(Editor's Note: Illini women's assistant basketball coach Calamity McEntire joined the IlliniGuys' syndicated radio show IlliniGuys Sports Spectacular recently.)
August 10, 2023
Larry Smith: How has this summer gone compared to last year for the team?
Calamity McEntire: It's great to have the whole team here. Obviously, we've got a lot of returners, you know, we lost Gio (Lopes), and we added four more. And it's just a really exciting time. I mean, the vibes are good, the work ethic is good. But again, we still go back to the very foundation, you know, we're working, passing and dribbling and shooting at a very elementary level. We're progressing a lot faster than we did this time next year, of course, but we've already started putting in our Phoenix transition our basic principles on defense, and honestly, the vibes are good. Our leadership is much better this time this year than it was a year ago. So just really excited about having this group on campus and getting in the gym with them, you know, almost daily.
Brad Sturdy: How have the newcomers kind of slid in? I know it's tough for kids to come into a team that has so many veterans. It's good, but it's tough to find your role or your niche there. So how are they adjusting?
Calamity: Yeah, the good part is there aren't a lot of roles yet. Like everybody's just getting established with the foundation. Camille Hobby, obviously, is a veteran. She's been in practice for four years at the Division one level at a top 15 program coming from NC State. So she's adjusting very well. Shay Bollin is a ball of energy. I mean, she might be one of the best teammates to come in and she's already been through a year of college practice. So she's not eyes wide open. She's used to the pace. But, you know, she's doing really, really well, just being really vocal and really high energy and effort player, high motor player. And then with Gretchen (Dolan) and Cori (Allen), both of them had phenomenal high school careers, but they're also still freshmen. Cori played at the highest level of high school basketball you can play at; she won GEICO Nationals twice. And you know, Gretchen averaged 30-something points a game in high school. Both of them are so good, but they're still freshmen, and things go really fast (at this level). But the one thing we love about them is each and every day, they show up to work and they're trying really hard. They're adjusting quickly. That's one thing about playing at a really high level, both of them are able to adjust quickly. They both played on the EYBL circuit. So they've played against good competition and they're just great people also.
Larry: Looking back, what do you take away from season one? Obviously, so many successes and great things happened in this season. What do you guys think when you look back now in terms of what you've accomplished in your first 12 months on campus?
Calamity: Yeah, that's a great question. We probably developed a little bit sooner than we thought they would. But when we look back, we're, first of all, extremely grateful for the folks that came out to State Farm Center. You know, that first game where we had under 1,000 people, we were like 'well, I don't know how much of a home-court advantage this is.' But then you get into January and you get into that Iowa game, you get into the last conference games that we played in the season, and you're getting six 7,000 people, you know, we look back on that. And that's just a foundation, you know, for where we want to go. We want to continue to put butts in the seats in State Farm. And then, to your point of what you said, like we laid the culture, we laid the foundation, we laid the culture of family. And I know that's really overused, but our team knows what that means. And they're living it every day, we laid the foundation of fundamentals, we laid the foundation of our style of play. And so the foundation has been laid, the winning expectation has been laid, and we know that the perception of Illinois Women's Basketball has changed. And we're very grateful for that.
Brad: The Big 10 is really good, very deep. Your non-conference schedule is gonna be a little bit tougher this year. Is it difficult maybe manage expectations? How difficult is that?
Calamity: You know, our goal is sustained success. We talk about it all the time. But within that, we have to take care of today, every single day. And so the good part is we talked about our culture where our culture is doing things one way, one day at a time, one possession at a time, being in that moment. So although we talked about, like, oh, the schedule this next year is tougher. And we're still in the moment every single day, trying to be elite in every single moment. So I mean, as far as our team goes, Coach Green does a great job with the messaging of that and we preach it daily.
Larry: Britney Anderson coming in from Stanford after some time on the staff of coaching legend Tara VanDerveer. I know you guys are friends; what has she brought to the energy here on your staff?
Calamity: Yeah, it's crazy. You know, Ryan (Gentzler) had been with us for so long and is such a great guy and we're so extremely happy for him (to become head coach at Akron). And so when you add someone to the staff, you're unsure about how it's gonna go, and man, we've just hit the ground running with Britney. I mean she is an elite relationship builder. She is great on the phone with recruits and parents, and with our players like she has been phenomenal. Obviously, she's still learning our system, but she's not someone who's timid. She gets in there. She works hard. And she values being here. And I think that's super important.
Brad: What's the key for you this year? Not having the frontcourt depth really gave you guys some fits against some of the bigger teams. You feel like you've addressed that with the additional people?
Calamity: Yeah, I do think we addressed some of that and got some depth with Shay and Camille. Obviously, they have a long ways to go in our system as well. But I think rebounding is a major key for us on both ends of the floor and we talk about it daily right now. And then we were able to install our whole offense, our Phoenix transition, our defense, but everything could be a little bit tighter. When we looked back, some of our championship teams had been in the system a little bit longer, and everything was tighter. So for us as a coaching staff, we're still coaching those details. Just instilling the mentality of every single thing you do every single time matters, and really holding them accountable to that, because I think that's going to help take us to the next level. Like we've got a very hungry group right now.
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