Gaucho Hoops ("GH"): Thanks, Coach. Let's start with the new recruits.
Bonnie Hendrickson ("BH"): We can start with the young ones, the freshman class. Jessica Grant from Mission Hills High School, down in southern California. Shooting guard, led the country in made 3's. She had over 500 3's in her high school career. She made 11 in one game.
BH: Yeah, she really shoots it. She shoots it well, shoots from deep. That's a challenge for our young players, as the line is as deep as the men's line.
GH: Is the women's line different?
BH: No, our line is the men's line. It was different two years ago.
GH: Is Mission Hills near San Diego?
BH: It's on the way to San Diego. Yeah, she's a really talented kid. She's crafty, smart, has a high basketball IQ, she's in the gym all the time Obviously, if you're making that many 3's, you're working on it.
GH: Is she a 1 or a 2?
BH: 2. And then Annabel Schneiberg is from northern California. From Lick-Wilmerding High School--a really small private high school. She's a combo: can play the point and the 2. Has a midrange game, plays the point, can play the 2, scores from the midrange, can create shots for herself, or for her teammates. High basketball IQ, same thing, all three recruits are smart (you have to be smart to get into here). She's a crafty guard, understands how to play, understands the game at a really high level.
Skylar Burke is from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. Her dad lives in Thousand Oaks, and her mom lives in Coeur d'Alene. She's an Under Armour kid. She was on the Under Armour circuit. She would send us video, because of Covid, so we were like, "This is intriguing." So my assistant Kaili went to the Under Armour event in Spookie Nook Sports Center. And she called Nate and myself. We thought she was good on film, and once you get your eyes on her, you realize she is bouncier than we thought and she's really tough. She's a competitive kid, she came onto campus unofficially, got in a run of pick up game with our players, and she came to an elite camp, and she was diving for loose balls. She'll fill a stat sheet, with rebounds and assists, can score it, can get to the rim. She's a tough, physical kid. She can play the 2 or 3. Those are the three freshmen in the class.
And we got a transfer from the University of Washington, Alexis Whitfield. We recruited Alexis out of Chaminade. She reached out to her coach, and had her coach reach out to us to ask us if we would be interested. We said "yes." She's a 6'2" guard, long, a big 3, long, lanky, gets to the rim, capable 3 point shooter. That's the part of her game that we're talking to her about spending more time there, because now she becomes so much harder to guard if she's confident and consistent out there on the 3 point line. She'll rebound. Had 45 [points] and 20 [rebounds] in her State championship game. And a really talented kid.
GH: In the Washington State championship game?
BH: No, in California. In Chaminade.
GH: In Chaminade. Right, that's in LA.
BH: Yep. So she's been through college, been through two years up in Washington, two different coaches.
GH: She's got two years left?
BH: Yep, she's got two years left Or 3, depending on whether she wants to, as she's part of that class with an extra year [from Covid]. She gives us skill, shot making and playmaking. And some speed and quickness, and size. All the things that we needed, and felt that would be really impactful for us this year. We had them all on FaceTime yesterday. This is a really good group.
GH: Do you have a 4 or 5 in this class?
BH: Not in that class, no.
GH: Well, first of all, Ila is coming back, right?
BH: Yes, she's coming back. Ila and Laurel. Ila is a senior. She still has that decision to make to play an extra year. And then Laurel Rockwood, who made significant progress, and had a really good spring...a great spring for us. She was a back up 5 for us last year. I thought she handled her freshman year, it's tough, being behind one of the best posts in America. That can be both good and bad. I mean it's not bad, it certainly impacted her minutes, but she kept getting better and better in practice She had a really good spring, just getting her away from the basket, to face the basket a little bit, and not try to post Ila up every single day, deep near the rim. Most people try to drag her [Ila] away from the basket. And it's a good way for Laurel to score, and she's a good face up big. She's big and we felt she's more confident playing away from the basket, moving her feet and penetrating and letting people find her. Or step away from the rim and force Ila to decide if she is going to protect the rim or keep Laurel from getting a touch. We were very intentional as a staff and asked, "OK, how can we use her? Where can she grow?" Because we felt that she had a very good face up game. She just had to play with a little more confidence and it would allow our drivers more room, for her to pass to open teammates.
GH: So she's really improved.
BH: For sure. Alexis Tucker. I thought she had a really good first year with us, the same thing, a senior or, another senior year after. She's really physical, a really big guard, I guess somebody said she's a 4, but she's not a 4, because we don't post a 4. A lot of times a 3 or a 4 match up defensively, not offensively. Really good midrange, has spent a lot of time in the spring and summer behind the 3 point line. And makes her really hard to guard. She's really physical and we can post her. She's got the strength to overpower people near the rim, can use her speed and quickness to get to the rim, and plays on balance. She can create a shot for herself, and can shoot it, and we want her to manufacture more, and create more offense off the glass. She's hard to box out when she goes. And if she works on the 3 and gets more consistent, it's a game-changer for her and a game-changer for us, because now she becomes so much harder to guard. And put the ball on the floor, or kick, and make it harder for anybody to guard her, as they'll need to put a more physical defender on her. She's a 3 level scorer.
Anya Choice had a really good spring and then shot it well toward the end of the year. She's really committed to improving shot mechanics. Her shot was really, really flat, so when she missed, she would miss short. And good shooters miss short and long, but they don't miss a lot, so we got her to raise her release point. She did a good job of working on that and had the discipline to recognize the reps it takes, so I'm excited about her taking a big step forward. She was shooting off her nose and missing short, so her elbow needs to be at her nose, not her hand.
We're losing Danae [Miller], so we don't have have one person to replace Danae for us. It will be by committee. Part of that committee, as far as manufacturing offense, Anya is a capable defender, but we have to get her on the glass more. There's plenty of rebounds for our guards. Opponents try to box out Ila, but there are lanes to crash, especially from the perimeter. So Anya needs to rebound.
Alysa Marin should be licking her chops to be a starting point guard. She's the most experienced point guard for us. With Alysa, every time she was about to turn the corner, because we would start someone else at the point so we could put Danae at the 2 so she wouldn't have to handle the ball all the time, and switch defensive matchups for Danae. Then Alysa would get sick, then she would get Covid, like most of them did early, coming back after Christmas. Every time, she would turn the corner, there was always something impeding her progress. We need for her to turn the corner and keep turning around the corner. It takes confidence and moxie to start at the point guard on a division 1 program. You have to operate like that, you gotta think like that, you gotta talk like that, work like that. So we're certainly looking for much more contribution from her. And she's capable, and she didn't shoot it that well from the 3, but there's a couple mechanical things to clean up and be more consistent, because she is a scorer.
Thing is, she knows how to get people to foul her. She's shooting 6 or 8 free throws, because she's just physical. She's got a little shake in her game, and she gets people off balance. But has to be more consistent from the 3, she's has to understand what we're doing and what we're running. And know where the ball is supposed to go and where they're supposed to go, and all those mental side of it too. The basketball IQ, understanding time situations, score, personnel, match ups, all that. That is where her growth will make her an even more productive point guard for us.
GH: So physically, she has all the traits.
BH: Yeah, physically she has all the traits. She's tough, she's quick enough, she's deceptive, she can get by people her freshman year, that surprised me a little bit There's a craftiness about her. She's tough tough tough.
GH: She's got a little street in her.
BH: Yes, she has that. She has two brothers she played football against, and that's obvious. You can tell. You can give someone a pop, and most people get knocked down on their backside. She gets back up.
Taylor Mole, obviously is from Australia She's a true senior, there are no more years left. Really looking for her to break out. She knocked down her shot her freshman year, but then when the line moved back, and we had Ila, because she played without Ila her first year, and the paint was more crowded, it felt really different for her, because there was more traffic down there with Ila in. She's finishing off stronger at the rim, off of two feet. She's more consistent from the 3, she really committed to shot mechanics. We really need to get her shot off quicker, because we're trying to run some quick hits. She had a slow, right step in her shot. She had a big cyst removed from her foot. We thought it would heal in two weeks, but it took over a month before it completely healed. But once she came back, she said, "OK, I'm ready to change it." We need to change this because she's too good of a shooter for us to not run plays for her, like quick hits or low clock stuff. She did a really good job, and for her to play lower and longer--she's long and thin--she stands out and the more she gets knocked off balance, the less likely she'll make her shots. Everybody has a couple specific things that they gotta work on.
Tatyana Modawar is a senior now. She's a senior, senior. She transferred from UTEP. She probably had the most productive spring. That was her best spring. Coming in, she made catch and shoot 3's. Well, that's hard to check 1 box. Everybody goes through it, if you don't make that shot, where else are you going to contribute? What other boxes do you check? And I think it impacted her confidence if she couldn't knock a couple down, and she's looking around and where do I contribute, because I'm not a physical post player. Again, if she can rebound and knock down open shots, there will be minutes for her. She had a really good spring. She shot it well, I think she was our best shooter live, and I think that's progress for her. She really struggled last year, and she was just a little short, thinking it would go in. She's got size to help us out on the glass, and she can contribute there and defend Even if she's not making shots, there's an opportunity for her to be a spacer. She's capable and there will be stretches where she can knock down shots. She's a streaky shooter right now. She has enough size and length to help us out on the glass.
Callie Cooper will be a sophomore point guard, and will be transitioning into that position. She's a really good on ball defender, and has speed and quickness. She has to be able to knock down the 3. I told her to go home, and get into the best shape of your life. Be in the best shape when you get back. A point guard has to be able to win wind sprints. A point guard has to do a lot of things, but a point guard has to win wind sprints. Gotta knock down open 3's. If she can contribute there, there's an opportunity for her to get more playing time. You look at Alysa, Annabel and Callie and there's 3 by committee each contributing.
Ila is working on getting away from the rim, letting drivers get into the lane. And letting people cut around her, flashing, and making the defense decide to dig into her or not. She's handled that well and we spent a lot of time on her face up game, even rolling out on ball screens, where she's not rolling toward the basket. We let her roll out and see what happens. Things like early onball screen, and roll out pop...
GH: Is it her call to read the defense?
BH: Yeah, she does a good job on how the defense reacts But the guards have to get their shoulders down to give her some room. Because if they don't, they go sideways, and the defender will stay with her. So on the onball screens, the guards have to really face the rim, because if they go sideways, nobody's going to follow them.
Analillia Cabuena came back from spring break and she's two inches taller. Talked to her about her midrange game, being able to drive and kick. That's the main thing offensively. Because defensively, we were good earlier than I thought we would be. But offensively, we were so inconsistent. We shot 28% from the 3 last season, and we shot 35% the previous season. The line moved back, but it shouldn't have been that significant a decrease in our percentage. That surprised me we shot it that poorly from the 3. What surprised us was our inability to get into the paint and kick it out or get to the rim and get touches, and kick it out where we can get somebody the 3 in rhythm, where they can step into the pass. We've asked her to work on her handles where she's confident in doing that. She's a lot bigger now, so she needs to get to the glass to help her teammates. That'll be important for her to get on the floor.
Kennedy Johnson was a sophomore. She was a spark defensively. We've challenged her to be able to score in the halfcourt offense. She creates offense from her defense. Now can she create offense in the halfcourt? Can you work on your handle, can you get into a pullup without spinning on anybody? Spinning in college is tough because somebody is in the lane. When spinning in the lane, someone is going to be there because of Ila, and she'll back into pressure. Of the freshman class, she had a little break out. Using that as a confidence boost and using that and being intentional, and asking "what do I need to work on?" What does that need to look like for me to produce more in the halfcourt offense? She can get out and run and we can pass ahead to her, but can she manufacture something from the halfcourt offense? Can she pull up, can she knock down the 3?
We say in the summer, when somebody knocks the 3, can they do that during the season? Shooting consistently is hard. When we're recruiting, we see players knock down one or two shots, and they look impressive. And then they drive into the lane and throw something up at the rim, and they don't look so impressive anymore. Shooting consistently takes confidence and lots of reps.
GH: So school ended two weeks ago?
BH: Yes, graduation ended the 10th or 12th, two weeks ago. They went home from school, but they have their individual work outs, strength and conditioning work outs.
GH: And you give them specific things to work on.
BH: Yes, they get that from us [coaches]. It just takes time.
GH: When do they return? July?
BH: Last week in July, we start workouts on August 1. 4 hours a week with us. It gives them the opportunity to get practice shots in at the Thunderdome.
GH: Is your schedule finalized?
BH: Yes, we have the nonconference and conference schedules. They've asked us to hold off as they roll out the fall schedules. We'll release it next week or the following week, us and the men's program.
GH: Coach Pasternack has three open slots for nonconference games. They struggle with schedule good teams. You guys schedule pretty tough.
BH: Yeah, if we're going to recruit kids from California, we are going to play in California. We're going to play against west coast conference teams. We'll play UCLA, and Cori is going to come here.
GH: UCLA is coming here?
BH: Yes, it's the second time, we have a home and away with them. We play them December 2, a Saturday. We've played them there twice, and this is their second game here.
GH: That's great. You said last season your defense was good, but inconsistently offensively.
BH: Yes, we were 10-2 at home, and inconsistent offensively away from home.
GH: So shooting has been a point of emphasis this summer?
BH: Yes, 3 point shooting and creating off the dribble, better decision making off the dribble, straight line drive. If Ila is on one block, then figure out how to drive down hill, because most of the time, her defender won't come over to help. So that's a chance to play your defender one-on-one on your hip. Get by her and score, or dump it if they come over. Sometimes they don't come over, because they don't want Ila on the glass. If they do come over, drop it off and get on the rotation rebound. Creating shots for other people and getting into the midrange, knocking it down yourself, and knocking down open 3's. We're excited.
GH: How do you think we will compete in the Big West?
BH: Well, people will look at us and say, "well, they lost Danae Miller", which is true. We're really excited by our freshman group. Alexis Whitfield is a transfer who we think can help us. Returners had really good springs. They've been working this summer.
GH: Do the incoming freshman work out in the summer?
BH: They come in late July. They get all the individual work outs and all the shooting drills we do. Timed drills, Larry Bird drills, and they work. They get in the gym.
GH: So, top half? Don't want to pin you down or anything. lol
BH: Yes. We should be top 3, top 4, we should be somewhere in there. We lost Danae and it'll take us a while to be solid there.
GH: Who will be the top teams in the Big West? Is there a consensus?
BH: We all lost significant seniors. Davis did, Cal Poly did, CSUN did. With the transfer portal, it's hard to tell. With the transfer portal, us coaches talked about it, and thought how hard it was to tell.
GH: Johnni transfered.
BH: Yeah, she went home.
GH: Players like Santa Barbara.
BH: Yeah, it'll be competitive. It's tough to call it. Irvine lost a lot. We still don't know who they have on their roster.
GH: That has to hurt continuity.
BH: It takes a while. For sure.
GH: Thanks Coach!