PHILADELPHIA – The Saint Joseph's women's basketball team held its annual Media Day in the Casciato Basketball Practice Facility on Thursday, October 31. Here's a breakdown of what was said by Cindy Griffin, entering her 19th season as head coach of the Crimson and Gray.
"Thank you for coming to see such a young, energetic crew! We are a team that is going to be very, very exciting to watch early in the year and in the middle of the year, but I think we will be playing our best basketball at the end of the year, and most teams want to be doing that anyway. We have some question marks about who will do what. We think we have an idea; we have given roles, but until we get back out there and play . . . These first couple of games are going to be really important to define those roles at an even deeper level. Obviously, we have Katie Jekot coming back this year. She was our leading scorer, but she was probably the third option last year. She will be the first option this year. We have Lula Roig; she will be our starting point guard. She has some big shoes to fill, with [Alyssa] Monaghan [now gone]. Lula will be a different kind of point guard. She will be a little bit more of a downhill kid, meaning she will not be doing a lot of perimeter shooting. She will distribute and get people shots, but she will also get downhill. We think she will be very effective against athletic teams and be able to compete with them. And then we have Mary Sheehan as a junior, who probably has the most experience with Jekot. What we need from her is consistency with shooting the basketball and being our glue kid, keeping everybody together. As the leader she is, as our captain, we need her to keep us all together, especially when things get a little bit crazy, because we are going to have two freshman on the court most times, sometimes three. So, with that, we are going to need great leadership, and we are going to need great tempo. Again, I expect us to be a little bit uncertain as far as who is doing what. Going in with three returning backcourt mates and the frontcourt, we are going to see at least one freshman start - Claire Melia in the 4-spot depending on how we want to play. It could be Katie Mayock, it could be Gabby Smalls, it could be Imogen Ayliffe."
What do you see right now as the main strength of this team?
"Our young post players are very, very talented, but we are going to need to open up the floor a little bit with perimeter shooting. I think we are going to get back to our high/low game that we had two years ago, with [Adashia] Franklin and [Amanda] Fioravanti. That is how we are molding this team. The strength is that our post players are very talented, and we are going to bring them along and ask them to step up."
Last year, people were getting into the mix more than you had anticipated. Is that now an upside with the experience those players gained?
"I think so, with the backcourt. You always want to have an experienced backcourt with a young frontcourt. Some of the teams in this league are young, but a lot of them are veterans, like VCU with all of their starters. I think our challenge is and will be to win the day. We have to just take it day-by-day."
Being predicted to finish 10th in the Atlantic 10, does that surprise you?
"Yes and no. You know, I thought we would definitely be in the bottom-half of the league, and I am okay with it. I think there are so many unanswered questions about who we have on our roster, and I think it’s a challenge for these guys, and to have a little bit of a chip on their shoulders. Every day is going to be a fight in this league. It's not where we start. It's where we finish."
Are there any players so far during the preseason that have stepped up and have been seen as players who can help us out?
"Yes. You have to look at the freshman, Claire Melia, from Ireland, who we recruited, and until you see her in the gym, you really don’t understand the nuances of her game. She makes everyone around her better, and she thinks the game like an upperclassman. With her international experience, she’s played against women, and I think that’s the difference. The pace of her decision-making is almost like a veteran point guard, if you will. Her decision-making is terrific. She can score, she can drive to the basket, and she can shoot the three, and her passing it is just unbelievable."
Mary Sheehan is a junior, so why did you choose her as a captain on this team?
"It was a no-brainer. She is the hardest-working kid and the best communicator. She is intentional everyday. Her intents are to make this team the best team it can be, and she goes above and beyond what a coach can ask for. You know, some kids, some kids are just natural and some kids you have to force into it. She is just a natural leader. She embraces it and takes high pride in that role."
For Lula Roig, we have seen her grow year-to-year. What do you expect from her this year?
"She has really matured a lot since her freshman year. The level of which she needs to run the team from a point guard standpoint is very challenging because she speaks Spanish. So, from an English standpoint, she has gotten a lot better as far as communication. A lot of the responsibility of running an offense falls on her because she is the point guard. She wants that role and she’s embraced that role. Now it’s just a matter of executing that role."
Mary Sheehan and Natasha Cloud come from the same high school and both went here; do you see any parallels in their games?
"Both are hard-working kids, and both are great communicators. You know they want to win, and I think that’s from those [Cardinal] O’Hara wins. I think they brought that winning mentality with them."
What is your reaction to Harry [Perretta of Villanova] retiring?
"I am really happy for him. You know, he has done a wonderful job at one institution for such a long period of time . . . He is the kind of person that puts others first. He is an incredible coach, and he has made me a better coach having to coach against him. I wish him the best of luck."
Have you gotten used to the idea they will be calling you the dean next year?
"No, I can’t even. And I’m not even that old, you know? That’s why I am like, 'Don’t even say it.' That’s pretty much unbelievable. There is a difference between 19 years and 42 years, let’s just make that clear. Right? It's double and some, so I don’t consider myself as that, but I guess the reality is, yes."