Coach Summitt & Candace Parker Teleconference

Pat Summitt:

On the West Coast Trip…

“The west coast trip was overall a good trip for us. Obviously, playing UCLA and Stanford on their home courts, we hadn’t been in that situation. It was a valuable learning experience for us. We were excited to be able to come back in the second half of the UCLA game and play better than in the first half. At Stanford, I was disappointed in the team’s inability and lack of commitment to close out the first half. We were up by 11 points but at halftime had only a six point lead and that was costly for us. Playing Stanford in sold out arena was a great environment, Tara (VanDerveer) has one of her best teams in recent years and their high-low action against us was great. We came away with enough information to get better, especially from a defensive perspective. We had some very costly and careless turnovers. We got back in the gym last night and hopefully we’ll make some strides in today’s practice. It’s not just one phase of the game that we focus on, we’re always a work in progress. Hopefully our defense and board play will be solid for us as we take the road and play at DePaul and Notre Dame.”

On the play of Sydney Smallbone…

“Sydney is a player that has refined her offensive skills. She’s got three-point range and is aggressive off the dribble. Like every freshman, she has to go through the transition and learning phase on the defensive end. That’s been her biggest challenge. She’s got tremendous work ethic and is a very skilled offensive player. She will get better and better.”

On Candace Parker’s impact on the game of women’s basketball…

“She’s had a great impact overall in the women’s game. In terms of her ability to refine her basketball skills, she’s played all five positions, her versatility and her ability to be a big play maker in big games. To me, she is a great example of what players in our game can do when they really commit to skill development in all aspects of their game.”

On realization of Parker’s impact…

“I think she will have an impact on how other people will work in refining their basketball skills. People recognize now that she is very talented and skilled in terms of what all she can bring to the game on the defensive end and blocking shots. Maybe we won’t recognize how much impact she has until later, but I think already people are talking about her and what’s she has already brought to the court and means to the game. Everywhere we go there are Candace Parker jersey’s and fans all over the country.”

On any weaknesses of Parker’s game…

“The greatest upside for her game is on the defensive end. She is long and rangy and can block shots, but the biggest challenge for her right now and where she can really expand is her commitment to denying and limiting touches even before players receive the ball. She has improved defensively but she can do more. We put a heavy load on her offensively. Not just with Candace, but we ask our entire team to go all out on every possession and if you need a rest, come to the bench and take a rest. The way we play is demanding.”

On Parker’s comparison to other great players…

“As far as players I’ve had the opportunity to coach, she athletically reminds me of Cheryl Miller, but her skills remind me of Chamique Holdsclaw who developed a pull-up and post-up game and inside and outside moves.”

On Parker’s trip home to Chicago…

“It is a homecoming for her so to speak growing up in Naperville and having so many fans and people that followed her in high school. It will be a special homecoming for her, but she understands we have a game to play against a DePaul team that is putting up a lot of threes and they are a fine team. I think she’ll have that focus. Wherever we go there is a lot of attention drawn to her, probably more in Chicago and South Bend.

On Parker’s reaction to attention…

“She has handled the role that she is in and the amount of attention brought to her very well. It isn’t easy. I’ve been there with a number of players. She has been very willing to sign autographs and talk to young kids who are her fans. She has handled it with a lot of poise and she understands her role.”

On handling this type of attention as a young college student-athlete…

“It depends on the individual. She is very grounded. She grew up with a family that has had a lot of success. Her brother Anthony plays in the NBA and her other brother Marcus is a doctor. They’ve been successful and driven. They all keep each other in check. Her brothers are always on her and her parents coached her. She has enough people to tell her what to do. As a family, they’ve been successful and challenged each other.”

On struggle of keeping other Tennessee players happy when Parker receives so much attention…

“Everyone on this team has their own fan club if you will. This team respects each other and at this point I’ve not seen it as an issue. They all have different games, but they recognize the fact that Parker does receive a lot of attention and people constantly want her autograph, but that is true with most of our players. They accept it and it hasn’t been a distraction for our team.”

On Parker staying in college this year and how that has helped her…

“She is getting better. She is committed to working on the fundamentals of the game. I feel like Candace is enjoying the life of a college student-athlete and getting better and better. Now anticipation is that she will leave after this year. She is very dedicated to getting in the gym and working on her skills. She gets in a lot of extra shots every day either before or after practice. (Assistant coach) Dean Lockwood is in there with her. She knows how important it is for her to get better.”

On discussing Parker’s WNBA future with her…

“I always tell her, let’s just enjoy this season. If you’re ready to move on in April, then move on. I’ve said this before, that the college years are some of the best years of your life. She has invested so much in her game and is so committed to this team and program. We have tried to establish what we want to do this year and leave it at that.”

On the Tennessee freshmen…

“Angie Bjorklund had a good second half against UCLA. She stepped up after I challenged her at halftime. When you look at the freshmen (Bjorklund, Vicki Baugh and Sydney Smallbone), they will all three contribute. With freshmen, you’re always striving for more consistency. We are trying to emphasize the importance of bringing intensity every night and working hard to be effective at both ends. Angie adjusted well and is in the starting line up. She did not have a good offensive night at Stanford and that was the toughest environment she’s been in. She will grow from it. Sydney is challenged on the defensive end, but I like what I’ve seen with her offensive range. She does a nice job of feeding the post and I am excited about what the development of her game could mean to our team. Baugh needs more minutes. We’ll need her on the floor. She is gaining a lot of momentum and confidence. She can defend, rebound, score, and she is refining her basketball skills. You don’t have to coach effort. She brings a lot of intensity to the court. They will all get better and we try to challenge them every day to step up and help us.”

On coaching styles between you and DePaul coach Dough Bruno…

“I have tremendous respect for Doug and what he’s done at DePaul. I had a few players play for him this summer and it was a great experience for them. He knows the game inside and out. DePaul is very committed to shooting the three ball and we know we will have to be a better defensive team. We have not defended the three as well this year and it was costly for us in the Stanford game. It presents a challenge for us right off and one that we talked about after our loss to Stanford. Looking at DePaul stats and their success beyond the arc, there is no better time to look at what we have to do defensively on the perimeter. We are going to have to be tough minded and extend our defense.”

On the rise of men’s basketball at Tennessee…

“It is great for the University of Tennessee to have the excitement for men’s and women’s basketball. It has generated excitement for Tennessee fans all over the country. Bruce (Pearl) has created a great atmosphere and his style of play is a great attraction to the fans. The amount of fan support that we have game-in and game-out for both programs is great and we want to keep it going.”

Candace Parker:

On going home to play…

“I’m excited, this will be my first trip home to DePaul. We’ve played at Notre Dame before. I’m excited at the chance to play in front of family and friends. I know that it is important to play well together as a team after a loss, we know we need to focus and bounce back.”

On where you can improve in your game…

“I think during my freshman and sophomore years I finished better around the basket. In the games this year, I have missed a bunch of easy layups and haven’t finished as well with contact. I worked really hard this summer on my faceup game and jumpshot and coming off screens.”

On the attention you get…

“Being part of the growth of women’s basketball, I understand that any attention is good attention. Whether it is the dunk or whatever my game brings. I think our Tennessee program brings a lot of attention to women’s basketball as a whole. I take it in stride, it is a responsibility. Our team has a responsibility to represent Tennessee well.”

On the attention and how it has grown over the years…

“I remember my first big article. I remember how excited I was. I remembered this could be something different. It was the first time I realized I could use basketball for opportunities. Coach Summitt always says how we should use basketball and not let it use us. Basketball for many of us is a way to travel the world and get an education.”

Do you think you’re the face of the future?

“The high school class of 2004 was and is a great class, possibly one of the best of all time. There are a lot of players in this group that have changed the game and the way it is played. To be mentioned in the top of that class is an honor in and of itself. I feel great about what this class has done in the college level and what we can do in the next level.”

On WNBA draft rumors…

“Every year it has been something. My freshman year people doubted that I could recover from knee injury; my sophomore year they doubted if I could sustain a certain level of play while recovering and now in my junior and senior years the questions is am I going to leave. I’ve gotten used to it. I’ve learned to live in the moment and not look too far ahead. I will graduate from the University of Tennessee in May, 2008. I’ve played my college career and gotten my education. I’ll cross that (WNBA) bridge when I come to it but I’m living in the moment right now.”

On hunger for NCAA Title this year compared to last year…

“There is even more hunger this year. I realized how special that was to win and to hang a banner and how great a feeling that was. Once the season was over and things died down, we got back in the gym and worked hard. Coach Summitt always says championships are made in the off season. Any team can win one championship but you can’t deny two championships.”

On the goals beyond this year…

“I am excited to be getting my degree in May. WNBA wise, I am excited to have the opportunity to play at that level and to play for the Olympics, which has been a dream of mine forever. To play overseas and travel is what I see in the future.”

On ever being starstruck…

“There was one moment at the ESPY Awards this past year when I went up to one of my favorite actresses, Gabrielle Union. I started to introduce myself and she said she knew who I was and started asking me about my brothers and I remember thinking ‘oh my gosh, she really does know who I am’. That was really exciting.”

On conversation with Pat Summitt about the WNBA…

“She’s been a great mentor in my college career and has always had my best interest at heart. We have discussed the future, but we don’t dwell on it because we have a season to play this year.”

On timetable for decision about going into the WNBA…

“It is a difficult situation because of when the draft falls. We want to be at the Final Four and the draft is soon after that. As we get closer to the end of the season, I will talk with my family and coaches. With me getting my degree in May, things are looking like I won’t be at Tennessee next year, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

On your dreams of traveling the world…

“I’ve always wanted to go to Spain. My brother played in Israel for six years and that is somewhere I’d like to travel to again. The people there were great.”

On family’s advice…

“My family is very competitive, whether it is playing monopoly or playing basketball, but we have each other’s best interest at heart and it is unconditional love. We don’t always tell each other what we want to hear but what we need to hear. I’ve had two great role models with my brothers. They keep me grounded, motivated and hungry and they challenge me. I respond best when someone tells me I can’t do something and that is what my brothers do for me.”

How many family members do you expect to be at DePaul…

“Probably around 60. This will be the first time both of my grandmothers will see me play, so I am really excited.”

Story Courtesy: UT Lady Vols Sports Information


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