Interim head coach Anthony Levrets takes questions from the media.
March 18, 2011
Utah interim head coach Anthony Levrets, Janita Badon and Michelle Plouffe spoke with the media on Friday afternoon at Utah's pregame press conference. A video replay can be found here, and the transcript is below.
THE MODERATOR: We welcome University of Utah student athletes. Let's direct questions to University of Utah student athletes.
Q. Does it feel like you are at an NCAA Tournament considering you are at home?
Janita Badon: It feels like we're are going to be in the NCAA Tournament, playing tomorrow. Just trying to tell our team, we are young but it's just a regular game - a regular game where we have to go out, play hard just like we would in the regular season.
Michelle Plouffe: I think it should just feel like a regular game because we prepare the same way, going through all the same motions. But it does feel a little different because we know it is more important.
Q. Did your sister give you the inside scoop on the Irish?
Michelle Plouffe: She gave me a little insiders scoop, I guess. Not too much we didn't already figure out from film. She said they play hard, they run, and they use a lot of back door cuts.
Q. Is it fun for you to cross paths with someone you have played before like Natalie Achonwa, going up against former teammates?
Michelle Plouffe: It's always a good time going against former teammates. I am a competitive person as it is and when I have met up with someone I have played before it feels like my competitiveness comes out a little more.
Janita Badon: I think in my previous year, TCU back-cut a lot, not like Notre Dame does. They are really talented, especially when they cut.
Q. What has helped your team come together these past couple of games?
Janita Badon: I think we went into the [MWC] tournament with the chip on our shoulder that this was going to be it for us. With the young players on our team, it's important to remind them that they are going to be ok and just making basketball fun. Our chemistry off the court is what makes us get along together so well on the court. Once you care about the people you play with it, it makes basketball more fun and it makes you want to play more.
Q. Are you going to use the wave of confidence you got from the conference win to help you through this tournament?
Janita Badon: We are going to have our whole year to help us through the tournament. We know what it is like to lose and we know how it feels to win. I think everything put together makes us who we are today.
Q. Has it been difficult to prepare for this kind of a tournament?
Janita Badon: We like to stick to the basics. I think going out of our comfort zone would not be normal for us. Acting like the NCAA tournament is just a basketball game helps us stay focused.
Q. How were you able to maintain confidence and mental toughness going into the conference tournament?
Janita Badon: I think it was our chemistry and just believing in each other. I don't think we came as close as we did at the end of the year without that. I think that's what Utah basketball is all about, at the beginning you struggle and at the end it makes it worthwhile.
THE MODERATOR: We welcome University of Utah coach Anthony Levrets.
"We are obviously very excited to be here. We are proud to host the NCAA Tournament. We are excited to play Notre Dame and it's an incredible opportunity."
Talk about challenge of defending team with Princeton type offense.
"They are talented in all five positions. They are a contrast in style. They like to push the ball and score in the high 70's and you have to play them in transition. Then when they get to the high court, they execute the Princeton stuff really well. We played Westminster College earlier this season, who ran similar stuff. We see a lot of motion type actions in our conference. We have four teams in the Mountain West who are very motion based. It's not Princeton. It's guarding those same types of screen actions, but not against the talent level that Notre Dame has. The offense is good, but it's always the players running it that scare you."
How did your team overcome losing stretch at end of season?
"We felt like we were playing well especially on the defense end of the floor all year long. We have been ranked in many defensive categories. We just were not making shots. We executed with a young team and sometimes execution takes awhile. We are a motion-based team and when you have a bunch of young and new people that takes a while. We kept getting better defensively and finally the offense caught up. We made more plays, same shots and same things, but the kids were more comfortable and we started making shots. This time of year, you have to play well enough to win and a little luck helps in March and we got our fair share of it. A little luck goes a long way.
Rate your team's confidence.
"I think they are very confident and were confident during our losing stretch. There was never an issue with this team of being confident that we weren't going to be good at the end of the season. We lost Taryn [Wicijowski] and they all still felt like we were going to be good. It was just a matter of time and fortunately it happened before the season was over. Every time I thought this is going to kill them, and thought `What's that loss going to be like in practice today?', they came in eager to learn, confident and ready to get better. It has really paid off for them.
Influences on his coaching career.
"The big one is Elaine Elliot giving me the opportunity as an assistant in a Division I program. After having been through this year where we are 18-16 and she coached 27 years here and her worst season was 14-15 humbles or should humble anybody that is trying to do this. It was a great influence on how to run the program, how to be and act, and how to treat your people. My background in Oregon coaching was in small college men's basketball, teachers both in the classroom and on the floor how to teach people. When this opportunity came my way everyone from Elaine on said "You can't be somebody else, you have to be yourself. Take what you have learned, but be yourself and try to make that work for you. And if that's not good enough than it's not good enough." That's what we have tried to do. Everybody that I have worked or played for has touched me in some way shape or form."