Georgia Tech women’s basketball coach MaChelle Joseph got back home with the team Saturday night from its Sweet 16 loss to Baylor in Des Moines, Iowa. Monday, she was on the road recruiting and was out the whole week before going to the Final Four in Denver.
On the phone from Arizona, just out of a meeting with a prospect, she shared some thoughts about the game, the season and what lies ahead.
1. Joseph said she doesn’t know if she ever “gets over” a loss, but she reminded her players and is trying to remind herself that it’s important to focus on what the team accomplished (school record for wins, highest regular-season finish in ACC, second-ever ACC tournament final appearance, first Sweet 16 appearance) and “not let our whole season come down to one game.” She said she took pride in the team not ever quitting despite falling behind by 31 points in what became an 83-68 loss.
2. Baylor center Brittney Griner, Joseph said, was “definitely bigger and stronger and more skilled than what you see on tape.” Joseph had never seen her play in person, and said her skill set for someone her size is what stood out the most. Joseph said that Griner “has got to be one of the greatest players to ever play the game,” not a small compliment to give to anybody, much less a college junior.
She further said that she didn’t think that any player she’s coached or played against or seen could measure up to her, a list that starts with former Connecticut star Maya Moore, a four-time first-team All-American and a two-time national player of the year. Finally, “she has to be the most dominant player that’s ever played the game on both ends of the floor.”
For what it’s worth, I think Joseph differentiated between best and most dominant in the way that Shaquille O’Neal was arguably the most dominant player of his era but still not the best.
3. Joseph said she wouldn’t have done anything differently, except possibly go after Griner more after she drew her first foul less than two minutes into the game. She got her second at 15:29 of the second half, when Baylor was up 22 points.
4. After the game, Joseph told the team about the impact that the senior class has had on the program, but that the responsibility now falls to the returning players. In returnees Sydney Wallace, Tyaunna Marshall and Dawnn Maye, Joseph said Tech has “one of the best backcourts in the ACC, if not the country. It’s just a matter of finding out who’s going to step up.”
Marshall was second-team All-ACC as a sophomore. Wallace killed it in the NCAA tournament, scoring 83 points in three games, including 19-for-34 shooting from 3-point range. She averaged six points in the regular season. Maye was fifth in the ACC in assists and seventh in steals. Marshall and Maye will be juniors next year, Wallace a sophomore.
“We’re very excited about the future of the program,” Joseph said. “That’s kind of the message that I sent.”
5. Joseph agreed with a sentiment expressed by center Sasha Goodlett that the team now belongs to Marshall.
“It’s her time,” Joseph said. “Her leadership and her play and her work ethic are going to be really important to this program.”
She was likewise encouraged by Wallace’s tournament run and said she was confident in Maye taking over for point guard Metra Walthour.
“[Wallace] showed in the three games in the tournament she can score in a lot of different ways,” Joseph said. “Anytime you have a backcourt like that coming back, that gets you excited.”
6. Of her five departing seniors – LaQuananisha Adams, Mo Bennett, Chelsea Regins, Walthour and Goodlett – Joseph said that the class was “the complete package. This class represented what our program stands for better than any that we’ve had here.”
On top of setting a school record for wins by a class with 95, all five will graduate in four years.
7. Looking ahead, Joseph said she began thinking about the 2012-13 season before this season had ended. “That’s just kind of how my mind works,” she said.
Losing five seniors, depth will likely be an issue and Joseph is trying to land a post player before the signing period, which starts April 11. Tech has four signees, guard Kymberly Ellison from Hardaway High in Columbus, guard Brittany Jackson from Sebastian, Fla., guard Breanna McDonald from Chamblee High and guard Aaliyah Whiteside from Memphis. ESPN ranks Whiteside as the No. 4 wing player in the country and the class No. 11 overall. (Unfortunately for Tech, Duke, Maryland and North Carolina’s classes are ranked ahead of Tech’s, as is soon-to-be ACC member Syracuse.)
“I can’t say who or what, but I am definitely out on the road recruiting post players, looking forward to bringing in a top player,” she said.
8. Joseph expects Goodlett to be chosen in the WNBA draft, held April 16, possibly in the late first round or early second. If she goes in the first, it would give Tech back-to-back first-round picks, following the selection of Alex Montgomery last year by the New York Liberty. (The Atlanta Dream do not have a first-round choice this year, having traded it away last year.)
“Anything can happen, depending on what post players are drafted before her,” Joseph said.
9. Tech is scheduled to open McCamish Pavilion in grand fashion – against powerhouse Tennessee Nov. 11, a Sunday. Joseph acknowledged it could change given the uncertainty regarding Tennessee coach Pat Summitt’s future. It’s been speculated that the coaching legend may retire due to her diagnosis of early-onset dementia.
10. After having reached the goal of the last few years – reaching the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history – Joseph wasn’t sure what the next one will be. She said she’ll meet with the team and ask what goals the players want to set.
“We’ll formulate a plan and that’s where we’ll go from there, depending on what they tell me, what they’re committed to,” she said.
Thanks for reading.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog