Clemson women’s basketball assistant Karleen Thompson has coached at many different levels, so she has some experience dealing with developing young players. With development being the first priority for the Lady Tigers this season, Thompson sat down with MyOrangeUpdate.com to discuss her areas of focus on this staff, the importance of maintaining a positive attitude, and the best way to draw from her experience in the WNBA to reach a young player.
MOU: Where would you say you have spent the majority of your time this season in terms of helping this team develop?
THOMPSON: We’re just trying to lay the foundation so that when the next group of players come in, the foundation is already there so that we don’t have to start from point A again. It’s tough right now. We have a lot of young players, with the exception of Shanique Pauldo and Lindsey Mason. Take them away, and we’re extremely young. Right now, it’s about keeping them from being so frustrated and to continue to play hard and fight and learn.
MOU: How do you balance the teaching with the tough love that such a young team requires?
THOMPSON: Teaching is definitely the heavier side. You have to. But you have to throw that tough love in there because they’re freshmen and sophomores that are being thrown right into the fire. At the same time, you have to understand that they are trying to give you everything they have. You spend a lot of time trying to teach.
MOU: What are some of the things that Pauldo and Mason are trying to teach to the younger post players?
THOMPSON: They talk to the freshmen a lot about what they’re getting ready to see in the ACC. Based on their experience, they know how important it is to stay together and to not get frustrated and get down. They have to stay together as a team.
MOU: Does it get frustrating at all to display such a positive attitude given the expected struggles of a young team?
THOMPSON: It is difficult because you still have to give that tough love. When you know that a group of players are wanting to run through a wall for you, but the wall is just not moving, you just have to continue to motivate, to teach, to not show your frustration, to build, and to take the hits when you have to take the hits. But you have to also encourage. That’s the main thing.
MOU: What are some similarities and differences between getting a rookie ready for the WNBA and preparing a freshman for college ball?
THOMPSON: It’s pretty similar. I talk to the players about it all the time. No matter the level, you’re still learning the system at some point in time. You’re learning to play with a new group of players that you’ve never played with. You have to teach on the pro level too. Of course the learning curve is a lot faster, but the patience has to be there, along with the encouraging and the motivating and all of that.
MOU: How likely is it that this team will respond to the challenge of playing against ACC competition?
THOMPSON: Realistically, they are going to walk in there on that big stage —the ACC— with big eyes, not knowing what to expect. It’s going to take a few games to build the know-how to try to do whatever it takes and continue to work hard. We’re young, and they are going to get a shock. But how we respond to that is going to be important. So, we have to continue to get them ready for it so we can be as prepared as we can be.