Los Angeles - Nebraska met the media and held its first official practice of the NCAA Tournament on Friday at Pauley Pavilion on the UCLA campus.
Nebraska Coach Connie Yori held a press conference along with Huskers Jordan Hooper, Hailie Sample and Riverside, Calif., native Tear'a Laudermill to open Friday's festivities.
“It’s good to be in LA. We recruit California and have two Californians coming into our program next year," Yori said. "Tee [Tear’a Laudermill] has been with us now for three years and Meghin Williams was a senior for us last year from this area as well. So this is an area that we have recruited and it is exciting to be playing here."
Laudermill, a 5-9 junior guard out of Canyon Springs High School, agreed.
“It means a lot. I’m really blessed to play back home in front of family especially," Laudermill said. "So it means a lot to me.”
While the Huskers feel fortunate to be a No. 4 seed playing in Los Angeles, Yori said Nebraska knows the strength in the four-team bracket.
"I think this is a tough regional. Fresno [State] is a very very good team. They remind me a lot of our team," Yori said. "They do a lot of the same things that we do, they play really hard, play with very good intelligence. They are a team that plays together, they share the ball. It will be a very tough matchup for us in the first round. I have great respect for what [Fresno State Head Coach] Raegan [Pebley] has done with the program.”
The Huskers face off with the Mountain West Conference champion Bulldogs at 3:15 p.m. (CT) Saturday at Pauley Pavilion. The game will be televised by ESPN2 with a primary telecast across the state of Nebraska. ESPN2 will provide whiparound coverage of Saturday's first-round games across the nation.
A complete transcript of Nebraska's press conference follows.
2014 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship
First Round · #4 Nebraska vs. #13 Fresno State
Pauley Pavilion · Los Angeles, Calif.
Friday, March 21
FIRST PRACTICE DAY QUOTES – NEBRASKA
Connie Yori, Nebraska Head Coach
“It’s good to be in LA. We recruit California and have two Californians coming into our program next year. Tee [Tear’a Laudermill] has been with us now for three years and Meghin Williams was a senior for us last year from this area as well. So this is an area that we have recruited and it is exciting to be playing here. I think this is a tough regional. Fresno [State] is a very very good team. They remind me a lot of our team. They do a lot of the same things that we do, they play really hard, play with very good intelligence. They are a team that plays together, they share the ball. It will be a very tough matchup for us in the first round. I have great respect for what [Fresno State Head Coach] Raegan [Pebley] has done with the program.”
On Tear’a Laudermill’s growth and play during conference
“There has been a maturation there for the last three years. We knew Tee was a raw talent when we recruited her and we knew that there were things there that she can do that not a lot of kids can do in terms of her speed. It has taken her awhile to adjust to this level of play. She has really grown well into her role. She mentioned playing hound and that means picking up the ball for us. That is something that we ask her to do and she has done that well throughout her career. Now she is becoming more of a viable option for us offensively and has been a lot more consistent is making decisions, like she mentioned, knowing when to pass and when to shoot and then she has knocked down shots for us. She has been more consistent as a shooter and that has been the thing that we have asked her to do. She needed to get in the gym and be a consistent shooter for us and she has been more so during Big 10 play.”
On preparation for this year’s tournament
“I’m sitting here looking at Hailie (Sample) and Jordan (Hooper), and two years ago, we practiced without them for 10 days prior to playing in the NCAA tournament because of stress fractures. We went into the tournament limping into playing Kansas two years ago. We knew it wasn’t going to be great based on the fact that we had two starters really not practicing for us going into that tournament. Last year, we were more healthy and it showed. With the placement of the Big Ten tournament eight days prior to selection and two weeks prior to the tournament, you got to find a way to stay sharp but yet at the same time don’t wear your kids out. That is what we have tried to do. We have practiced pretty well during this stretch that we haven’t played. It is different, taking the court on game day when we haven’t played for two solid weeks. Tomorrow, it will be important for us to get a good start but even if we don’t we have to forge in the game.
On Jordan Hooper’s final NCAA tournament
“Jordan has been an incredible representation of our program and represents our state so well. She embodies the values that we have in our state: hard work and people of good character and that is who Jordan is. We hope that we can win some games in this tournament and we know this regional is tough but our goal is to try to get back to Pinnacle Bank Arena and see what happens from there. That is not going to be easy. But Jordan deserves that and she has been an incredible representative for us.”
On the progress of women’s sports
“With Title IX in the 1970’s, women’s sports have changed dramatically. We are very fortunate to have the opportunities that we have now in women’s athletics that generations before us didn’t have. Even in my era growing up, we didn’t have the same fortunes that we have here now. We are very blessed to have the opportunities that we have now than what we had previously.”
Tear’a Laudermill, Nebraska Guard
On playing close to home
“It means a lot. I’m really blessed to play back home in front of family especially, so it means a lot to me”
On if she enjoys playing in front of family
“Yes, sir. Definitely. Give a little extra spark.”
On what has changed with her game this season
“My confidence. Just coaches having more confidence in me. My teammates just having me feel more alive. So I just feel like my confidence level’s been higher. I’m able to do what they know I can do”
On her role and adjusting
“Yes. I mean, coaches knew before I committed that they wanted me to be a hound. It just took time for me to mature and knew I was there. New team, got the big role. So yeah, taught me to adjust.”
On if maturity is the biggest change and how that manifests itself on the court
“Yes, sir. Just knowing what to do and what not to do. Honestly, that’s what I think. It’s knowing how to fit in, knowing when not to take a bad shot and also working on that, but maturity has really helped out.”
Jordan Hooper, Nebraska Forward
On how her tournament experiences are different
“Yeah, the first one is, I guess, unexpected, and then after that you almost expect it more. So when you do get here, you just kind of know exactly what you need to do to win games and focus and get prepared, stuff like that. So I think this one—that’s what this is right now and we know we have business to take care of and that’s what this trip is.”
On what two weeks off have meant
“Yeah, I think these two weeks off have been very beneficial. We’ve practiced very well in these two weeks, and also, yeah, we’ve used it get our legs back a little bit and just kind of rest up and relax. Then we’ve used this last week to prepare for Fresno State. So we’re pretty excited to play again because it’s been quite awhile.”
Hailie Sample, Nebraska Forward
On what playing for Jordan Hooper means in this tournament
“I think it means a lot. We just really want to keep this season going because we don’t want to lose her. We don’t want her to be gone. So we just really want to stay alive so that we can keep her around.”