STARKVILLE, Miss. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) - Mississippi State women's basketball held its annual on-campus media day Thursday afternoon, as head coach Vic Schaefer and the 2019-20 squad met with local media members to preview the upcoming season.
Mississippi State hosts defending Division II national champion Lubbock Christian on Nov. 4 for an exhibition before officially opening its 2019-20 campaign at home on Nov. 9 against Southern Miss.
With 15 opportunities to watch the Bulldogs in Humphrey Coliseum during the 2019-20 schedule, season tickets are $150 for 200 level side court reserved seats and general admission is $85. To purchase, go to hailstate.com/tickets or call the Mississippi State Ticket Office at 662.325.2600 or 888.GO.DAWGS.
VS: “First of all, I appreciate you all being here and excited about a new season. I do want to take a moment, I want everybody to keep Dionnah Jackson-Durrett, our associate head coach, in your thoughts and prayers. She’s mourning the loss of her father, and it’s no fun. I’ve done it, I’ve had to deal with it and it’s our destiny as children, but I just want to keep her in our thoughts and prayers. That being said, we are excited about our team. We are way different. I’ve said that about the last three years, but we are way different this year than those teams; just extremely young and inexperienced. Our young players are all going to play. They’re all going to be factors in any success that we have. At the same time, when you have youth or inexperience, and we’re not just talking about freshmen now, we’re talking about some inexperience even in the sophomore and junior class. When you have that, you’re going to have some inconsistency, and that’s my biggest concern right now. We talked to our team the other day about the domino and the sequence of things needing to happen in order, in order for you to be successful. If you get that first domino right, whatever that domino is, when it falls, everything else falls into place. I think for us, that first domino could be a number of things, but it could be consistency.
“I just love my team, I love our kids, they’re fun to coach, they’re fun to be around, they’re a loose group, they’re just fairly happy most days and they work. I think they’re fairly compliant and that’s always fun. So, just a really unique and good group. I think our future is extremely bright with this group, from our freshman class to our sophomore class. Jordan Danberry is our only senior. We’ve got three juniors right now, but for the most part, we’re a fairly young, inexperienced team. We’ve got a lot of work to do and a long way to go. I know I’ll be asked about the polls and where we are and all that, and I just think that the verdict for this team is still out there, and it’s way out there. We have a very good schedule. We’re going to play a lot of really good teams early, some ranked teams, and I think that’ll give us a great indication of what the potential is and the promise is for this group moving forward. It should be a really exciting team to watch.
“I’m excited about our health. It’s improving with Promise Taylor and Chloe Bibby. They played significant minutes on Sunday in our scrimmage, and I’m just super encouraged by that. Certainly, they both have a long way to go, but I thought yesterday in practice both of them looked like they’re knocking the rust off. You can throw Jordan [Danberry] in that group too. She’s knocking the rust off having not played since the end of March, first of April. She’s still knocking the rust off, but she has knocked off a lot. There are days where she looks extremely good. I’m just encouraged by all that, and I think again, we’ve got a lot to work on. I can’t believe we play the Division II national champions on Monday – I don’t know what I was thinking scheduling them. They are really good, well-coached, very disciplined team, which will be great for us. It’ll be a great challenge for our young team, but at the same time, we need that. I think they’ve already played some games against some top-20 teams, and they have done extremely well. That’s coming up on Monday at 7:00, and we’ll look forward to that opportunity.”
Q: Where does Jordan Danberry fit into your offensive scheme this year?
VS: “I don’t want to use her at point guard if I don’t have to. I think the verdict is still out on that. We have to have somebody play point. Myah Taylor has looked better on days, she’s growing and that’s all you can ask. That kid works extremely hard; I just love the kid. She’s a pleasure to coach, and she’s just learning the ropes of being responsible and understanding that it’s okay to be responsible. It’s okay to demand something from your teammates. It’s not personal, but somebody has to do it, and if you don’t do it, then coach is going to get onto you. So, she’s learning that piece, and that’s really the biggest piece for her: the commanding and demanding of her teammates. Jordan needs to play on the wing if we can keep her there, there’s no doubt about it. She’s unguardable, explosive, she helps us rebound so we need her to be over there as much as we can.”
Q: What stuck out to you in the scrimmage?
VS: “Well, I didn’t like the way we started. I thought we were sleepy in the morning. It was an early morning for us. Usually, my teams are pretty good in the morning but this one wasn’t. I was just disappointed in our approach and to what I call ‘being a pro,’ but that’s why you do those things early. That’s why you go on the road in a scrimmage, and I know we learned from it. We did the half-court stuff early and really didn’t play well, but once we scrimmaged, we picked it up. I think we all learned a great deal from that day. I think our young kids learned what competition is like against other people, and in the end, I think it was a great experience for all of us.”
Q: How do you feel about your bigs replacing Teaira McCowan?
VS: “I think you have to consider doing that by committee. I mean, 18 points and 14 rebounds a night, we got spoiled with that two straight years. I can’t remember a more dominant center in the college game in a long time. What she brought to the table from an offensive and defensive standpoint, you’re talking about the National Defensive Player of the Year her junior and senior years. That being said, I don’t think you replace that with just one person. It will be Jessika Carter, Promise Taylor and Yemiyah Morris at center. We are trying to get Jessika to move to the four some. Jessika’s game has changed and is improving, but she’s really inconsistent day-to-day. Again, I love her. She’s a wonderful kid, and she works really hard, but the consistency piece for her is the biggest challenge I think we have. Her game really has changed. She’s gotten so much better, more versatile. I just think the top end for her is unbelievable. I get excited about Jessika because I think she can become a really versatile problem for people, but we’re not there yet. I think Promise is coming and Yemiyah is another one. There are days where you go, ‘Man, she’s getting it. She’s coming.’ And then there are other days where she’s not coming. You have to keep working with them, you have to keep coaching, teaching and demanding. I think for them it’s the understanding that this is important. I think we’ve sold over 6,000 season tickets. Fans are investing in our program. I think that’s the thing that kids don’t understand and realize the importance. We aren’t just hooping. We’re playing, and we’re playing with a purpose. So, those are the kinds of things that you are trying to implore in and teach with these young kids.”
Q: How do you feel about Chloe being selected for All-SEC second team even coming off her injury?
VS: “I think it says that league coaches thought she was a really good player before she got hurt, and they think she’s going to pick up where she left off. I hope it’s that easy. I know when you get injured like she did and have the injury that she had – both her and Promise basically had reconstructed joints – it takes time. Like I said the other day, they’re healed. Our doctors have healed them. They are physically, structurally sound, but it’s the mental piece that you really have to overcome, and a lot of times, that takes a while, sometimes years. I think for both those young ladies, that’s the challenge of where they are right now. If you were at practice yesterday, Chloe might not have missed a shot. She looked really good. Her team really recognized that and fed off of it, and of course, my message to the rest of them was, ‘well, the reason she’s not missing a shot is because she’s spending time in the gym.’ I think that’s the challenge that you give to these young kids that have never had the time demands that are placed on them from an academic standpoint, a workout standpoint, trying to function and get enough sleep, eat right – all those things. That’s the challenge of letting them know that they have to find that time on their own and that’s the challenge. Chloe spends time in there, her and Andra Espinoza-Hunter spend as much time shooting pre-practice as anybody I’ve ever had, and I think that’s why they shoot the ball as well as they do.”
Q: What is the dynamic like since your daughter joined your staff?
VS: “I think that’s absolutely correct. We had it figured out when she played for us. She earned everybody’s respect as a player. This made it easy to coach her. She’s very coachable. I think her teammates made it easy to coach and have her on the team. Unfortunately for her, the coach probably demanded more from her than he demanded from others in most items. But, that’s just it. She wore it, and she wore it like a champ. At the end of the day, she took 90 charges in her career, ending up being our leading minutes player. Her junior year, the NCAA tournament. She earned her way. The best story is the one where, after her sophomore year, she was ready to look somewhere else and transfer. She’s what’s right with college basketball, and with college athletics, really. She wanted to play more. Look, no one wanted to play her more than me but you have to fix some things. You’ve got to become a better defender on ball, and you’ve got to become a better shooter. You can’t turn the ball over. I had that same conversation with other players. I want to play you, but I can’t play you at the expense of us winning. She took that, went to work that summer, and got better, as we all know. Again, today’s kids, social media, transfer portal, it’s not over. If it’s not working, let me get out of here and go somewhere else. She didn’t do that. She could have gone a lot of places, y’all, been an instant starter, no problem. Having her, Dominique [Dillingham], and Ketara [Chapel] in a staff meeting can be comical sometimes. Because what they see, compared to what they think they went through, is sometimes so far different. This is why they will be great coaches. We have camp in the summer, and I let my current and former players become the camp coaches. When we have games, and I walk by the benches of these current players and former players, and I hear what’s coming out of their mouth, and I think to myself, ‘I had to scream this at you for four years, and you never once got it! Now listen to you and what you’re saying now!’ They did get it. They were listening, but you never realize that they got it until they are in that moment coaching those kids, saying the same things that you’ve been coaching them. It’s really unique and special, but those three, they got jobs on my staff because they are good at what they do. All three of them will be great coaches, and I am proud to have them here. They are making us better.”
Q: Coming from a junior college, how is Yemiyah Morris?
VS: “It’s quite different playing at this level, versus junior college, and understanding that we only have two years now to help her grow and change. To say you have to grow, you have to change. I think for Yemiyah, she will have to be on that fast track, because she doesn’t have four years. It’s really important for her right now to practice with a sense of urgency, to play with a sense of urgency, and understand that she can impact our program. That’s why we recruited her. We don’t recruit junior college players to sit on the bench. We recruited her with the sense that was going to come here and play some big minutes for us. She’s getting better, and she played really well in Italy. She was probably play as well as anybody over there, but of course we didn’t have Promise [Taylor], no Chloe [Bibby], and no Jordan [Danberry]. I think that’s the encouraging piece for me, is to know how well we played over there against some really good teams from different countries. Yet ,we didn’t have who could potentially be three of our top players. Yemiyah is a really good kid and works really hard. She’s just learning what competing at this level is all about, and it’s completely different.”
Q: What is Bre’Amber Scott’s status?
VS: “Right now, we are dealing with some things internally. We will leave it at that right now.”