The Alabama women’s basketball team resumed practice at Foster Auditorium on Monday in preparation for its Nov. 1 exhibition against Antelope Valley to begin the 2017-18 season. Six seniors and two highly-sought transfers headline an experienced group in coach Kristy Curry’s fifth year at Alabama.
Here’s what Curry had to say about the upcoming season:
Q: What has the start of practice been like with every player returning from last year?
A: I think anytime you return a lot of experience it allows your pace at the beginning of practice to accelerate because everyone understands the system. Even though everyone returns, we still have a freshman and three transfers that are getting acclimated. Having a lot of experience return is certainly a great example to follow, and it makes the newcomers fit in even quicker because you have great leadership.
Q: Given the success the team had last season making it to the quarterfinals of the WNIT, does that change any expectations heading into this season?
A: I don’t think it changes our expectations because from the moment I stepped foot in Tuscaloosa our goal has been to compete for an SEC championship and get to the NCAA Tournament. It’s been 1,200-plus days, and that’s the only thing on my mind; What can I do daily to get this program in a position to continuously improve and have the best day we can each day? We’re really excited. Anytime you return a lot of experience and add new faces like we have, that are as talented as they are, it makes you really, really excited.
Q: Does the combination of the experience coming back and the success last year put any additional pressure on you as a coach to get this team to the NCAA Tournament?
A: I don’t feel any pressure from anybody but myself. I’ve never been one to worry what others think or how they feel. No one is any more driven every day to be successful than I am. Again, it’s from within, not on the outside that affects me. It comes from myself. Nobody can put more pressure on me to do that than I do.
Q: You have six seniors who all played significant minutes on the roster. How do you plan on the leadership to be broken up when you have that many players with experience?
A: Something that I’ve told them is that leadership has to come by committee. Your leaders will emerge, but your best players also have to be your hardest workers. We certainly have a great group of leaders, not just one or two. Anytime you have a chance to get leadership by committee it puts you in a position to be more successful.
Q: There are two more non-conference road games this season than last year. Was that by design to give you a chance to build a better resume as a road team?
A: Absolutely. That’s why the schedule was designed the way that it was with the experience. Any time you design your schedule you have to consider who you have coming back and how many new faces you have coming in. We feel like with this year’s team we should put ourselves in a position — we have really worked hard at scheduling to increase our RPI and get us road-tested come SEC time. So, the schedule we have in place is really going to benefit this team. We began a better road team a year ago, and now we have to build on that and become more consistent on the road — and at home — and we think the schedule will help us do that.
Q: The two new faces are transfers Amber Richardson and Jasmine Walker, who are eligible to play in December. What do you think their roles might be this season?
A: December 17th is a day that has been circled on the calendar here because that’s when they both become eligible. Amber (Richardson) brings a tremendous amount of energy. She makes play after play. It’s a loose ball or an offensive rebound, she just has a nose for the ball. She is just relentless on both ends of the floor. I think Jasmine (Walker) will have an impact offensively. She can hurt you inside and out, so she gives us some versatility that’s really going to help our team.
Q: Jasmine Walker originally committed to Florida State, but was Alabama’s Miss Basketball in 2016. What do you remember about recruiting her coming out of high school?
A: I think in the recruiting process we built a really strong relationship with Jasmine (Walker) and her family. We were honest, and I think in the end she wanted to come back home. I think we were very fortunate that she remembered the way we handled ourselves in the first recruiting process. It certainly impacted her decision the second go around.
Q: What needs to be improved on the floor between now and the first game of the season?
A: I think one of the biggest focuses that we’ve had as a team the entire offseason and summer is we have to become a better free-throw shooting team. We can’t have one player on our team in Hannah (Cook) that is 80 percent or better. We have to get more consistent across the board and be 75 percent. There was a point during last year where we were getting to the line more than anyone in the country. We have got to capitalize on our effort and energy.”