LAFAYETTE — When Keke Veal needs to make a split-second decision, she can look back on several winters spent with friends for guidance.
The junior guard for the University of Louisiana-Lafayette women’s basketball team has 38 assists to lead the squad. Whether the Ragin’ Cajuns are in a fast-break situation or in a half-court offensive set, figuring out the right time to be a helper or a scorer is an ongoing lesson that started during elementary school.
“We do a lot of 3-on-3 drills and we trap on screens — just trying to put(the players) in a position where they can figure it out,” UL-Lafayette coach Garry Brodhead said. “Keke has been figuring it out since the seventh grade.”
Veal has played hundreds of games with a handful of her current teammates since she was a seventh-grade starter at Acadiana Prep in Opelousas. That familiarity helps when a defender is bearing down on her in the paint.
“We have been playing together for a long time,” Veal said. “We all know how to get each other the ball in a position to score. When I get in the lane (as a dribbler), if a defender or two runs at me, I know the post, the backside or the wing is open. I just base it off how the defense plays me in the lane.”
The Cajuns (9-4, 1-3 in the SBC) rank third in the Sun Belt Conference in steals with 137 (10.3 per game). When his team enters those fast-break situations, Brodhead has seen progress in how Veal and the rest of the Cajuns handle the situation.
“When we make steals, we want to run the lanes and get to the rim,” Brodhead said. “In the first couple of years, everybody hung out at the 3 (point-line). I love for Keke to have the ball when we make steals. If you run, she will get you the ball.”
Veal was removed from the decision-making process for a long chunk of last season because of a leg fracture.
The down time and missed games did not stop Veal’s education in ball distribution and defending.
“A lot of kids were scorers in high school,” Brodhead said. “Can they defend? With Keke, we have seen more commitment from her to making stops rather than steals.”
In the Cajuns’ 68-52 win Thursday over Georgia State, Veal managed to account for five of the team’s 15 steals without compromising her defensive positioning.
“Keke’s positioning creates problems for other teams,” Brodhead said. “She was able to get those steals without having to extend herself to do it. It’s great when she is in position like that because those plays put her in a better position on the offensive side (as a passer or scorer).”
Being able to create those positive plays in the open court puts Veal in an important category that doesn’t show up on a stat sheet.
“She has that knack to create offense,” Brodhead said. “You have players that can catch and shoot for themselves, you have players that can create for themselves and not for others and you have players that can create for others.”
For Veal, learning about the next proper pass does not happen during a specific practice or game. It has been a daily routine since seventh grade.
“Every game, we have those moments where we learn and try to push forward,” she said.
Cajuns to honor Perrot
The Louisiana-Lafayette women’s basketball program will honor former Cajun and two-time WNBA champion point guard Kim Perrot with a celebration weekend Friday and Saturday.
The weekend’s events will include a Kim Perrot Social at the Petroleum Club (111 Heymann Blvd.) beginning at 7 p.m. Friday with a dinner followed by an unveiling of her banner and a framed jersey presentation to the Perrot family during halftime of UL-Lafayette’s 5 p.m. game against South Alabama on Saturday at the Cajundome.
Tickets for Friday’s social are $20.09 for athletic staff members and fans that have purchased a game ticket. Non-staff members can attend the dinner for $25, which also includes a ticket to Saturday’s basketball doubleheader, watching the team’s Saturday morning shootaround and a pregame meal with the Cajuns at Earl K. Long Gym.