A crowd of more than 650 people showed up for the 2015 tip-off luncheon for the University of Louisville women’s basketball team Wednesday at the Downtown Marriott. Quite a contrast from a few years ago when the event was drawing maybe 300 fans.
Coach Jeff Walz, entering his ninth season at UofL, acknowledging the growing support, along with the sense of anticipation for the upcoming season. “It’s all about expectations,” he told the media before lunch. “When I first got here we were talking about getting past the second round in the NCAA,” he said. “Now we’re talking about Final Fours and winning championships. I’m really proud of where this program is now but we’re not satisfied.”
During his first eight seasons, Walz has a 208-77 won-lost record. His teams have been to the Sweet 16 six times and have finished as national runner-up twice while turning out five WNBA draft picks, including Angel McCoughtry and Shoni Schimmel.
Walz said recruiting success has made it possible to raise expectations. “In order to have expectations, you have to have great players. You can coach as much as you want, but if you don’t have players who can perform it really doesn’t matter.”
His 2015 recruiting class includes five players ranked among the top 50 in the country, including Asia Durr, considered among the best in the class. It also includes 6-foot-3 Samantha Fuering, 6-foot-4 Erin DeGrate, Taja Cole and Brianna Jones.
Another addition is Briahanna Jackson, an outstanding transfer guard from Central Florida University, who was introduced publicly for the first time during the luncheon. She’s good enough to possibly nail down a starting spot.
“We have a wonderful group of young women,” he said during the luncheon. “This has been one of the most enjoyable pre-seasons that I have had. They work hard, they have a great sense of humor and they care about each other. You’re going to be excited about this group.”
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Walz also took a moment to express his appreciation to Tom Jurich for hiring him. “We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Tom Jurich giving me this opportunity nine years ago,” he said.
Alluding to his one-time stuttering challenge, Walz said “it took some courage for Tom to hire me. This (making public speeches) was something I didn’t do very well, speaking in front of people, speaking to the media. It’s part of the job. You have to go out there and sell your product and sell your university.
“I’m grateful to Tom for giving the opportunity. It’s hard to believe I’m going on year nine. I plan on being here for many more years.”