Gopher Sports: A Conversation with Carly Thibault DuDonis

Ignatius L Hoops

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p next is Carly Thibault-DuDonis, who recently completed her second season back on the sidelines with the Golden Gophers. Among her duties with the Golden Gophers, she works with the team's guards, oversees the recruiting efforts and helps prepare scouting reports and game strategies. Thibault-DuDonis, who was promoted to the title of associate head coach on May 14, 2020, had three guards earn All-Big Ten honors this past season. Jasmine Powell was a consensus pick for both All-Big Ten Honorable Mention and the Big Ten All-Freshman Team, while Gadiva Hubbard was an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention honoree by the media, as was Sara Scalia, who also earned a place on the media's Big Ten All-Freshman Team.

GopherSports: How would you sum up your two years at Minnesota?
Carly Thibault-DuDonis:
"First of all, it's been a lot of fun. But I think the word I would use to describe it is "growth." I think as a program and staff we have been able to see the little things day-to-day that add up to building a program and building the culture that Coach (Lindsay) Whalen wants to have here at Minnesota. That has been really fun to be a part of. For me, I feel I've grown into my role on the staff and been able to help Coach Whalen build that culture that will define Minnesota Women's Basketball. And then just seeing the individual growth of our players and how they've grown up. Even someone like Kenisha (Bell), who we only had one year with, grew up so much as a leader. It's been fun to see all those individual accomplishments and developments on and off the floor."

GS: What is your favorite part about working with this staff?
CTD:
"My favorite part is that we laugh every single day; we truly have fun. Coach Whalen is so much fun to work for. She knows when to be serious and when to push, but she also knows when to keep it light. I don't think that there is a day that goes by that we don't laugh as a staff or team."

GS: You work with the guards. How would you assess that position group?
CTD:
"I feel really blessed to have had great guards to work with since I've been at Minnesota. I walked into a position where I got to work with guards like Kenisha Bell, Jasmine Brunson and Irene (Garrido Perez). It was a lot of fun to see Kenisha go from a really good player to someone who was willing to be a vocal and emotional leader, as well as continue to grow her game. Irene was someone who didn't have as much opportunity to play early on, but kept working at her game and ended up playing a huge role for us last year. I was extremely fortunate to start off with two seasoned senior guards.

"And then this year we brought back Jasmine Brunson and added Jasmine Powell and Sara Scalia to the mix. It was really fun to work with the yin and yang of Brunson, who was a senior, and then two freshmen guards in Scalia and Powell. I enjoyed watching Brunson perfect her midrange game and consistently extend her range out to the 3, but also take on a leadership role not only as a captain but also as a mentor to our two talented young guards. I was also extremely proud of the development of our two freshmen throughout the year. Freshman year is always a bit of a roller coaster, but those two really rose to the challenge and stepped up big time."
Thibault-DuDonis Carly , Powell Jasmine
Carly Thibault-DuDonis (L) helped Jasmine Powell (R) earn All-Big Ten Honorable Mention and Freshman Team honors this past season.
GS: You also have Alexia Smith and Caroline Strande coming in next year. How do you think they will fit in?
CTD:
"I think both Alexia and Caroline will have a chance to contribute. I think that's one thing we really missed this year was depth in the guard position. As much as Powell and Sara earned really big minutes, it's probably not ideal to be playing anyone 35 or 36 minutes per game in order to stay fresh and energized down the stretch. We really want Caroline and Alexia to come in and contribute so that we have depth and can play at the pace Coach Whalen wants to. Both are tough competitors and can really score the ball. Caroline has broken several scoring records at her school, conference, and in the state of Wisconsin, and Alexia has led her team to two state titles with her High School, so I think both will have a good chance to come with the right mentality to help us right away."

GS: Another big aspect of your role is as recruiting coordinator. How are those efforts going?
CTD:
"We've been fortunate to recruit student-athletes to play for Lindsay Whalen, a household name, especially in the state of Minnesota and in the women's basketball community. We were really fortunate in that first recruiting class to bring in (Jasmine) Powell, Sara (Scalia), Klarke (Sconiers), Grace (Cumming) and Justice (Ross). Obviously Powell and Sara were both on the All-Big Ten Freshman Team, and Klarke really started coming on at the end of the year; so in that first recruiting class sometimes it's hard to bring in impact players when you don't have a lot of time and you're playing catchup, but we felt very fortunate to bring in great players that were able to contribute right away.

"In this current 2020 class that we're bringing in, a top-20 class, we again have players we hope can make an impact right away. And then someone you can't forget about is Kadi (Sissoko). She is going to be someone that I think surprises a lot of people, not just our fans but also our conference. I think she is going to be a tough mismatch for teams to handle, and I think she's going to be a great offensive weapon for us as she can play multiple positions. We're bringing in the right pieces. A big emphasis for Coach Whalen is to not only get great people and great players, but to recruit in-state as well. We've invested the time and energy into making players in our state priority."

GS: When it comes to recruiting, how much does it help to have a facility like Athletes Village?
CTD:
"We're so fortunate to have the resources that we do in order to win. That's one of the reasons I came here in the first place. The biggest thing was working for Coach Whalen, but after that I want to win. And they've proven in the past that Minnesota is a place where you can win and go to the Final Four, so they've really put their money where their mouth is as far as giving us what we need to do so."

GS: In your two years here, are there been any particular performances that stand out to you, either individually or as a team?
CTD:
"One of the most fun games was our game against Rutgers this year. It wasn't a pretty game by any means, in fact you could probably define it as ugly, but the way our team battled and was the tougher team and didn't give up even though we were down a few with a minute to go was so much fun to be a part of. They trusted each other to make great plays. Masha (Adashchyk) made a huge play and Taiye (Bello) was incredible. I don't remember the exact number but I think she had 22 rebounds. She was absolutely incredible; she rose to the challenge, and it was fun to see our team come together."

GS: How about off the court? Are there any particular moments that you've enjoyed?
CTD:
"I just really enjoy time when we can step away from the court, in general. We have a lot of opportunities to do that, whether it's traveling on the road or coming to one of the coach's houses. I know I really enjoy when the girls come to our house, whether it's to watch a game like the Super Bowl or just have breakfast, whatever it is. I just enjoy those moments where we can talk about things outside of basketball and give the girls an opportunity to be at home. I know when I was in college it was hard being away from home, so a home-cooked meal and sitting on a couch in a living room can make a big difference midseason or in a tough week of school, whatever it is."
 
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