THE MODERATOR: Joined up here at the podium by Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt as well as student‑athletes Candace Parker, Nicky Anosike and Alexis Hornbuckle. Coach.
COACH SUMMITT: Obviously, really excited about what our basketball team accomplished in a tough regional final to get us to the Final Four. It was a courageous effort by our basketball team, through a lot of adversity. Obviously with Candace dealing with her shoulder, and just really proud of how the team stepped up. And certainly Nicky and Alexis provided tremendous leadership and obviously some big plays for us at both ends of the floor.
So looking forward to getting started in this tournament. LSU, we're very, very familiar with them. They're very familiar with us, have tremendous respect for their basketball team and obviously the personnel and the coaches and I'll just turn it over to the players now.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student‑athletes.
Q. Candace, what do you and Sylvia have going, do you take the competition more seriously if it's LSU? Are you and Sylvia friends off the court or is it only on the court and you always look at each other as going after the same thing?
CANDACE PARKER: We've played against Sylvia for a long time going back to obviously high school. And we played on various U.S.A. basketball teams and things like that.
But I think it's really just about LSU and Tennessee. I think we bring a lot to our teams, both of us, and I think we know each other very well being in the same conference and things like that. So we played them two times already this year and it's going to be a third. So I think we're just familiar with one another.
Q. Candace, could you just update us on your physical condition, how effective you expect to be tonight?
CANDACE PARKER: I have all the confidence in the world in the medical staff. Jenny Moshak is the best trainer in the world. We've been doing rehab around the clock. My shoulder feels strong. It's getting better every day. And I'm happy we played the late game on Sunday because it gives us more time to rehab.
Q. Candace, can you talk about what you mean by 24‑hour rehab? What's the process been like for you? How often are you icing it or putting stim on it?
CANDACE PARKER: Jenny Moshak's philosophy is the more the better. She works around our schedule. Obviously we have commitments being at the Final Four with different events we have to go to. But any 15‑minute segment we get, we do stim, ice, shoulder exercises, strengthening, things like that.
Q. Candace, you had mentioned yesterday that you were about 80 percent, your shoulder was about 80 percent. What percentage is it today, do you think? Has it gone up? Is it about the same?
CANDACE PARKER: Obviously I feel confident in my shoulder. I don't know percentage‑wise, but I feel confident that I'm going to go tomorrow and just play as hard as I can. So obviously it's gone up. It's getting better every day, more rest, more stim.
Q. Alexis and Nicky, obviously you're very familiar with LSU being in the same conference. Could you talk about the dynamics of that when you play at this level, playing a team that you're that familiar with or the advantages or things you have to guard against when you're playing with a team you're so familiar with?
ALEXIS HORNBUCKLE: Obviously when you're familiar with the team it gives ‑‑ it's a little bit easier when you go over the scouting report. But at the same time, when it comes down to the game, you have to execute. And it's the team that's going to execute their offense the best and who is going to play the most defense and control the boards.
NICKY ANOSIKE: We don't really plan on changing up the game plan. Obviously we know them and they know us. But we know from being here, three times since I've been here, that defense and rebounding is something that stays constant no matter who you play in the Final Four.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
Questions for Coach.
Q. I have to ask you about Angie Bjorklund and her progress?
COACH SUMMITT: I think Angie has had a really strong freshman year. Obviously we've relied on her to stretch the defense and make some shots for us. I thought in our A&M game, that was probably the best defensive segment that she has played for us. And I know that they ran ‑‑ as soon as Angie went in the game, they started running isolations and clearing out.
And I think that probably inspired her more than anything I've said to her all year. At least that's what she shared with me. I think she took that as a challenge.
But obviously we are a better basketball team when Angie's knocking down shots, because of what it does to open up our inside game. And, again, forces us to put a little more pressure on the defense and stretch the defense to open up opportunities for our post game.
Q. Could you talk a little bit about just the strength of the individual players in this Final Four with Wiggins, Moore, Parker and Fowles? In terms of individual stories, it seems like it's one of the best Final Fours ever.
COACH SUMMITT: I would agree with you. As you look at each team, as you look at obviously what Candice Wiggins did in the regional finals and how she played in both of those games and what she brought to the team and I think you have a player like that, other players respond around you.
And I thought her team responded very well to her play and it gave them a lot of confidence. Certainly when you look at Maya Moore and what she's meant to Connecticut and just the explosiveness of her game and obviously the toughness and the ability to stretch the defense and make really a lot of big plays, you know, that certainly has been a tremendous asset for them.
And Sylvia Fowles, seems like she and Candace have been going at it for a long, long time but her presence inside, and obviously all of these teams have great supporting casts. But with Sylvia, just her ability to block shots and also to get position, they do a tremendous job of getting her great looks in the paint and at the rim, which is it's hard to defend just one‑on‑one.
And so I think with that said, you take Candace Parker for Tennessee and you have a player that obviously is playing a big role for us offensively. I think Candace's offensive package has expanded throughout her career at Tennessee. And I think that's been an advantage for us. But certainly we expect her to get paint points for us as well.
Q. Considering an injury like Candace's it can become more chronic the more it happens. And all the basketball she has in front of her. Is there a scenario tomorrow night where you can envision saying to her you're not going out there again or would you be afraid she might go after your shoulder if you try to take her out?
COACH SUMMITT: (Chuckling) she'd probably come after me. I've told her, I've made it very clear, unless the orthopedic doctor and the trainers are comfortable, I don't want her to play. But they have assured me that she is doing great and her shoulder has responded.
I'll be anxious to see today ‑‑ and I'm assuming that she's going to go through a shoot‑around with us. I told Jenny she didn't have to. If she wanted to rehab her during that time, I'm fine with it. I haven't spoken with her because she's been with Candace here in the training room pretty much all morning.
So, no, I don't want to do anything that ‑‑ if there's a question mark there, obviously with the support, the brace she has on, that's going to limit a lot of what she can do with her left shoulder. But with one hand she's better than a lot of players. So we'll let the doctor and the trainers make that decision, and I trust their judgment and their professionalism.
Q. When Maryland and Baylor won in successive years, there was a lot of reason to believe that parity had really come to women's basketball. Now you again, UConn again, LSU has been here five straight years. Stanford's back and two‑time champion. Plus with Moore, Parker, Wiggins, Fowles, probably four of the top seven or eight players all on the four teams are here. What does that say about parity? Has there been a setback for that?
COACH SUMMITT: It says a lot of the powerhouses managed to recruit some of the best players in the game, because that's what this is all relative to is success in recruiting. And certainly I don't expect these programs to go away.
I do think there's more ‑‑ the numbers of recruits are greater now of better high school recruiting opportunities are out there. So I think that has allowed some teams to step up and improve their programs. I think that will continue to happen because of the state of women's basketball and because of our AAU programs and we have a lot of kids that are playing year‑round. Not that I'm crazy about that idea.
But I think that just because of the stage of women's basketball has been on in the last few years, it's inspired a lot of young people to want to be a part of it. And you only have so many spots to fill. But I think what you have here this weekend, you understand that the people that have been in this game for a long time may have missed a few opportunities to get back to a Final Four, but it didn't mean that they didn't have a great program or a Final Four caliber team.
Sometimes you've just got to get some breaks along the way. So we're just excited to be here. I said last night at the salute dinner, I never want to take for granted ‑‑ that's our 18th team to make it to a Final Four. But every year it seems so hard and it's getting harder all the time, because of the parity in the game.
Q. Probably nobody in this sport understands and appreciates the concept of competition better than you do. That being the case, what is acceptable in your opinion in the way LSU will approach Candace tomorrow? Are hard screens acceptable? Are hard fouls acceptable? What goes over the line of sportsmanship at that point?
COACH SUMMITT: Obviously I expect to see hard screens out of LSU because in their motion offense, they are athletic, they're aggressive. But I don't expect to see a hard foul from LSU intentionally. I just don't see as that as who they are. I think they'll come and play a very aggressive, competitive game. But that's the only way that I've seen them play over the years and certainly Van coming in is ‑‑ to me he's going to have his team ready to play.
But I would ‑‑ that thought has never crossed my mind. Maybe I'm naive, but the only thing Van told me when I got here yesterday is that he had never cheered so hard in his life for Texas A&M. So I had to laugh. I said only Van would tell me that. I said, Van I cheered for you.
But we won't be cheering for each other, trust me. It will be intense. It should be a great matchup, and obviously a hard‑fought game on the part of both teams.
Q. Pat, I guess at some point either Thursday or Friday Candace was doing left‑handed layups and you were trying to discourage her from that?
COACH SUMMITT: We go to practice, first time Candace has been back out on the floor, and she comes in shooting left‑handed layups. I said, Candace, stick with the right hand for now.
But that's Candace. I'm sure she just wanted to test it out and see how she felt. And she did go through most of our practice that day.
Q. Thursday or Friday?
COACH SUMMITT: That would have been on Thursday. And then she finished out practice shooting right‑handed, fortunately.
Q. What do you think of the Wade Trophy not going to Candace Parker?
COACH SUMMITT: Obviously you had a lot of great players on that stage. Candice Wiggins has had a great run at Stanford and obviously did a tremendous job in helping get her teammates, her coaches right here to the Final Four.
And, you know, I'm obviously partial to Candace. And I hated it for Candace. I think she missed out on being the player of the year in the SEC, as voted on by the coaches, and also by Associated Press.
And that's part of the game. I think for Candace it's more about the team and trying to win here, and that's our focus as well. And I congratulate, obviously, Candice Wiggins and the Stanford program. Tremendous honor for both.
Q. Van has said from time to time during the season that they'll have thrown in a new play or this or that, some new wrinkle the other team hasn't seen. Aside from that, you guys again know each other so well. Teams have tendencies. Aside from maybe one or two new wrinkles, can there be much that either team doesn't know what to anticipate from the other?
COACH SUMMITT: No, I don't think there will be a lot of surprises. I think that we know them and they know us. One thing Van has brought to this LSU team is just a variety of sets that allows for Chaney, getting Chaney more involved offensively. Looks to me like he's running a couple of the pro sets that he ran for Sheryl Swoopes and Cynthia Cooper in terms of the baseline action and coming off the screens.
And I think this team plays with a little more freedom, which has given them a chance to be a little bit more creative, if you will. And I think that's really enhanced their play. So less predictable. And I think that's been a good thing for LSU and it's also a challenge for us.
We have to defend the high‑low. We have to defend the dribble drives, and we have to do a better job of really denying and contesting the 3 ball.
Q. First off, really been enjoying the spot with you and Kenny Mayne on the SportsCenter spot, one of the funnier ones I've seen?
COACH SUMMITT: Such a goober. Hard for me to look at it.
Q. Most people look at this as you guys have dominated SEC for all of these years. LSU's been good and gotten here but not quite been able to get over the hump. How would you look at it against the irony of you're the team that they have to beat to finally do that?
COACH SUMMITT: Well, considering we went to seven Final Fours and played in four national championship games before we won one, I know how they feel. It was like: Are we ever going to get there?
But I think if you get there enough times, eventually you're going to be able to get a break or make your own breaks, if you will. And the fact that they've had this consistency, you know, it speaks volumes for who they are, how competitive they are and how driven they are to get back and give themselves an opportunity to perhaps win a championship.
And I think from my experiences, for me, it was ‑‑ I almost felt like will it ever happen. And I can tell you that the year that it happened, it was probably the year that I finally relaxed and thought, well, you know what, one of these days Tennessee's going to win a national championship. And we just happened to do it in '87. And I think you never know.
It may be their turn. It may be someone else's turn. But you just have to keep going there and playing your game and not putting the pressure on yourselves or your players. I think that's key. I think Van keeps them loose. He makes me laugh all the time. I'm sure they laugh, too.
Q. If Candace were to go out in this game because of her injury, do you think your players would respond better this time because they've been through a situation where they were without her?
COACH SUMMITT: I think so. I think they gained a lot of confidence from what they did in the A&M game. And obviously Candace came back in that game.
But I think we ‑‑ in particular, I thought Alexis really stepped up. We struggled there. We struggled to make shots for a while. And, as I said, Alexis couldn't make a layup but she could hit a 40‑footer. Go figure that one out.
But I think that they were really pressing when Alexis missed those layups. I think she was like: Oh, I can't make a shot. And just trying to get them to calm down and relax. You've got to be relaxed on offense. That's not where you tense up. I think when Candace came back in they relaxed even more.
But I think having gone through that, hopefully, if we're faced with that situation, that they will be a little more relaxed offensively and a little more focused on the execution part of it.
Q. How will you and your staff monitor Candace's shoulder throughout the game?
COACH SUMMITT: Jenny Moshak will monitor the shoulder. That's our right‑hand person and obviously she's had a lot of experience in dealing with injuries and unfortunately shoulder injuries have been a part of the game for us that we've had to deal with.
And I think Jenny has to listen to Candace and Candace has to listen to Jenny. And I think their communication is such that we're going to get the right results in the end, whether that's play her or sit her.
I think that between the two of them, they will determine what is best.
Q. Just because you're a better story‑teller than you are a coach, please tell us the raccoon story. And was it like a Wade Trophy winning raccoon or was it a walk‑on raccoon?
COACH SUMMITT: Well, it wasn't a Wade Trophy winner. Actually, I just went out on the back deck. Had my two labs with me, took some trash out. I was going to take the dogs out. And when I turned around to get the two dogs, my oldest lab was almost about ‑‑ I'd say about that far (indicating) from the raccoon, who was sitting ‑‑ the raccoon was sitting up on the deck and she was on the bottom. He was actually up on the top. All I knew ‑‑ I heard raccoons go obviously for the eyes, they're vicious.
I didn't know they carried rabies until someone told me after I hit it. But I just reacted. Fortunately I've never done this with a player; I wouldn't be here. I just reacted the raccoon was looking at Sally and they were there and I just came from the side and I hit it and then I opened my arm up to push it off the top deck, and when I did I dislocated my shoulder.
So when I saw Candace dislocated her shoulder, I knew her pain. Fortunately Dr. Becky Morgan came over to the house and she and Tyler put it back in at about 1:30 in the morning.
Q. How long did you have it out?
COACH SUMMITT: It was out ‑‑ because this is my personality, I thought I could get it back in myself. I went and sat in the recliner and sat there and moved my arm. I probably sat there, I don't know, 30, 45 minutes. I decided, well, go take a hot shower and maybe that will help.
So I took a shower. And that didn't help. So I went in and I decided I'll just lay down and see if I could get it back in by putting a pillow under it. That didn't work. So finally I called Dr. Morgan, I don't know, an hour and a half, hour 45 minutes later. And I wish I would have called her right away. But she came over and she ‑‑ between Tyler and Dr. Morgan, it went back in.
Q. How was the raccoon?
COACH SUMMITT: Never saw the raccoon again. He's probably thinking that's the craziest woman I've ever met. I'm out of here (laughter).
Q. There's six girls that played New York City high school basketball that are at the Final Four. And Nicky Anosike said there's a reason those six girls: Because of the way they played. You've had some experience with them. Could you explain what it is about them?
COACH SUMMITT: One thing is a lot of them just grew up on the play grounds and went to the park and played with the guys and played up and down and played for hours. I know Shannon Bobbitt had to bring me a videotape of when she was playing in New York and playing with all the guys. And it was amazing, just to see the talent level.
And obviously Nicky is ‑‑ that's what they did. I mean, they went to school and they played basketball and they liked to compete and they liked to hang out and play against the best players and a lot of times it would be the guys that would go to the park. We've got some special players out of New York.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.