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MSU women's basketball discusses upcoming trip to Italy

The squad was selected to compete as USA Team for the tournament and will play seven games against other countries throughout the duration of the event, beginning with a friendly on July 1 against Japan on a U.S. Naval Base.

Posted: Jun 25, 2019 6:10 PM

STARKVILLE, Miss. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) – Mississippi State women's basketball head coach Vic Schaefer, along with Jazzmun Holmes and Myah Taylor, spoke with the media Tuesday afternoon to discuss the Bulldogs' upcoming trip to Italy for the World University Games in Naples.

The squad was selected to compete as USA Team for the tournament and will play seven games against other countries throughout the duration of the event, beginning with a friendly on July 1 against Japan on a U.S. Naval Base.

In 2018, Mississippi State spent 10 days touring Italy, visiting the cities of Rome, Florence and Venice. The Bulldogs went 3-0 while playing different teams from the country during the trip.

Head Coach Vic Schaefer
Opening Statement
VS: "First of all, we are excited to be doing what we are doing this summer. We are in December mode in June with our team practicing every day. We have so many new faces. It's been really fun for my staff and I to have the newcomers here along with the returners. This is going to be a really fun group to watch and watch grow. You're going to see tremendous growth from this group throughout the course of their careers and the season. We are nowhere close to where we are going to be right now. Adding six new players in the mix in a short time is really challenging. They have worked extremely hard.

"We are really fortunate to have Jazzmun Holmes, who has been here four years. She's been in our system and had so much success for the newcomers to see every day. When you have two really good point guards like we do with her and Myah Taylor, you have a chance. For us, it's been us trying to find that chemistry and try to build some type of depth chart of who is going to play and when in a short period of time.

"We have one friendly that we will have when we get over there, and then after that, you're in pool play. What you do in pool play will dictate what you do as far as playing for a medal. We made the decision early on. This isn't like a foreign tour, where you go over and play a bunch of club teams that aren't very good, and you look like a million dollars, win by 60, everyone is happy and plays 10-12 minutes a game. We made the decision that we are going to go over, compete with the best and try to win it. We have practiced that way. Practices have been a little bit different, and our training has been quite a bit different this June compared to Junes in the past. Our young kids have been thrown in the fire pretty quick. Rickea Jackson didn't get here for a whole week. She was with USA Basketball. She won the 3x3 World Championship with her team. She missed the first week of practice. She is going into her second week.

"We are excited. We leave tomorrow night to go to Memphis, and then we fly out Thursday morning and arrive in Italy on Friday morning. Should be a great opportunity. We have a chance to go by the U.S. navy base while we are over there and spend some time with them. They invited us for a day. We also play a game there. I'm excited about the opportunity. This doesn't happen to everybody. We are very fortunate and looking forward to it."

Q: How did you determine who played on the roster, and what went into the decision of picking Jazzmun Holmes?
VS: "We have six new faces out of the 12 players that we are taking. Promise Taylor and Chloe Bibby are hurt. Chloe wasn't eligible since she's Australian. When you take that into account, we have 13 on our roster for next year. With two being hurt, we could add one person. To me, Jazz was the one that we needed to take with us. When you have six new faces, that's half my team. It's impossible to throw that team together in three and a half weeks. We are going over there and playing against 18 to 25-year-olds who have been playing together for years. But, I am taking a really competitive group that knows how to win and wants to win. The challenge has been to develop some chemistry and put in an offense that's not too complicated but fits the personnel. As you all know, it's not what we do but how we do it that separates us. That has been another piece, teaching kids to go hard. They think they're going hard until they see the tape. That is a lesson that sometimes you have three to five months to teach, but we had to get it in within two weeks. If I could have 13, I would be taking Anriel Howard with me, but I didn't know she was going to get cut. Quite frankly, I didn't think that was going to happen, but she's been able to help us in practices. She shows us just how far we have to go. She is still impacting our practices every day. That has been our challenges right now."

Q: On selecting Jazzmun Holmes to play with the team.
VS: "I'm still baffled that Jazz is here today. As well as she takes care of the ball, as little of an ego as she has, it baffles that she not only is sitting here today, but that she didn't have that opportunity here in the states. There's no question in my mind that she's going to get that opportunity overseas and this is another great opportunity for her and us to give her that chance to go over there and play in front of a bunch of coaches. I'm excited for her and, at the same time, she brings so much to our team and our program. You get excited about recruiting classes and you have to think back to her freshman year with [Teaira McCowan] and Zion [Campbell] and you think about that class before them. I'm excited that she's able to go and I'm excited about her future."

Q: The members of your freshman class, they're all pretty highly touted... Have they looked different from most groups, or do they look the same, wide-eyed, when they come?
VS: "I certainly think that this group is unique. I think they're all a very confident group. I think with any group of freshmen, the biggest piece is understanding and learning that it's not O.K. to turn the ball over. Take care of the ball. The other piece is learning our defense, learning how we play, how hard we play, what it takes to play and be effective for us. I certainly think they all have a little bit of swagger to them. That's what's nice about having Jazz and Anriel [Howard] and even Jordan [Danberry] sometimes in practice, and then we have a couple of other practice guys. They get humbled every day. I think that's what they need right now. I think they need that competition piece to show them, hey, this is what we're going to go against in the Southeastern Conference, this is what we're going to go against over there. For us, I just think it's important that we've been able to do that with them. They're all very confident. They all have a little swag to them and rightfully so. They have all had great careers in high school. We have McDonald's All-American, Gatorade Players of the Year, we have state players of the year. They all come with a lot of decoration to them. I think this is going to be a team you're all going to watch evolve in front of you in the next few years. They're going to have a chance to do the same things that Jazz and T did in their careers, Victoria and Morgan and Blair did in their careers and it's going to be a fun group to watch. We're fixing to be thrown into a really hot fire with a bunch of grease and we have to function."

Q: How far along are Promise Taylor and Chloe Bibby in their rehab?
VS: "Chloe looks great. She's running on the track and doing some things. She has really worked hard. In my mind, if we were in the middle of the season, I'd be pushing to get her on the floor. She's a little over four months post, but obviously we're not, so we don't need that. Promise comes out of her boot this week. She's been out of it quite a bit. I think she officially gets out of it this week and starts doing some stuff. Both of them are going to be here both summer sessions and are really working hard on their rehab. They're both coming along great. They look good. Marci [Hoppa], our strength coach, is doing a great job with them in the things she can do with them and Julie [Martin], our trainer, is just outstanding and so I feel really good about both of those kids' progress."

Q: You mentioned Anriel Howard and Jordan Danberry helping out. Is that in an official capacity, or are they just helping out?
VS: "Yeah, they're here right now. Jordan works, she has a full-time job. They're just around and we have a couple of men's practice players and these are things we've been able to prove they can come in and work out with us, occasionally. Occasionally, our kids get humbled and they need that. If you did it every day, they might not have any confidence."

Q: Mississippi State just finished one of the best sports years, if not the best, ever. Could you talk about being a part of that?
VS: "When was a better year? What an incredible year our sports had, our athletic program. You're just proud to be a part of it. For me, it's just a little extra motivation for me to continue to be a part of one of the best athletic departments in the country and to make sure my team is a part of that and continues to pull our weight. What a great year for our university and for our athletic department, our teams, our coaches. My hat's off, they're to be commended. Our student-athletes are to be commended for the years that they had. I just think it goes back to leadership and the coaches that are here at Mississippi State just make it really special. The only thing harder than building it is sustaining it. I think the thing you have to look at when you try to sustain something, it's continuity with your coaching staffs, not just a coach. You have to have that continuity with your leadership. I think that's important and they're in charge of that. Our leadership is in charge of that and i think that's where, right now, they're going do a great job in not just maintaining, but continuing to improve. I think that's what we've shown over the past couple of years is a department that's just really blossoming and blowing up. I can tell you, in talking to colleagues and people across the country, Mississippi State's not somebody you like to see on your schedule in any sport and I think that's really special. I'm really proud to be a part of that and be a part of this great university."

Q: Can you talk about how trips like this help the chemistry of teams and how vital it is for a bunch like this that's young?
VS: "Comparing it to trips like this before, they've always been a [thing where] we're going to go over there, play two or three, maybe four, games, going to get to tour a lot, see a lot of the different parts of the country and you're going to win by 50 or 60. You're going to have maybe one game against some all-stars. It's going to be a challenge for you, but it's kind of a feel-good type of deal. This is a little different. We're not going to get to tour. We're going to have one day where we get to go to the Amalfi Coast early, but once we lock in and start preparing and then start playing, we'll be locked in trying to be good. For this team, they're going to get thrown in the fire pretty quick. I do think it's a tremendous advantage in that they've had a month of practice. They're going to get to go play six games of a non-conference schedule that's going to be against some Top-25 competition, so to speak. I think it's hard to put a value on that. We're excited about that and, at the same time, we're going over there trying to win a gold medal. Whether that happens or not, I think we have to take advantage of the opportunity and make sure, number one, we have USA across our chest, we're representing this country in a positive way. At the same time, we're also going to have Mississippi State on our uniform as well and we're representing that piece of our history as well. I think our kids will do a great job and they'll come back better for it.”

Graduate Guard Jazzmun Holmes
Q: What does it mean for you to get the opportunity to play for Mississippi State one last time?
JH: "The opportunity is great. I'm glad Coach Schaefer asked me to go over and play with them and help out Myah and Aliyah Matharu at the point guard spot. It's different because last summer we were having individuals instead of full-blown practice at this time. I had to get back into the routine of everything, but I'm excited for it."

Q: What potential do you see out of the freshman class?
JH: "There's a lot of potential in that group. Like Myah said, they work hard and play hard every day. They are freshmen, so they have a lot to learn, but I feel like Coach Schaefer is a good guy. They are going to be alright."

Q: When did Coach Schaefer ask you about playing with team, and what was your reaction?
JH: "It was probably around the end of May. I really thought that I was going to get a chance to try out for a WNBA team, but it didn't work out. Now, I have the opportunity to go showcase my skills overseas, and that's what I'm going to do."

Q: Coach mentioned how special of an opportunity it is to go overseas and represent your country. What does it mean to you guys to put the Team USA jersey on?
JH: "I think it's a great opportunity. A lot of people don't get to do it. It would be my first time playing for USA, so I'm excited. It means a lot to coach. Hopefully we'll go over there and do a good job."

Redshirt Sophomore Guard Myah Taylor
Q: Do you see the chemistry coming along with this team?
MT: "Definitely. As practice goes on, I feel like we are getting better. We work hard each and every day. It's a lot to grasp for some of the freshmen at first, but they are starting to get it. They are working hard. For Aliyah and I, we are still getting the chance to go against one of the best point guards in the nation. For that, I am thankful. Jazz makes us better every day. We just go at it and try to take in as much as possible. As a point guard, I am trying to take on a new leadership role the same way that Jazz and Morgan William did to help me. We are young, but we are getting it."

Q: Can you talk about competing for the starting spot and how Jazz has helped prepare you?
MT: "The adjustment was hard early on as far as grasping the responsibility and accountability that comes with being Coach Schaefer's point guard. She has helped with mental toughness and just grasping the information that coach is giving us. She's helping me be a great point guard by competing every day. As a point guard, we have to show leadership, accountability and responsibility. I am still very thankful to have Jazz for an extra month, because she's making me better each and every day."

Q: Coach mentioned how special of an opportunity it is to go overseas and represent your country. What does it mean to you guys to put the Team USA jersey on?
MT: "It means a lot because USA is something that's bigger than just us. We're getting ready to represent our country and so with that comes a lot of pride and hard work. I'm really excited. I painted my nails blue because I'm so excited. I'm ready."

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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 18766

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