Harvard enters Ivy League play with a 9-5 record having won two straight games (Gil Talbot).
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Harvard women's basketball head coach Kathy Delaney-Smith took part in the midseason Ivy League Basketball media teleconference Monday morning. The transcript of Delaney-Smith's comments is below.
On how the season is going so far
"I'm pretty pleased with our start so far. We basically played a pretty demanding non-conference schedule all over the country without a lot of home games and did fairly well, not without some disappointment of course. But we also, just like Yale, like every coach so far said, we added some new young players to our system and I have always believed that it takes time for that to come together, and I'm more than happy with how quickly they're growing and improving every day, every game. So we're pretty happy. Ali Curtis, basically a freshman because she didn't play at all last year, is our starting point guard and had to fill Brogan Berry's shoes, and I feel those are big shoes to fill. She's doing a great job and I'm surprised and actually thrilled with how quickly she's come in and lead this team at the point for such a young player. And of course, as everyone knows, we have Temi Fagbenle and she's an incredibly talented basketball player but basically she's a college freshman and she had to transition from a pretty intense Olympic experience to her first year of college basketball. And I was warned by lots and lots of coaches here at Harvard who have coached Olympians and prepared me for that transition and all of the challenges that go with it and again I think Temi because she is very talented, very motivated, and one of the most coachable student-athletes I've ever coached, she just gets better and better every time she steps on the floor. So I'm pretty happy."
On Christine Clark's development in her new role as a backup point guard
"Christine Clark is the kind of player every coach in the world dreams of coaching. I think, you know, from what I hear from Courtney, I think Niveen might be that kind of player, Alyssa might be at Penn. But she [Clark] is just to the core, a competitor, and wants, will do absolutely anything for this team to win. And she has shown that from the day she stepped into practice her freshman year. This year, and you know, unfortunately we've used her as a backup point guard and that's not her natural true position and I agree with Mike there's a transition for that, that Clarky has to endure. But she is such a competitor, she is incredibly unselfish. She's becoming a really strong defensive player for us. But she's also widened her versatility as an offensive player. I mean like, she used to just go and run through walls. Now she's got a mid-range game. Her 3-point shot is better. And her assists are better. So she has just, as far as we're concerned grown enormously this year, maybe more than her other two combined."
On Victoria Lippert's importance during Ivy League play
"She's had a couple ball games that are disappointing but, you know, I would never judge Victoria Lippert by her stats because we have, you know, a couple, a handful of prolific scorers I feel, or impact players. And so, you know, the scout on certain nights will be to take Victoria's game, you know, away from her. She does so much, so many other things for our team that if it's not scoring, she's going to do some other stuff. She's a very poised, very intense important part of our system so if you're going to come in and stop Victoria from scoring, you know someone else is going to step up. And I think that's probably been the case, so she's a very important part of what we do."
On what she thinks is the biggest key to winning the Ivy League
"Staying healthy I think I would put at the top of the list. Because, you know, we have all seen each other's games now because of the synergy and I just think the league looks terrific. I think that on any given night anybody can compete with anybody. So I would say staying healthy is very, very important. I've always believed, or at least my experience has been, the deeper teams can weather the back-to-back weekends, particularly when you go deep into conference play. So we have been hit hard with flu and concussion and injuries so you just have to weather that storm, I think."
On the improvement in three-point shooting
"I think our inside game is stronger and of course Temi draws a lot of attention in the paint. But we have others as well that—Miriam Rutzen is doing a great job inside for us. Elise Gordon, now that she is healthy and hopefully we can keep her healthy, she is a force you would have to contend with in the paint as well. So I would guess that opens up our three-point shooting. And I believe Emma Golen is, or she has been number one or two in the country and I don't know what she is right now but she might be one of the best shooters I have ever coached. So if you can have that combination of shooters like I have and people in the paint then you should have those stats."