Women's Basketball Season Preview: Q & A With Head Coach Jim Wiedie

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The Wade Level
Indiana State women?s basketball head coach Jim Wiedie sat down with GoSycamores.com to answer a few questions about his team heading into the 07-08 season, which opens this Sunday against Bellermine with an exhibition game at Hulman Center. Tip-off is set for 2:05 p.m. (ET).

Last season ended a little quicker than everyone would have liked for it to have in the State Farm MVC Tournament after having won eight of your final regular season games. How has that affected the team?s mental attitude towards improving during the off-season?

Heading into the tournament we felt like we were playing better than anyone and that we had the potential to do something special. We jumped on Creighton early and played extremely well, both offensively and defensively. I think we shot around 70% from the field in the first half and had a 15-point lead at halftime. Unfortunately, as well as we played in the first half it was the exact opposite in the second half. After building a 19-point lead with about 18 minutes to go, the momentum began to shift. We got in foul trouble, started turning the ball over and at the same time went ice cold from the field. In my entire coaching career, I?ve never been a part of a game with such two drastic halves. We were all extremely disappointed in the way our season ended. We felt like we let a golden opportunity slip through our fingers. The manner in which we lost really left a bad taste in our mouths. I think this preseason has been the best we?ve ever had. They?ve been focused and the energy level has been consistent. I think in a small way they are using last year?s tournament loss as a form of motivation.

The program has always been one in which the guards have run the show. Last season, your two top scorers were post players. This season, you return senior Laura Rudolphi. Talk about how Rudolphi and the rest of the post players fit into the game plan this year.

Laura Rudolphi, by far, is the most talented post player we have ever had. She can score at will and she can score in a variety of ways. The only person who can stop ?Rudy? is herself. She has such a high release point on her shot and great body control. ?Rudy? will be our main option inside this year. I think she needs to shoot the ball at least 15 times a game, if not more. Although ?Rudy? may be our main weapon inside, she is not the only post weapon we have. Maria Olsthoorn, Laurence Rivest, Kara Schilli and newcomer Kelsie Cooley can all score. Each player has the ability to post up, as well as step out on the perimeter and knock down the 17 footer or put the ball on the floor and drive. The last two years, teams have really concentrated on our shooters, which has left our post players in favorable one-one-one situations. That way ?Rudy? and Rachel Maenpaa led us in scoring last year. In order to defend us you have to make a choice. Do we stay out on the shooters or do we help inside? Either way, we have kids that can score and that makes us a hard team to defend.

As you mentioned, Laura Rudolphi will be just one piece to the puzzle for you this season. Kelsey Luna and Leah Phillips are two of the top 3-point shooters in the nation. Talk about the inside-outside threat that you will be able to take advantage of this season.

I kind of alluded to the inside-outside attack in the last question. Although we have a very talented group of post players, our strength is probably our guard play and our ability to shoot the 3-pointer. Kelsey Luna and Leah Phillips ranked in the Top 12 nationally last year in 3-point field goal percentage and were No. 1 and 2 in The Valley. Kelsey was third in the country as a freshman. They are two of the best 3-point shooters we have ever had and we?ve had some pretty good ones. However, they are not the only 3-point shooters that we have. Angela Phillips, Anne Thatcher, and newcomer Heather Seyfred can all fill it up, and I don?t think you can count out Annie Bankhead and Sarah Paul, who have worked extremely hard on their 3-point shooting over the summer.

In addition, Angela Phillips returns for her senior year to the offense.

I think Angela Phillips is the ?X? factor for us this season. As she goes, we go. She sets the tone for everything we do offensively and defensively. She is a relentless, hard-nosed defender who can lock up the ball at anytime. Opposing point guards will have a very difficult time bringing the ball up the court against Angela. She is our hardest worker in practice and she never takes a possession off. Offensively, she is the best point guard we have ever had as far as pushing the ball up the floor in transition. Her pace really puts pressure on the opposing defenses. Angela has a very high basketball IQ and she has the unique ability to make every player around her better. I think those are key qualities in a point guard.

Who else is poised to have a breakthrough year for the Sycamores?

I have seen improvement in all of the them from last year, but if I had to pick one or two players to watch, I would select Sarah Paul and Laurence Rivest. The two of them have showed tremendous improvement from last year. You can tell that they put the time and effort in this summer. They just need to believe in themselves a little more. It is our jobs as coaches to help them in that area. As for the rookies, I think Kelsie Cooley and Heather Seyfred are going to make an immediate impact. Both players are talented, its is just a matter of acclimating themselves to the college game. In their case, I hope that period of acclimation is short.

There is only one true newcomer on the team after losing Rachel last season.

The only true freshman we have this year is Kelsie Cooley. She is a 6-1 lefty post player from Beavercreek High School in Ohio. She is a hard-nosed, aggressive player, with a scoring mind-set. I like the fact that for a freshman she doesn?t play scared. She is a very confident young lady who is excited about getting better. What really stood out to me in the preseason was her ability to crash the offensive boards. She?s probably out best offensive rebounder right now. That alone will get her playing time. I expect big things out of Kelsie this year.

This is the toughest schedule that you have been able to put together as a head coach. Talk about the quality of non-conference play and the chance to host a pair of nationally-ranked teams in Hulman Center this year.

This is definitely the most ambitious schedule we have played since I?ve been here. The majority of the teams on our non-conference schedule were in post season play last year. The home portion of the schedule is highlighted by games against Ball State, Vanderbilt and Michigan State. Ball State won 24 games last year and they return four starters. That is always a big rivalry game for us. As for Vandy and Michigan State, I expect both to be in the preseason Top 25, maybe even the Top 10. It real be a rare treat for our fans to see two national powerhouse programs in the Hulman Center. Vandy won the Southeastern Conference last year and Michigan State is only two years removed form their appearance in the national championship game. Our toughest road match-ups will be games at Marquette, Arkansas State and the Loyola Marymount Tournament. This non-conference schedule should really prepare us for the rigors of the MVC play.

Much has been written and said about the changes to your coaching staff during the offseason. Talk about the transition and how what your new assistant coaches bring to the table.

To be honest with you, my biggest concern was how the new coaches would be received the players. Players develop very close relationships with the assistant coaches, especially their position coaches. To their credit, our team did a tremendous job of going out of their way to make our new staff members fell welcome. They called, e-mailed and stopped in the office on a regular basis. This made the transition much easier. This staff is by far the most experienced staff we have ever had. Clint Weddle, our Recruiting Coordinator, and Amy Siegel, are both former head coaches. Sarah Shackle, although young, has three years of experience in the business. Clint has taken our program to a new level as far as our recruiting efforts are concerned. He came in and completely turned around the way we recruit. He is the main reason we have been so successful in recruiting the next two classes already. In addition to his recruiting responsibilities, Clint will work with our perimeter players and be in charge of the defense. Amy will assist Clint with the perimeter players and with the defense. Her main recruiting responsibilities will be with the junior college players. Sarah has all of the administrative duties, as well as being in charge of our post players. This staff brings a lot of knowledge, energy and passion. I have never had a staff I enjoy more than the current one.

Talk about the tremendous continued fan support your program has received.

The fan support we have received over the last five seasons has been unbelievable. It is a great source of pride for our program to be near the Top 30 nationally in attendance each of the last three years. Our fans are some of the loudest, most loyal fans you will find anywhere. Our teams really feeds off of the energy they bring to our games, both home and away. There is a definite connection between our fans and our players. We will continue to do our best to represent them and make them proud.

Finally, what are some of the goals for this year?s team?

Our number one goal is to get better as a team each and every day. I know that sounds cliche, but it?s the truth. If we focus on that goal, the rest will take care of itself. We will be in a position to challenge of the conference championship with a chance to get back to postseason play. Of all of the things we have accomplished the last five years, there is still one thing missing ? a trip to the NCAA Tournament. I truly believe this team has the talent and potential to achieve that goal. I look forward to a fun and exciting year.


The White Level
Great insight on the team. Thanks FireMedic75! I think this answeres alot of questions we may have. We now need to go out and support these ladies on Sunday and see this team up close and personal. Sounds like Coach has them ready to go!


The Wade Level
Agreed...the womens program has really taken off the past few years. Coach Wiedie has done a great job with recruiting and getting the girls to take to the system. The Lady Trees are going to be playing a VERY tough schedule this season with games against Michigan State, Vandy and a very good Ball State team. Like the article says, both Vandy and the Spartans should be highly ranked when they roll into the Hulman Center. We need a huge crowd!