Feb. 24, 2005
Third-year Head Coach Michelle Bento-Jackson has coached the women's basketball team to a record of 14-13 overall (7-5 WCC) and is leading the team into the WCC tournament next month after the last of their regular season games conclude at home this week. Staff writer Brian Witter talked to Coach Bento-Jackson about the Broncos on the eve of the postseason.
BW: You have a very young team this season, yet you're third in the West Coast Conference. What do you think motivates this team?
MBJ: Well, like you said we are definitely a young team with one senior, Quinn Thomas, and three juniors who didn't even play last season. I would say the motivation for us though is to improve every day so we're sitting pretty for the tournament.
BW: What do you think could be improved upon going into the last week of the regular season?
MBJ: We have yet to put an entire 40-minute game together. We've had some good spurts in some of our games but comparably we've had too many lulls in others and it's hurt us. Our focus in practice now though, is to put in a full game together both offensively and defensively.
BW: The team is currently third in the NCAA in three-point field goals with 8.8 per game. What inspired the long ball offensive tactic?
MBJ: The players really dictate that and I say that because we have great shooters. It's not that we deeply focus on our outside shooting or three-pointers. The girls shoot when they're open. To maintain a good balance though, we still need production from the inside which is important.
BW: You need to win your last two games to secure a share of second place in the WCC. How important is it to you to have a high seeding?
MBJ: We're not really looking at the seedings right now. I realize our conference is up for grabs, but our focus is to improve one game at a time. I think though that this season showed that anyone can be beaten in this league, and if we don't bring our 'A' game, it could happen to us as well. It doesn't matter who we play, we just have to focus on the opponent at hand.
BW: With that in mind, Gonzaga is undefeated in WCC play. If you end up facing them in the tourney, what do you say to the team before the game?
MBJ: (laughs) I don't think I have to say anything. Seriously though, Gonzaga is a good ball team and if we do face them, we'll handle them when that time comes.
BW: Kayla Huss was out last season. How much of an asset to this squad is she?
MBJ: She's been tremendous. Kayla had been out for 18 months due to injury, and she was a little rusty in terms of her feel for the game. She's progressed immensely though and is playing solid. I expect her to lead our team and be very consistent down the stretch.
BW: How much potential do you think this team has for future development with only Quinn Thomas leaving after this season?
MBJ: There's no question that we're going to experience a big loss with Quinn leaving, but she's had a great career. I wouldn't say we're going to be rebuilding though because we're always bringing in new players. This core group now though will be playing together for quite a few years. I think the future is bright for the Broncos. We're going to keep improving and keep on moving forward.
BW: Where did the idea to host monthly morning meetings about the team's current status, otherwise known as the Breakfast Club, start?
MBJ: My assistant coach, Tanya Bauer, and myself were tossing out different ideas about how we could get more people excited about women's basketball. The men's program had done it before and I really thought it would benefit them and us to give a little more insight on our players as well as our program.
BW: What would you say is different between your time at Syracuse and your current stint as head coach at Santa Clara?
MBJ: There are a lot of differences, but I think the recruiting at Syracuse was a lot more broad with our staff scouting players all over the country. Here, we usually just stick to recruitment within California and the Pacific Northwest, and I don't think that is going to change much anytime soon. The strength of the conferences also varies, but I still believe that we are in a very competitive league with a chance to stand out.
BW: You have one year left on your contract. Do you think Santa Clara will announce an extension anytime soon?
MBJ: I don't really know. My job is to work on making sure our team is performing well in two areas: on the court and in the classroom. I don't really look at my status as a whole. My focus is on these 14 players and their improvement.