BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – LSU women’s basketball head coach Nikki Caldwell and National Player of the Year candidate Theresa Plaisance participated in Southeastern Conference Basketball Media Day at the new Westin hotel in downtown Birmingham on Wednesday.
The Lady Tigers were picked to finish third in the league standings behind Tennessee and Kentucky. Caldwell, who enters her third season, embraced the high expectations for the team at media day as LSU was recently ranked No. 17 in a USA Today preseason magazine.
SEC Preseason Poll
Both Caldwell and Plaisance met with regional media members in addition to doing one-on-one interviews with ESPN, ESPNU, the SEC Digital Network, Comcast Sports Southeast (CSS) and SportSouth. The two-hour rotation gave the two a chance to talk about the excitement surrounding this year’s team, which is coming off its first NCAA Sweet 16 appearance since 2008.
“I’m excited for our seniors,” said Caldwell. “They’ve worked extremely hard and it’s great to see where they are now not just as basketball players but as young ladies. The seniors are taking a vested interest in these underclassmen and they’re taking on the leadership positions that are needed for a team to have a good run at it (championship). They know the time is ticking and that their opportunities are going to shorten every year, so there is a different type of urgency with this team.”
Plaisance is one of four SEC players up for National Player of the Year honors. The senior forward has the best returning statistical numbers of any player in the league as she led the conference in scoring with 17.0 points per game last season. She made and attempted more free throws than anyone in the SEC, and she was only player in the SEC to rank in the top 10 in scoring, rebounding (8.3 rpg), field goal percentage (43.7), free throw percentage (72.8) and blocks (2.5 bpg).
LSU is in its third week of practice and will play its first exhibition game against Tennessee Temple on Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. in the Maravich Center. Admission is free. The Lady Tigers officially open the season in the preseason WNIT/Sue Gunter Classic against Stephen F. Austin on Friday, Nov. 8 at 7 p.m.
Season tickets for the 2013-14 LSU women’s basketball season are now on sale at www.LSUtix.net. Below is transcript from SEC Media Day:
Head Coach Nikki Caldwell
On senior forward Theresa Plaisance …
“She is so goofy and because she is she doesn’t even understand the pressures that are there for an All-American, for one of the best teams in the country, for a potential first round draft pick, a pro player and hopefully one day an Olympian. By her personality being the way it is, she doesn’t get rattled. She’s very easy to coach. Every year she has gotten better because she wanted to get better. She has put in the time and energy it takes to get better. Her ability to make her teammates better is great. She’s got enough people around her to make her look good. She’s definitely a player that we expect to be a go-to player. She brings so much versatility because of her ability to score the basketball at all areas. She’s going to run one through five. If she can become more comfortable with her face-up game in handling the basketball, she’s going to be very tough to guard.”
On last year’s winning streak late in the season …
"We gained confidence by knowing that we can lay it on the line. Even if we lay it on the line and don’t win like in the Tennessee game, at least we know we aren’t scared of it. I think that one of the big hurdles in taking over a program is getting your kids to understand that you can’t leave it to chance or leave excuses on the table. I think their mentality changed from that loss (to Tennessee).”
On sophomore Danielle Ballard …
“I see Danielle becoming more consistent for us, not just relying on her ability to dribble penetrate and get to the basket. Her pull-up jumper, she has worked extremely hard on it. Her position coach has done an extremely good job of getting her in the gym and getting extra shots. I like the fact that she is becoming more vocal and taking on more leadership and ownership of this team. She won’t have to be that only defensive stopper we have because of the freshmen guards we have. We are going to look to play her more off the ball this year, which will allow her to score more.”
On the freshmen class of Raigyne Moncrief, Jasmine Rhodes and Rina Hill …
“Raigyne Moncrief is one of the most explosive players with the basketball. It’s amazing how she can get down the court. She’s going to allow us to have a quick running game. She’s also a great rebounder and defender. She brings the total package. Jasmine Rhodes gets better every day. She’s getting more and more comfortable at her position. Rina Hill knows the game and has a very high basketball IQ. She works extremely hard and we are running her at the point position. She’s very unselfish with the basketball. We have three unbelievable freshmen that we are excited about for the next four years.”
Senior Forward Theresa Plaisance
On the growth of team …
“The growth of the team has been amazing. We had the opportunity to go to Spain together and we got to learn about the freshmen on and off the court. Being able to take that opportunity was an advantage for us because we don’t have the time over the summer to get to know them. Our team is evolving right now and we have so much more growth to do but the way we’re starting off right now, I’m really looking forward to this season.”
On late game execution …
“We have to be more consistent with that. Some days we were there and some days we weren’t. Last year we lost a lot of games by a five-point deficit or less so this year we need to be more patient with that and take our time getting to the rim. We’re getting pretty good looks; we just have to knock down shots when the pressure is on.
On the development of the young guards …
“Danielle Ballard is one of the best guards in the country and she is only a sophomore. It’s crazy that she has two more years left of college play. Our freshmen are unbelievable and so athletic. They fit in very well with our team and have made us better.”