Felisha Legette-Jack has been a part of New York Division I basketball since 1984. From starting at Syracuse to now being head coach at UB, Legette-Jack’s experience has brought the program to NCAA-Tournament heights in her six seasons at Buffalo.
Legette-Jack made her intentions clear after last season’s Sweet Sixteen appearance. She wanted to get the program to the Elite Eight. Legette-Jack will have six freshmen on her mostly experienced team to contest for the MAC Championship and the Elite Eight spot that eluded them last season.
Q: What do you think of your non-conference schedule and quality of ranked matchups?
A: We are just staying focused on our next opponent. I know I sound like a cliché, but it’s who we are. I don’t need my players waiting for a matchup and forgetting another. We always practice to improve our style of play and to get ready for whichever team is in our sights. I don’t study film for every team throughout the season. We stayed focused on the game we are playing, not others. We have some good opponents in the non-conference I am excited to play, but I don’t go marking my calendar for any specific game.
Q: What do you expect from your returning players? What do they have to work on?
A: I think they all have specific areas they bring with them and need to improve on as a player. All of them know how to play in our style, it’s what they can do to grow as players that is going to make that better. For Brittany Morrison, that might be having her shot going down more consistently. For Cierra [Dillard], it could be working on passing or her leadership role. It changes from player to player, so it’s on us as coaches to learn from them and make them both great players and people.
Q: What do the freshmen bring to your team?
A: I think we added a lot of size in the paint and recruited a number of guards who can shoot or pass the ball. The Dickson sisters are both already so talented that we just need to get them in that college shape, then they can only go up. Oceane [Kounkou] has a very good shot already and is growing more and more. This recruiting class really added a lot of size we didn’t have before, so it will be exciting to see who will step up and become our regular center and power forward.
Q: Are you hoping for a better non-conference record or is the non-conference more for testing the team early?
A: We expect to win like we’ve done before. In the past, we have always done well in non-conference. I think these young ladies have the chance to come in and make a lot of noise and history early this season. The only test there is to see if we have done our jobs as coaches.
Q: Who do you feel will be the starting five and what are you looking for in terms of production from the starters?
A: The starting five is bound to change this season. I want to give everyone the opportunity to play for the role, it isn’t my style to not play the whole team. You always have to see who has the desire to win. Players will start to pick up their game throughout the season, then you have to start moving players from their roles to accommodate. Everyone knows I play whoever is playing at that high level I see in my players. If you start producing at a rate better than a starter, then I will give you the start. The team doesn’t compete for starts against each other, they earn them playing.
Q: Do you feel expectations are close to what they were last year? Does the season feel different to you?
A: Listen, I’ve been doing this for 30 years. If this felt new to me it would be an issue. We always set our expectations high and want to be better than we were last year. It isn’t all the same, but none of it is surprising. I have team expectations. What are we going to do in certain areas? How will we handle ourselves in certain situations? Even though the season is starting, it doesn’t change the mentality we had in the off-season. I think we are ready and it isn’t something that feels new or unique.
Q: Is it a busy year for yourself outside of basketball?
A: It’s always busy. In all my years coaching, I strive to find the balance for God, family and my job. It all feels like such a fluid motion now. This year doesn’t stand out from past ones, but it never does. We just need to stay focused [and] try to turn these young women into both great people and players. It will be an exciting year, so I am ready to see what we can do.
Thomas Zafonte is a senior English major. He is a UB sports fan and enjoys traveling around Buffalo.