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A chat with U of L women’s basketball associate head coach Stephanie Norman

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Basketball is (almost) back.

Women’s basketball associate head coach Stephanie Norman spoke to the Central Cardinal Club on October 9th and has a number of highly interesting things to say.

Here are some highlights that Cardinal fans might enjoy:

On predictions for the season: If we can stay healthy we should have a chance to make another run. So much depends on seeding when you get to a tournament, refereeing, there’s a lot of intangibles.

On the first six games being on the road: Coach Walz does the scheduling. I just can’t defend him. (laughs)

On the ACC: The margin for error in our conference is very, very small and the teams are getting much better this year than they were last year. Notre Dame gets, in my mind, their best player back—Brianna Turner—who redshirted last year because she was injured. I know Arike [Ogunbowale] was their best player but Turner is their center who makes the most difference. It makes it much more difficult to score because she’s a shot blocker and she alters people’s shots. So she’s back to a team that only lost one kid. And we have to play at their place this year so know their ears will be bent back.

Miami gets eligible Beatrice Mompremier who was a Baylor post player who was from Miami and transferred last year and redshirted. She was a high school all-American.

Syracuse has four French national team players who are going to be eligible to play this year who were sitting out last year. So to go along with, in my mind, the best point guard in the country those four national teams members are better than anyone they started last year.

It doesn’t matter who it is, going down the line it’s going to be an extremely competitive year.

On grad transfer Yacine Diop: She just got back from world championships last week that were going on in the Canary Islands. She was playing for Senegal which is her native country. Senegal won a game for the first time ever in international play. They beat Latvia and when they won it was like they’d won the Olympic gold medal. She started for that team and did really well.

On freshmen Molly Lockhart, Seygan Robins, and Mykasa Robinson: Molly’s going to redshirt. She’s got a meniscus issue. We had talked about redshirting her before she came just to get her stronger. She’s out of Butler High School. She’ll be cheering and practicing hard. Seygan and Mykasa are two guards here from Kentucky. You will love watching them play because they only have one way to go and that’s all out. They have bruises and knee burns and all kinds of stuff on their legs. We have to pull the reins back on those two.

On Dana Evans: Last year I predicted at our kick off luncheon that Sam Fuerhing was going to be our most improved player and she definitely stepped up. This year I have a new prediction of who will have the biggest impact and that is Dana Evans. So we’ll see if she gives me two in a row. Dana put in as much time in the gym as anybody on our team. Any time I looked down there last summer she was out there shooting and working on her game. And in practice she’s been unstoppable. She’s really elevated her game and her confidence.

On Kylee Shook: Kylee would be my second most improved. She’s gained 22 pounds. Normally as a woman you don’t want to talk about that but for her it’s been a great thing. She started as a freshmen but in last year’s run the game became so physical that it was really difficult for her and she put on a lot of muscle and gained some strength and her confidence is getting better and better so I really look for big things from her.

On Loretta Kakala: Ummmm I’m going to leave that question on the table for right now. She’s going through some things so we’ll see how that all works out.

[Four days after this meeting Loretta Kakala announced that she was transferring to the University of the Pacific]

On team chemistry: Every team presents unique challenges. We talk endlessly with our kids—one on ones—so that they trust us. So that we can talk about these issues that come up and really get on the same page and be a sisterhood. But we definitely have our challenges. There’s 14 women all together so not every day is peachy and we don’t all hold hands and sing Kumbuya but we do really be proactive in talking through our drama. It’s all part of it.

Sometimes I wonder if I’d gotten a psychology degree if that would’ve helped me. (laughs) I just tried to lean on real life experiences and try to be as grounded and truthful as we can. It’s tough on them but the ones that last here are phenomenal and I feel like they’re equipped to go out in the world and be positive contributors.

On GPS player tracking systems: They definitely help but you’re talking about two coaches that have been coaching for 25 years, myself and Coach Walz, and he’s really old school so it’s taken him awhile to get used to it. When you tell your head coach that today is a red day so we can only go so hard you can can only imagine….words were referenced that I can’t really say here. It started 4 or 5 years ago we have adjusted because the data is astoundingly right on. All the NBA players use it.

We have a full time staff member that is a computer geek who probably knows nothing about basketball, and he analyzes data. It all goes into the computer. We can see player load. We can see how many jumps they make. We can see how many fast twitch movements they make from left to right. You’d be shocked at this information. It predicts injuries. Obviously nothing is 100%, but they’ve done research with years and years of data now to predict when a kid would have maximum output. During a practice week. If their load is too much then they’re not going to have enough energy to play in a game at their optimal level.

There are so many things besides the practice that figure into this: if they don’t get any sleep, if the don’t eat right, if they don’t drink right, if you’re out doing the things that college students do. There are a lot of things it doesn’t measure but it does measure what their physical activity is. It’s a game-changer for elite athletes. Last year they told us our players were available 99% of all games so knock on wood….maybe if we don’t talk about it it’ll stay the same.

Also the great thing for us coaches is if we know they didn’t play hard and they said, “Yes I did! I played so hard and you’re just making that up,” and now we can say no you didn’t play hard and we have empirical data. It spits out a number for us and we can say, “This is your 20th lowest game in terms of effort.” We can tell them they didn’t exert any energy, that they didn’t play hard, and it’s a FACT. There’s no more opinion.

On the Yum Center and recruiting: It’s more than the arena it’s the fan support. There are a lot of schools with nice stuff. We get spoiled because we think our stuff is amazing but if you go to Baylor or Oregon and see their facilities…it’s an arms race. Don’t get it twisted thinking if they come see the Yum Center then they’re automatically coming. No. They come because we put butts in the seats and that’s what makes the biggest impact. It doesn’t matter who we play you guys come out and support our women. Win or lose you’re there and I think that’s a defining factor in why we do so well.

On being in elite company: There’s only four programs in this decade who have gone to three or more Final Fours—UConn, Notre Dame, Stanford and us. If this was a trivia question very few people outside this community would put us in there. They would probably pick Baylor or Tennessee who hasn’t gone to a Final Four in ten years. I’m proud that our program has sustained excellence. The only thing I’m more proud of is our GPA this semester—which was a 3.43.

On Shoni and Jude Shimmel: Shoni is coaching at a high school out west. This is going to be her first year of coaching. Jude is still doing her tours. She wrote a book and she speaks at reservations all across America. She also is a model for Nike’s N7 line. It’s a Native American line. I don’t know a ton. They’re very difficult to get ahold of and that’s not atypical. In all of our time recruiting Shoni we only talked to her one time on the phone. That was a really unique recruiting experience to say the least.

On Myisha Hines-Allen: Myisha is in Siberia right now playing professionally. She was in the WNBA finals for the Mystics so that was pretty awesome. She got more and more playing time as the season evolved. As a second round pick it’s really difficult to make a team. There’s only 12 teams in the WNBA as opposed to the men who have 30. So to make a 12 person roster is pretty powerful for women. They really like her.

On the Fast Break program: If you’re at a certain level you can get a game day experience. You can get a pre-game meal, shoot around, coming into the locker room before a game. It gives money directly to our program not just the general athletic fund. It’s an opportunity to get to know the team even more. Any Fast Break question should be directed to Adrienne Johnson at aj@gocards.com. So bombard her. She would love that. (laughs)

https://gocards.com/documents/2018/9/18/wbb_fastbreak_club_091818.pdf