July 21, 1997
Nelson on 1997 Season
Overall, what is your opinion of the team at the beginning of the season?
"The trip to Italy helped immensely in terms of court time and maturity. I think that will help us on down the road. We learned more about each other and how to accept the other people on the team- being together so long in a foreign atmosphere. The teams we played against were very good. We were challenged to do some things we'd never done before. The kids worked very hard in the spring and I think they've really put their time in this summer and are in great shape. I think we can come in and they'll be ready to go. We can spend our time fine tuning the team- doing a little bit of skill review- but getting on the ball with working the team. The first couple tournaments will show how far they've come. There are tournaments we can win if we play well. We've got a couple top programs in the first few weeks, but a lot of middle-of-the-road type programs as well. It affords us the ability to have different looks."
What are some of the goals you want to achieve this season?
"With our team being so young, the main goal is to get better every week. I want each player to improve over the season and get better than they were at the beginning. If we get back to the NCAA tournament and advance past what we did last year, that's great. If it doesn't happen and we get better, that's okay too. But if we do better than we did last year, then we'll be where we want to be at the end of the year. I don't want to spend time worrying about wins and losses. I want to spend more time preparing them to play against teams and to teach them to be better and to teach them to handle different situations. I'm going to put some real young kids on the court, couple freshmen and a sophomore or two and they've got to go out there and do some things, figure it out and make some mistakes."
What will it take to get to the next level?
"You've got to beat the best teams and prove you can compete with anybody on any given night. Last year's team did just about as well as it could've done. Without having much size, I was extremely proud of them. I thought they did everything very well. We have to be a little bit more physical and more experienced. Expectations are coming. We're moving in the right direction in terms of expectation and work ethic. Our kids put in a lot of long hard hours. Playing in the conference is the right thing to do to get to the next level because it's either compete like mad or get squashed. It's a program-wide effort. The big thing is us being a little bit more athletic. A lot of it is luck down the road when you get to the top level. Whatever team is rolling and hot is usually the team that ends up winning the title. We need to keep increasing our crowd and the expectation of our community to demand more from us. That puts pressure on the kids to win. To get to the point we want to be is a program-wide thing. There are some little things here and there that we have to fine tune. We're definitely getting the right players. I think we're definitely heading there. I'm not going to go into a season and say 'let's win a national championship' because we haven't done that, but I will go into the season and say, 'let's be better than we were last year.' That's the same philosophy we take with recruiting that we're continually improving the level of the program. We have confidence in ourselves and in our athletes and what can be done."
What is your opinion about the freshmen class and how have they improved?
"When we recruited the freshmen, we were really excited about them. But each one has made us even more excited because they went out on their own and did some things we didn't ask them to do. They've been very good about it. Two examples Ashley's really worked hard and made herself considerably better. Kate growing and inch-and-a-half and growing one shoe size was not something we could make happen- it just happened. The kind of kids we recruited are the kind of kids we can move around We're much deeper than we've been in the past because of that."