BATON ROUGE – Six months removed from an NCAA Sweet 16 appearance on its home floor, the LSU women’s basketball team stepped back out onto the Maravich Center floor for its first official practice of the 2013-14 season with a two-hour workout on Sunday night followed by another session on Tuesday.
For 10 of the players, going through a collegiate practice was almost routine as LSU spent 10 practices in August preparing for an exhibition trip to Spain where they then played four games in 12 days. Players were acclimated of what to expect in a Nikki Caldwell up-tempo practice.
“I think the trip to Spain definitely helped our confidence in practice,” said Caldwell, who has compiled a 45-23 record in her two previous seasons. “They certainly know what to expect. It also helps that this group is well conditioned. We will be faster tempo wise up and down the floor. Being conditioned definitely has prepared us mentally for these early practices.
“Considering it was the first day, I like what I see. Our attitudes are great and our leadership is strong. We have a lot of work ahead of us still, but if the first two days is any indication of how we can be, I am pleased.”
The first 30 minutes of each practice is spent working on skill development from shooting drills to defensive stances. The squad then works diligently on its zone defense. The 2013-14 Lady Tigers feature a much deeper roster, which allows them to work more combinations and scrimmage easily.
Three newcomers have joined the team since the Spain trip, including junior college transfer guard DaShawn Harden, forward Ann Jones and forward Akilah Bethel. Harden is eligible to play this season after a junior college All-America sophomore campaign at Johnson County (Kan.) Community College. Jones, a transfer from Memphis, and Bethel, a transfer from West Virginia, will sit out the 2013-14 year but the two are able to practice with the team.
Through two practices, the three seniors – Theresa Plaisance, Shanece McKinney and Jeanne Kenney – have served as key leaders. All three of them have improved all facets of their games since last season. Plaisance is coming off a junior All-Southeastern Conference season in which she led the league in scoring with 17.0 points per game.
“If I had to use one word to describe one word about how my first freshman practice was to my senior year now, it’s comfortable,” said Plaisance. “I was timid at times as a freshman during the drills. Being a veteran and a leader, it’s my job to lead. It feels great to be back out here with the team.”
McKinney made significant strides in her game late last season, especially on the defensive end. She and Plaisance will anchor the front court in the final seasons of their careers.
“I definitely want to continue to improve offensively,” said McKinney. “We all hold each other accountable and want to improve as a team. As a senior, you are more eager to do things because this is your last go round.”
LSU will practice again Wednesday from 2-3 p.m. in the Maravich Center before moving to its practice gym for the remainder of practice.
The Lady Tigers host Tennessee Temple in their first exhibition game on Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. in the Maravich Center. Admission for the contest is free.