)

HEAD COACH NIKKI CALDWELL  

Opening Statement …
"This is obviously an exciting time for our team because we get to play in a couple days. They have played extremely well in practice. We have some battles within the team, but it has been great battles. It is great to have competitiveness amongst your team. That is going to be a tribute to our freshmen class. Raigyne Moncrief, Rina Hill and Jasmine Rhodes have really come in and challenged our upperclassmen. They have established themselves as a very impactful freshmen class. We had a chance to take the team to Spain in August and if that is any indication of this team I am very pleased at where we are. We have a bunch of returning players from the roster last year. That is going to bring a lot of leadership and a lot of maturity. When we cultivate that with our incoming freshmen, I feel like we have one of the best teams in the country. If you look at it statistically, we have one of the best players in the country in Theresa Plaisance. Theresa understands the responsibilities and the role that she has for the team, and she is accepting them every day she steps on the court for our team."  

On the three new freshmen…
"Having had the chance to watch them in August, and we played overseas, we gave the starting nod to Raigyne Moncrief. She is doing everything we ask of her. Raigyne is by far one of the most talented players, as far as physically, that you will see on the floor. She is able to play multiple positions for us. She brings an explosiveness to the game. The thrill that she has really turned the corner as far as just learning how to not only score for herself, but also for her teammates and to find more scoring opportunities. We are going to expect a lot out of her from the defensive end as well. She is somebody that is very good on the ball, but equally a great rebounder. Rina Hill is a true point guard in every sense of the word. Rina knows the game and she sees the court well. She brings a level of maturity at the point position for us. Rina is by far one of my hardest working players. This is refreshing when you can see that in a freshman. We are just going to continue to groom her and work her into the minutes that she is going to earn. Jasmine Rhodes each week has just gotten better. Her ability to get to the basket is going to allow us to have a better transition game. But, I like her ability to also play off the ball and get in those passing lanes. Defensively we have become better just by adding those three freshmen to our roster."  

On Raigyne Moncrief's potential…
"When you look at Raigyne Moncrief, she has all the talent that any player who has ever played here has had. She is quick, she is athletic and she can get to the basketball. Raigyne can get from one end of the floor to the other faster than anybody that I have seen, or coached or been around in a long time. To say that she could by far be one of the best players to wear purple and gold is up to her. She is going to have all of the resources with our fine facilities, with our practice facilities, with our gym, and I have the best coaching staff in America. I believe the way we spend time on developing our players will enable her to grow as a student-athlete here. Raigyne is very smart. So, with her skill and her will and bringing that combination together, nothing but greatness exists in her."  

On the new role of Danielle Ballard…
"Danielle Ballard has become one of our more vocal leaders as of late. She is taking on more of that responsibility and directing the team, directing the freshman on where to go and their coverages. Her communication has been outstanding. We added three new guards. Rina Hill allows Danielle Ballard to play in her true position, which is off the ball. So, we are not necessarily having Danielle have to bring the ball down floor in the point position. We can now let Danielle run wide and attack on the bounce from a different angle on the floor. The offensive plan that we have for Danielle is not only to use her off the dribble, but she has really been in the gym. She has been working not only on getting her shots up but also on her ability to catch and shoot the basketball. We are also going to play around with her playing at the post-position because our numbers are a little bit smaller as far as our true post players. She is somebody that we could see playing anywhere from 1 through 4 for us."

On the starting lineup…
"Right now we have been playing with different combinations. Right now, I like going with the two true bigs with Shanece McKinney and Theresa Plaisance. They not only give us good scoring opportunities but they also give us better rebounding. As far as our guard play, we are going to stay competitive in practice and see what happens over the next couple of days. Nothing is set in stone right now because everybody is really doing a nice job for us. I think it is really going to be scout specific. If there are times where we feel as though we want to be quicker, faster and allow Danielle Ballard to play off the ball a little more, I am going to look at our other point guards. If there are times where we want to be a more offensive efficient team I am going to look at that. I like the flexibility that we have in our lineup. I like the fact that as coaches we can basically go into our staff meetings and throw different lineups on the board and feel like we will not lose anything. I think this is true for the whole season. I cannot remember out of my three years every going in with one set lineup. I remember playing Kentucky and we wanted to put a lineup together to start a game, but we wanted to put the most coachable lineup out. We also dissected the segments that we were losing. What lineup and what we need will be scout specific. Sometimes will be a time when we need a real guard lineup, such as when we play a Florida Gulf Coast or a Green Bay and they have five players who can really shoot the three. Sometimes it is not going to be the same lineup in that situation. But everyone understanding that it really does not matter if you play the first four minutes or the last four minutes of the game, whatever minutes you contribute are equally important."  

On guard Jeanne Kenney …
"Jeanne (Kenney) is doing great. She's back in practice, and we're taking it one day at a time. Her role this year is going to consist of her leadership and taking less charges, so that means we don't have to turn the ball over as much. But I definitely see Jeanne as being more of a scoring threat for us. Her ability to shoot the basketball, she's about as pure as they come. When you think about her performance against Kentucky last year, I think she's somebody that this team is looking to say, ‘Hey, we need you to take up some of that scoring that we lost with (former player) Adrienne Webb.' She is definitely the player to do that."  

On unselfish play …
"I think they're all going to be more responsible on the defensive end. I like that Raigyne Moncrief can score the basketball and get to the basket anytime she wants to. We had a scrimmage the other day with our scout team. Just looking at our team, and the shot attempts of Theresa Plaisance, she didn't lead us in attempts. So the confidence that this group has coming into the season has been fueled by Theresa's unselfish play. Yes, we do want Jeanne Kenney to look to score the basketball more, as well as Danielle Ballard, because they bring a maturity. But, the freshman class has been pretty efficient at practice as well."  

On depth down low …
"We have Derreyal Youngblood, who's our true, true center, and Sheila Boykin, who's really done a fabulous job of getting herself back into practice. We're going to count on her as well to come in and be that player that she left off from. I like the fact that Jeanne Kenney, even last year, played some four for us. So when we do go to that four guard lineup, we've got Jeanne there, we've got Ballard there, and we're looking to place Anne Pedersen in some of those minutes as well. Again, it's going to be a scout-specific situation, but the fact that these players can play multiple positions allows us that versatility."  

On center Derreyal Youngblood …
"Derreyal (Youngblood) is someone who referees have really talked and been very helpful when fouls are being called and letting her know why. We've been trying to really hone in on that this year, because a really big topic surrounding the women's basketball game is officiating. Derreyal's maturity is for her to think about how she can get to the spot, beat her player to the spot and not put her in the position to foul. Some of the fouls that Derreyal received were because we weren't as good defensively, and we would have to rotate our defense. She would get those fouls called on her by dribble penetration of the guard play. Talking to our guards and really keeping the ball out of the paint really has been helpful in scrimmages and at practice. She's someone that offensively has really done a nice job for us in that low-block presence of being an efficient scorer. I like where Derreyal is at right now, and I like the production that she is giving our team."  

On guard DaShawn Harden …
"DaShawn (Harden) has had to learn a whole new system offensively and defensively. By far, if you look at our practices statistically, when we're scrimmaging, she's one of the more efficient guards as far as scoring the basketball. She's someone who brings versatility to the guard spot because she's a great spot up shooter who has the three-ball range, but she's also effective playing off the bounce and knowing how to get to the rim. She's also good with the pull-up jumper. You can tell that she's worked on her game offensively. The one thing about DaShawn is she's the smallest player on our team, but you couldn't tell it because she will go in and challenge the post players at any time. We have to remind her every now and then about the physicality of playing in the SEC, but making sure that when the opportunity is there to score the basketball the easy way, just go ahead and do that. I also like the unselfishness of this player. DaShawn definitely brings leadership to the team in the sense that she's been around the game and knows the game, and I don't even look at her as someone who's transferred in. She seems to be very comfortable being in the purple and gold."  

On hosting the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament …
"I told the team we were probably going to work it, but they didn't know that I was making a point of the fact that when you have an administration that supports your program financially and makes that commitment to hosting the first and second rounds, and you have the support that we receive from our fans and the LSU community, it's an insult if you're not playing in that tournament. They need to understand what this program was built on. Sue Gunter had a vision for this program, and it's a vision that I share with her. That's to have competitive greatness. So, if we're competing at that level every day, then playing at home for the first and second round will take care of itself. At the time, it felt like we were competing at that level where we needed to be. Threatening them to work the concession stands and be the ball girl and all that, we definitely understood the task at hand. It's one thing to host the first and second round games, but we feel as though we have every resource and every component for us to be playing in March Madness. Whether we were hosting or not, we need to come with that mentality every year. This program, you just don't get five consecutive final fours because ‘Oh, I was lucky.' The work ethic, the sweat equity and the team cohesion, all of those things come into play when you're playing in March Madness. That's what it's about. It's about this team taking not only its individual games to another level, but leaving their legacy, because one was left for them when you think about the former players that have come through here. There is a slogan that we've adopted this year: ‘Earned, never given.' We've got to earn our stripes every year."  

On the Final Four …
"We know that the Final Four is at Bridgestone Arena, and we understand that there's a lot of basketball, a lot of games, and a lot of practices before that day arrives. So that's our destination. We know that's where we want to go, but so do all the other 300 plus teams. In order for us to do that, we focus on what is our daily goal. The things that we can control every day we step into the PMAC are our attitude and making sure we have that, a great attitude, a positive attitude and being great teammates, and our work ethic. Those are the two things that you're going to always see. Those are two things that will represent our program. Hopefully through teaching them that daily improvement is the way that we get to the Sweet 16 to the Elite Eight and, eventually the Final Four, that they're not taking any days off. We have three days of practice, game, take a day off, one day of practice, game. Living in the moment is really key for us. Although we have our future destination for us down the line, if we're not taking care of business right here and right now and trying to fast forward the process, then I think we'll fall short of our goal. We talked about it at the very beginning, and then after that, because I do want everyone to know that the Final Four is in Bridgestone. We have freshmen coming in, and we talk about the way the season is broken down from nonconference to conference, then the SEC (Tournament) and NCAA (Tournament). Just making sure that they're aware how much we're going to progress and what phases we're going to progress in to make sure that we're playing in March."  

On the relationship with men's basketball Coach Johnny Jones …
"It has been great working with Coach Johnny Jones and his staff. We've collaborated on a lot of ideas and worked with our marketing team to really promote and brand basketball here. Not just women's basketball or men's basketball, but really being cohesive in our efforts to brand basketball here at LSU. Just last night myself, he and some of his players and our staff were visiting some of the fraternities and had the opportunity to go in front of them and talk to the student body in a more intimate setting. We've been over to our union and just really addressed the crowds there. There are a lot of innovative things that we're doing collectively as a coaching staff. I will say this about Coach Jones, I have a chance to be in a program where you have a former player and someone who was very successful here. He will let you know that he was very successful here, and if he had an opportunity to come down and shoot the basketball himself and it would be okay, he probably would. The other day we were at practice, and I went and sat in on his practice, and he was doing a rebounding drill. So obviously in a rebounding drill, you want the shot to be missed. So, after, when there was a little break in practice, we asked coach, ‘Coach, why don't get one of your assistants to go and shoot the basketball?' And his statement was ‘They need to see the ball going in.' You have a coach who has that competitive drive who still attacks practices and the game with that competitive spirit. You can see, it's contagious in some of his practices, but you can also see how his guys are playing. We're great friends. We've become great friends, and we wish nothing but the best for Coach (Jones) and his staff and his team. They have done an exceptional job of just bringing back that passion for basketball, and whatever we can do to service Coach Jones, we're going to do it. I like the fact that at times when I may be running a few minutes over in practice, and instead of feeling like a coach is going to come in and (be angry), he tells us to finish what we need to do because it's good for his guys to see our ladies working. That's not everywhere, that type of relationship, that type of understanding, and that type of collaboration. That's not in every program. I appreciate his thoughtfulness, but also his support of women's basketball."  

On changes from last year …
"I just see more of everything. I see more competitive spirit, we've got more players, we've got more scorers, we've got more ball handlers and we have more leadership. We've got more excitement. We're going to be a team that can give more on the court in the sense of our ability to disrupt the basketball. You're going to see more deflection, more steals, more turnovers, and then you're going to see more transition baskets. The improvement of this group from last year to this year has been very good and very positive, because players worked in the offseason. You're going to see better percentages, you're going to see more accuracy as far as the ball going through the net, and you're going to see a more efficient basketball team."  

On sweat equity …
"It's like having equity in your home, or what you put into it or what you come into a situation with. When we talk about sweat equity for our team, (we ask) ‘What did you do to improve not only your performance, but the performance of your teammates?' It takes hard work. It takes you rolling up your sleeves and really going to work. You have to love the struggle. The struggle may be, okay we're running down the back in 10, as opposed to 12, seconds. If we've got an opportunity to get down the court in six seconds, that's what we're doing. So just really pushing the envelope a little bit, but allowing them to pretty much fill their tank with the sweat equity. If you know going into a championship game that I have literally outworked you, because every day I came to practice and I put my sweat equity in, that's an edge. That's an advantage that you have to take, and that's the mentality that you have to adopt in order to become a champion. If they can do that, and every day everybody is putting in their sweat equity, then we know. We train in heart monitors, so I'll know if you're putting in your sweat equity, because on your watch, it will say if you're 150 or 175 or 180 or what have you. We get those ratings, it's also for health reasons, but I do like the fact that they know that they can look and see if they're at that maximum level of my work ethic and what their level is during that time of day during that practice. Those are things they can fall back on, especially when there are games on the wire and you're going into overtime, or you need that defensive stop. Those are all the things that make the difference in the win/loss situation."  

F Theresa Plaisance  

On starting a new season with her teammates…
"It's so exciting, you know the last game here was the Penn State game and just having that feeling come back for a whole new season is very exciting. Just being able to start the season with a bunch of great girls as you know is another thing I'm really looking forward to."  

On what the team hopes to accomplish in the exhibition game…
"I think an exhibition game will help us, you know see which lineups go together, try out different lineups that you wouldn't normally try out in a game; just getting used to the court; getting used to the feel of the crowd; getting those preseason jitters out, those butterflies out. You know it's basically like a run-through, and I know I really appreciate exhibition games and as well as you know the newbies. I know they would really appreciate a whole run-through before the season actually starts and games start counting. Exhibition games are great. I'm all for them. And the fact that we have two of them is even better. Now it's just another game that we can get the jitters out and get ready for the season to start."  

On the expectations for personal achievements this season and how she reacts to the hype…
"Coming off of last year's season, I'm really looking forward to this season. I feel like I can build on that a lot. Maybe not in the stat line because you have a whole lot of great players that can contribute this year and my expectations really aren't for me; it's for this team. At the end of the day, I just want this team to win and I want this team to excel and move on and get really deep into the (NCAA) tournament. If that happens and I end my career on that note, then everything else is lagniappe and I'm completely happy where I stand."  

G Danielle Ballard

On the expectations for the squad this year…
"Just to get better on defense and have a good feeling of each other. Getting to know each other more on the court, just have a little jell together, being together, and just communicating on the floor, talking more and having better leaders, more leaders, too."  

On starting the season with an exhibition…
"We're expecting to be a great team this year so just running up the floor really fast, getting up the floor, feeding the post players, feeding the guards, getting up and down the court."  

On the goals for herself this season…
"I want to step up [and] be a leader, help my team out and lockdown on defense and rebounds."  

On what team she thinks will challenge her team the most this season…
"I feel like every game is a challenge and you never know what to expect. Every team will come out there wanting to beat us, so I think every team is challenging."  

On what keeps her motivated on and off the court…
"My team, they've counted on me, I'm counting on them. Just wanting to win and not losing because I hate losing. I know my teammates hate losing so just winning, trying to win keeps me motivated."  

On her thoughts of having more opportunities to play the two guard…
"It's going to be great. That's a fun position for me. I love being off the ball, so that's getting a lot of release off of me, all the pressure from being a point guard. I can think more. I can just do my thing being the player I know I can be off the ball, so it's going to be great."

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