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'Couldn't be more excited': What Sooners coach Jennie Baranczyk said at Big 12 Basketball Tipoff

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Jennie Baranczyk

New OU women's basketball head coach Jennie Baranczyk speaks during her initial press conference on April 13.

Oklahoma head coach Jennie Baranczyk spoke at the Big 12 Basketball Tipoff on Tuesday, making her first media appearance since her introductory press conference on April 13.

The 39-year-old was hired on April 10 after coaching nine seasons at Drake. She went 174-83 during her tenure with the Bulldogs, and led the team to three straight Missouri Valley Conference regular season championships from 2016-19.

Replacing Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame coach Sherri Coale, who retired on March 17, Baranczyk’s Sooners received three votes in the Associated Press’ Preseason Top 25 poll, the second most among unranked teams.

Here’s what Baranczyk said at the conference’s media day:

On how much she’s settled within the program

“It's been really awesome. I couldn't be more excited to be here. Our team has been amazing, so it's been really fun just to be around them. We're new, and we're trying to figure a lot of things out. I've got my own kids settling in as well. In terms of the culture and chemistry, I couldn't be more excited about the way that we get to be together every day, so it's been pretty awesome.”

On retired OU coach Sherri Coale’s support

“She's been absolutely incredible. I got asked a question earlier about how much pressure we feel as a coaching staff, and I don't… To have Sherri be so supportive, in the vision of the program and the continued vision, it’s been incredible. She's been a great resource but even more, she's really become a friend. That to me has been more special than anything.”

On her coaching style being ‘position-less’ and players she inherited

“I couldn't be more excited about it. I think it's a different system and different style, but at the same time, I think it really fits the way that basketball is going as well. I feel like the women in our program will be very successful. It is a little bit of a change, but it's just a fun style to be able to play. It puts a lot of control in the players’ hands.

“It's been a minute since I've taught it from the very beginning, but it's been really fun. The players have been very open-minded, and you can really start to see some players pick it up and make some reads and really find their own game in it. It's going to look different than it ever has, just like every year it looked a little bit different when I was at Drake. But I think now, it's going to be really fun at a little bit of a different level.”

On OU’s nonconference schedule

“We're gonna go at it right away. You want to be able to challenge yourself in nonconference and especially with a young team or a new team with a new style. It's really good to get challenged early and it's really good to represent the Big 12. We all want to be able to do that. This is a really great conference. It always has been. It always will be. We take with a lot of pride that we want to be able to step up and be able to represent not just the University of Oklahoma, but also the Big 12 conference as a whole.”

On Madi Williams, Taylor Robertson and Ana Llanusa 

“As a collective, I've been so impressed with their openness. They've established their games and they've established their names, but they keep working on their games, and I think that's been really impressive. As a new coach, I’ve been trying to implement a different system, and they've been just completely all in. 

“For Madi Williams, she's just special. She's talked about extending her range, but her leadership and her ability is good too. I knew about everything she could do with the basketball. What I didn't know is how well she could move without the ball, and that's been really impressive. She's very smart, and she's got an incredible basketball IQ, so that's been really fun. She also really makes the people around her better. I think that's a really cool characteristic, especially in a senior player. She’s a versatile nightmare.

“Taylor Robertson obviously can shoot the basketball. She’s another high-level player. She's a gym rat, which is no surprise to anybody, but she also watches the game, she thinks the game, and she processes the game. Her voice continues to get louder and more confident as time has gone on, and I think she's a lot more versatile than just a shooter. That's something that we've been able to see in practice. She’s even more physical than I thought she would be.

“(Ana) just continues to get more healthy, and you continue to see her game and her bounce come back. She can just go forever. She's really fun to coach. All of them have been. They've just really been incredible people and leaders of this program, so that to me has been the best thing.”

On the team’s chemistry

“The foundation is there, and so you get to build on a really cool foundation. But in terms of our culture and our chemistry, and the things that we want to do... we want to love what we do, how we do it, and who we get to do it with. 

“We constantly are talking about really loving the game and the way that we play the game because women's basketball is its own sport. We're not men's basketball. We do have a unique ability to be able to shine in a really cool space, and I think our game is just starting to hit another level. 

“We hang out. We play. It's fun. We have this great group that comes to our house, picks up a football, and just kind of throws it around, and they just have this really cool chemistry. We've just been able to have open conversations and just kind of hang out, and I think that's pretty special.”

On what she wants in her point guards

“We love a scoring point guard. We love a point guard that has vision. We want our point guards to make decisions and make them early to be able to get going. We want to be able to really be up-tempo in the full court and half-court. I feel like our (point guards) are doing a nice job in terms of trying to learn the game. We put a lot of pressure on our point guards to be able to make decisions and manage the game. 

“I'm sure you've seen plenty of our games where you say ‘why don't you call more timeouts?’ because I really do feel like the players can. They can make those decisions. It always helps us in the short term and long term. Sometimes, it's a painful process. But, in the long term, it's really fun to be able to watch them manage games. So we're doing a lot of that in practice right now. 

“We’re learning how to manage and learning how to put people in different positions because we will play position-less basketball. It is a little bit different, but we do put a lot of pressure on those point guards. We want to empower them.”

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