Women's basketball preseason notebook - Edition 5 (11.2.12)

Each Friday the Charlotte women's basketball team will be featured in a notebook detailing news and notes surrounding the program leading into the 2012-13 season. Each notebook will feature a series of highlights, a short Q&A with a member of the coaching staff and videos with the 49ers players.

In-depth information on the program can also be found on the Charlotte women's basketball program's official twitter feed @CharlotteWBB. Be sure to watch this week's videos with Alexis Alexander (here), Jennifer Hailey (here) and Hillary Sigmon (here).

Season is Here
It's hard to believe a month of preseason practice and all the off-season workouts are done and the 2012-13 is upon us. Charlotte women's basketball will play host to cross-city foe Johnson C. Smith at 7 p.m. Saturday in Halton Arena in an exhibition contest. It's your chance to get an early look at this year's 49ers squad.
Next Saturday, November 10, the regular season opens with a 6 p.m. tip against in-state foe North Carolina Central. The two programs have not met since February 1978.

Tune In
Turn your radio dials (do those still exist??) to ESPN 730 AM tonight (Friday) at 6:45 p.m. for an interview with head coach Cara Consuegra. The Niners' head coach spoke with the radio station and general manager Lanny Ford recently about the upcoming season and her thoughts on this year's club.

Staying involved
Many teams across the country just focus on basketball this time of year; however, the Charlotte 49ers women's basketball team always finds time to give back to the community.
The 49ers and director of operations Eric McCombs spent Wednesday afternoon at Hickory Grove Elementary School reading to various first and second grade classes. Charlotte women's basketball team members also spoke to the children about college athletics and how to get to the next level.

Exhibition Notes
With the dawn of the new season beginning with Saturday's exhibition against Johnson C. Smith, a few notes fans should take under consideration.
There will be no admission charge for the contest, as it is free to everyone. Season and in-game ticket information is contained below.
Also, there will be no live video or audio feed from the game. We assure you everything will be working once the regular season begins next week but nothing from either of these avenues for tomorrow. Live stats, however, will be operational via a link on Charlotte49ers.com.

Q&A with Head Coach Cara Consuegra
1. As you enter your second season, what did you learn the most as a rookie head coach last year?
I learned patience. When you take over a program, you want everything to be great right away. You want the team to understand your system and your expectations. I've learned it takes time to get a team and a program to be what you want it to be. That was the biggest thing I had to understand. It's a process and a marathon, not a sprint. We had to learn to take our time and pick our battles, and work on certain things at a time. We know over time, it will get to where we want it to be.

2. What inspired you the most to want to continue to be involved with basketball by becoming a coach?
Working with young people. When I was in high school, I used to help out with the middle school team and that's kind of when I started coaching. I've really enjoyed working with young people and helping them to be able to improve on and off the court. Ever since then, I knew that I liked to give back and give what I have learned and inspire other people.

3. This program has reached the postseason 10-straight years. What does that tradition mean to you?
It means a lot. It has been fun to come in and continue that tradition. It's something we can tell people we have and nobody can take it away from us. I know it means a lot to our team and they want to continue to build upon that. Nobody here wants to be that team that breaks that streak. There's a lot of pride behind it. It's something we think about and talk about often.

4. Building on that tradition, what is the next logical step for this program?
Going to the NCAA Tournament. That's not a surprise or secret around here. I think that's where everybody involved with this program and athletic department wants women's basketball to be. And that's where I want it to be and why I came to Charlotte. I believe we have everything in place for us to be able to do that. That will continue to be our goal every season, while I'm here, and also compete for a conference championship.

5. Charlotte has traditionally played a tough non-conference schedule and this year is no different. How does playing those types of teams prepare the 49ers for the Atlantic 10 slate?
I think it's really important to play a strong non-conference schedule because we play in such a competitive league. I think we are doing a disservice to ourselves if we don't prepare ourselves to see the type of competition that we're going to see during the Atlantic 10 season. As a result, we always want to try and put together the toughest non-conference schedule that we can. It also helps put ourselves in position to have the type of resume that will allow us to play in the postseason.

6. There's a buzz about this team this season, being picked third in the preseason Atlantic 10 poll and listed among the Top 10 non-BCS schools nationally. What excites you the most about those early headlines?
I think it's exciting to see all the work we have put in during the last year and a half since I've been here pay off. I think it's some attention that this team has worked to deserve. With that being said, I don't put a lot of stock into preseason accolades or mentions for our team. It's much more important for us to have those come March when you talk about the process of the season. It's exciting to know that we have some respect around the nation but we want to go out and earn that respect every day and every game.

7. This year's senior class of Amanda Dowe, Jai Forney and Jennifer Hailey has accomplished a lot in their three seasons with the 49ers. What do they provide the most to this team as a group headed into their final campaign wearing the green and white?
I think experience is what they provide the most. Between the three of them, the amount of time they have spent on the court, and being on the court together, is really crucial to our team. We have a balance between upperclassmen and underclassmen but those three can bring the type of experience of 'we have been there before and done this before'. That's something a lot of our other players don't have. I tell them all the time that I have to rely on them to show our younger players the way and they have really stepped up to that challenge.

8. You signed your first recruiting class as a head coach with this year's crop of freshmen. Now that you've seen them on the floor a little, are they what you had hoped they would be at this point in their careers?
Absolutely. They have been fantastic and we are excited about the freshmen. We thought when we recruited them, they would be a special group for us. And they have certainly come in and worked to live up to that expectation. I think, top to bottom, they all bring something special and something different. That will help us this year and in years to come. At the same time, they know they have a long way to go. We just have to balance on giving them confidence and showing them ways in which they can continue to grow as players and as people. I think the future is really bright for them.

9. Talk a little about each member of your coaching staff and what positives each of them bring to the table.
Karen Lange: She was the first person I hired, about two days after my introductory press conference. Karen brings a lot of experience and a mind of a head coach because she has been a head coach. That was really important to me, to have somebody on my staff. Being a younger head coach, that can bring that type of experience and thinking. And she has been able to help me navigate through all the different things that a head coach faces. She has been excellent strategy-wise and is a great scouter. She is a fantastic recruiter and does a great job with player development. She really has been able to be the complete package.
Sabrina Gregory: Being a younger coach, she helps bridge that gap between the players and the coaching staff. But at the same time, she has a lot of knowledge and experience in her own ways that she is able to share with our staff. Her being a player here, and coaching here prior to my arrival, has been a huge benefit for us in terms of knowing how things are done at Charlotte and helping us navigate the waters. It's helped us get our feet under us recruiting wise in this area and across the state. I am really thankful for that. She does a great job, also doing scouts and player development.
Joanne Aluka-White: She is the newest member of the staff but has been a great compliment. When you first start putting together a staff, it's tough because you are filling all those positions. But with her hire, I knew what I had in other people so I had to find someone to compliment them. She has just been fantastic. She has done a great job with our post players so far and continuing to develop them. She has pushed them and expects more out of them and that has brought a great deal to our program. Her recruiting ties across the south have been a huge benefit for us. She has done an excellent job in continuing to grow those relationships.
Eric McCombs: He is the glue that keeps this ship together. He's the behind-the-scenes guy and does so much for our program, both for me and our staff. He keeps us organized and going in a positive direction. I'm not sure he quite gets the credit for everything he does, from travel to meals to organizing our calendar to community service to you name it, he has a hand on it. He has a very, very valuable role in terms of our program being successful.

10. How has the growth and beauty of this campus enhanced your recruiting efforts?
It's a tremendous recruiting advantage. We have a WOW factor here at Charlotte that I haven't had at some of the other schools at which I've been. Whenever we are building relationships with recruits, we are constantly telling them that they have to come to campus and see it. We know once we get players on campus, we have a very high success rate as far as them becoming a 49er. Once they get here, they see that this is a place that is what a campus should feel like. This is what the college experience should be, and I know football will only continue to add to that. Over and over, the reaction we have received from people is 'Wow, we didn't even know this was here and this is amazing'. We're lucky to have that.

Charlotte women's basketball will open the 2012-13 campaign with an exhibition against Johnson C. Smith November 3 at 7 p.m. in Halton Arena. A week later, November 10, the 49ers begin the regular season with a 6 p.m. tip against North Carolina Central.

Season tickets are on-sale now starting at $30 and are available by calling 704-687-4949 or visiting the "Tickets" menu option at Charlotte49ers.com.