Dishin & Swishin 1/31/13 Podcast: With the Hall of Fame beckoning and a new conference to challenge, Gary Blair has Texas A&M ready for another post-season run
It has been a very strange season in College Station, Texas.
This year Texas A&M coach Gary Blair will be inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. With the loss of important pieces of last year’s team, and the introduction of seven freshman, it appeared from the outset that all of those Hall of Fame skills would be necessary.
The season started with close losses to Louisville and Penn State, before a drubbing at the hands of Connecticut. After three straight victories to even their record at 3-3, point guard Alexia Standish, who the Aggies relied on, left the team.
Rather than lament their problems, Blair’s Aggies reminded everyone that A&M was the national champion only two years ago, and know how to win their way: with aggressive defense and a vaunted running game. Led by outstanding play from center Kelsey Bone and the emergence of forward Kristi Bellock and guard Adrienne Pratcher, they have amassed a 13-2 record since Standish’s departure. The two losses were by nine to Notre Dame in Las Vegas and by two to Kentucky in Lexington. Don’t look now, but Texas A&M is back up to number sixteen in both polls, and climbing.
The schedule this season looks different from any other season. No conference games with Texas, Oklahoma or Baylor. Years of Big 12 battles are done. In their place, new rivalries to develop in the SEC. Games with Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Georgia now are highlights of the schedule.
For the first season of conference play, the Aggies were given an extremely tough conference schedule, with Kentucky twice, Vanderbilt twice, and Tennessee, Georgia, LSU and South Carolina all on the road. The only ranked SEC teams A&M gets to host at Reed Arena are the two home and home teams, Kentucky and Vanderbilt.
The Aggies begin a difficult stretch of games that will be on national television tonight when Vanderbilt comes to College Station (FSN, 7 pm). A two-game road trip includes LSU Monday night on ESPN2’s “Big Monday” before playing South Carolina February 10 for a Sunday afternoon game. After Florida in a home game, the rematch with Kentucky takes place February 18, also on ESPN2, and that is the Aggies’ Breast Cancer Pink Zone game.
Blair has never been one to run from a challenge and the team is rolling now.
On Dishin & Swishin this week, the veteran coach discusses what has made the team on the court now different from the one that started the season.
He also talks about the conference dynamic and differences between the Big 12 and SEC, including the importance of “Johnny Football” and the Heisman winning performances of football star Johnny Manziel, and coaching against longtime friend and assistant coach Vic Schaefer, now the head coach at Mississippi State.
When Blair was on the podcast last season, he discussed the need to convince Bone that she was a dynamic center with great skills, but not Danielle Adams, the graduated senior who led the team to the NCAA title. Blair has nothing but raves about Bone this year, and how proud he is of the person she has become on and off the court.
Blair also chats about the departure of Standish and the emergence of Pratcher as a point guard that leads the nation in assist-turnover ratio, and the importance of Bellock, the number two scorer on the team that has already played more minutes as a senior than she did her first three years combined.
From underhanded half court shots, to dancing the Dougie, Gary Blair is one of the most entertaining coaches around and always makes for a great podcast.