UNLV Lady Rebels held the first preseason Media Day on Oct. 13 over a conference call on Zoom, along with the rest of the schools in the Mountain West division.
Head coach Lindy La Rocque discussed what to expect for this upcoming season.
UNLV Scarlet & Gray Free Press: You have a lot of new freshmen on your team this year, what challenges do you face getting everyone up to speed?
Head coach Lindy La Rocque: We’ve got eight new players, really nine new players. We have a returner that sat out last year for COVID and now she’s back on the team. Nine of our 13 have never had practices with me or run any of our offense or defense, so in a lot of ways, we are younger and more of a new team this year than we were last year. It presents different challenges.
I would say patience is not one of my virtues, but I’ve been tested more here in the first couple of weeks then I probably should admit. Our energy is great. Our effort is great. We are committed to our process in getting better each and every day. With so many new faces, new players, a lot of really talented players are excited and eager to play. We are committed to doing our daily work and we know the results and outcomes will take care of themselves in the end.
SGFP: Desi-Rae Young was named “Freshman of the Year” in the Mountain West Conference, what energy does she bring onto the court and to the team?
LLR: Desi is a proven pillar to our program. It’s funny. We were talking this week. She is already playing like a veteran and I had to remind her last week: This was you last year who didn’t know the plays and who people were getting frustrated at, so it’s been a really fun almost role reversal for her. Just to see her maturity and growth, a phenomenal freshman year.
I’m just so proud of her and her improvement throughout the year and being so coachable and positive. You can see her energy and emotion. It fuels our team. She’s a pillar of our program and an anchor for us. She’s got high expectations for herself and so do we as a team, but we are excited about the pieces that we have around her to maybe make her job a little bit easier. It’s really exciting, but I think more than anyone, she knows that she’s got even more to prove this year because she works so hard.”
SGFP: There are multiple Las Vegas natives, like transfer Essence Booker who has been very successful. What effect will she have on the court?
LLR: Well, first and foremost Essence is just an incredible young woman. Just so selfless and one of the best teammates I’ve ever had a chance to coach, just extremely coachable and a really thoughtful, caring young person. We’re really, really excited to have her as a Lady Rebel obviously being from Las Vegas, bringing her home, in front of her family and friends, so we are really anxious. We actually still are going through the waiver process to make sure she can play this year, so we are all keeping our fingers and toes crossed on that regard.
She’s a tremendous asset, again, another player that has a lot of experience. Obviously, two years in the league, an older player with some experience when really, we are still a really young and inexperienced team. We can see that in practice. She got the highest compliment from her teammates this week and was voted captain for our team. I’m proud of her already and she’s really just scratching the surface of what she can do for our program, so we are excited.
SGFP: Going into your second year, how are things different this year compared to last year?
Desi-Rae Young: I would just say that our team is more young. Like coach Lindy said, we just have to keep being consistent every day and take what we learned last week and bring it into the next week. I just think being consistent is something that we have to work on this year.
SGFP: You’re from Las Vegas and playing for a coach who is also from Las Vegas, what does being a Lady Rebel mean to you?
DRY: It’s actually really special. Being from here, I remember my middle school coach, she was telling me the other day, how “you always wanted to go to UNLV,” so it’s always been a dream of mine to play here. I am really happy that I’m here and able to play my second year.
SGFP: You basically have a brand new squad this year, how have you helped them get adjusted to the program?
DRY: Just pushing them and encouraging them like you’re going to mess up and we are going to run for you messing up, but not getting mad. Always be happy and stay positive because at the end of the day, we are going to be better and the best.
SGFP: When you’re on the court, you play at such a high level and high energy, how are you planning on bringing that out this year?
DRY: Just having that mindset and taking it game by game. Just being the best player in that game. I can’t think about the future. I can only think about what’s going on now.