Oct. 19, 2009
Preparations are in full swing now for the Washington women's basketball team's new season as fall camp has started. The Huskies are looking to build on a 2008-2009 season that saw a young, talented team go through some growing pains on the way to building a veteran, experience roster for the upcoming year. Senior guard Sami Whitcomb was one of the Huskies' best players last year, and will be relied upon this season in a scoring role as well as providing leadership. Whitcomb talked with GoHuskies.com correspondent Michael Jeremiah after a recent practice about last season, her evolution as a player and the new year ahead.
GoHuskies.com: A lot of the same excitement last year, what happened in your eyes?
Sami Whitcomb: I would say that there was definitely excitement when we started. We were excited about building off the previous year. We had a lot of new players last year so we were excited about seeing what they were going to bring to the table to help us out. What happened was a combination of starting a lot of young people and we were still new with our coach. We broke down a lot of little things in our game and it just sort of catapulted throughout the season. We never fully came back from it. We didn't take care of the little things and that just kind of carried over from game to game. I think that's why we went on that stretch of losing and that's hard to get out of. We definitely learned a lot from last year and we have a new team this year. We don't have that youth excuse which was thrown around a lot last year.
GH.com: What is the 4-20-64 mantra that the coaches have talked about the last two years?
SW: It's a goal for us. I think that this year more than last season it's something we truly believe that we are capable of doing it. We have a lot of upperclassman leadership and just a couple of new people. We're definitely getting in the same things faster than last year which should help us to get a better start. We want to come in fourth in the Pac-10, we definitely want to win 20 games and we want to get postseason play.
GH.com: What have seen from the newcomers?
SW: They've come in and they're working hard because they are really excited about being here. Regina has obviously played at this level already so that's really helpful. She's a big body for us and she's going to be a force in the paint, which should be huge for the team, especially when we play people like Jayne Appel at Stanford. Geneva is a tall lanky guard who can also post up and be physical so she brings that versatility. She picks up on things really well. Amanda just wants to work really hard. She's our walk-on and she has a lot of skills. She will be really competitive for us in practice to make us better and hopefully see some playing time as well.
GH.com: Your play was a bright spot in 2008-2009. What was the biggest change from sophomore to junior year?
SW: I really tried to work on being consistent and getting a lot of reps in terms of shooting. I was never much of a shooter in high school; I just tried to get to the basket. I played forward so I wasn't on the perimeter much. It was more of an emphasis on becoming a better guard. I worked on trying to get consistent in all of the fundamentals and I think that helped. I wanted to get stronger so that I could step up. College is a physical game and [opponents] are strong and I just wanted to get ready for that.
GH.com: Are there any big changes Husky fans should be expecting from you this year?
SW: I started to feel more comfortable with my shot last year, but I want to have more of a mid-range game. I was pretty much always driving or always shooting a three. Not really much in between. I really want to work on that. I also wanted to work on seeing the court better and finding open people. Learning that if I drive here, something can open up for another player. I just want to become more of an all-around player.
GH.com: Defense is an important part of what you bring to the Huskies. When did that start?
SW: When I was here my freshman year we were more of an offensive minded team. I would say when Coach J came in; everyone knows that defense is her thing. If we play good defense we can get a steal and push it and generate offense for us. I believe in that. If I can get excited about playing defense and get pumped up that way it just carries so much momentum or onto the offensive side and it can lead to easy buckets on the other side. That all started my sophomore year when Coach J came in.
GH.com: You were able to take over the game on both ends of the court at times last year. Did you ever feel like you were in the zone or was it just things going well?
SW: In hindsight, I can look back and think I was `in the zone' or whatever they call it. I don't know when I'm there. Arizona State comes to mind. During the game I was just really tired and wasn't really thinking about when I should be shooting. I just shot it. Looking back I think I can't believe I made the shot or even shot the ball at all, what was I thinking. I must have been so focused that I didn't even think about it. I would say it happened a couple time.
GH.com: What was the thought process and results behind the workouts that you and fellow senior Sara Mosiman set up this summer?
SW: We talked a lot about the things that we want from this senior year for us and what we think that this team is capable of. It really does excite us because we know there's so much potential. We wanted to get started early on building chemistry because we don't have a lot of newcomers we thought chemistry should be easy and natural for girls who have been here for a couple years. We wanted to get into the gym as much as we could, playing together and getting some good competition. Working on things that spring workouts we talked about working on and carrying them over for the year. We organized open gyms and even though everyone wasn't here all summer, when they were here we were in the gym shooting and working out. The biggest thing for us was just playing, we wanted to get games going and I think it went really well.
GH.com: What did you learn from the team's assignment to read "Believe to Achieve" by Howard White?
SW: I would say positive attitude. Always stay positive with myself, how the team is doing and with the teammates. Always try and find the positive side of things. Learning from loses because as much as I think we are going to have a great year, we're going to face challenges. We're going to probably lose every now and then and it's about responding from that. I would say that was one of the hardest parts of last year, responding to the losses and taking what we can from those. As a person and a player this year I want to do that better and always be looking forward and play every game as hard as we can."