LAFAYETTE — When Simone Fields left San Antonio to start back at Square 1 in Lafayette, a group started their own new journey with her.
As Fields, a freshman forward, has been learning the ins and outs of college basketball, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette women’s basketball coaching staff had to figure out how to blend her in with a guard-heavy lineup.
“Our (offensive) system had called for dribble penetration and kicking the ball outside,” Cajuns coach Garry Brodhead said. “That was on us as coaches to keep working toward more of a balance and a complete (inside-outside) game.”
When the Cajuns put Fields on the floor with four guards to start games, they knew they were getting a player who could rebound and defend. Fields was a first-team all-district player three times at Converse Judson High School. She also gained a great deal of experience playing AAU ball for Clarissa Davis-Wrightsil, a former national player of the year at the University of Texas.
Even with that track record in tow, Fields had one surprise left for her new coaches. “We had watched her a lot during the last three years,” Brodhead said. “We were surprised with her ability to score — not realizing that she is as aggressive on offense as defense. She can finish shots. The ball goes in the basket, and that is a big time plus.”
Fields has averaged 6.2 points and has made 55 percent of her field-goal attempts as a starter in 21 of the Cajuns’ 24 contests. “At first, I was confused on offense,” Fields said. “Now I have it and it’s easier ... but sometimes I still get confused.”
Fields also faced the challenge of learning a new defensive system. In high school and AAU games, she had become accustomed to trying to block shots. However, the transition to college called for her to maintain her position and take some charges. “She came in fundamentally prepared from her AAU program,” Brodhead said. “It’s a work in progress.”
Part of Fields’ progression came in San Marcos, Texas, when she scored a career-high 15 points in the Cajuns’ 83-81, double-overtime win Jan, 31. That was a fun moment for the freshman because it happened 50 miles from home. “All my family was there and my old teammates,” Fields said.
The Ragin’ Cajuns (16-8, 8-7 in the Sun Belt) have a rematch against Texas State (15-9, 10-5) set for 5 p.m. Thursday at the Cajundome. Guards Jaylyn Gordon and Robbie Brown combined to score 40 points in that first meeting to help offset the 23 points that Texas State got from Erin Peoples. The Cajuns also managed a 55-41 rebounding edge against a team that features a 6-2 senior post player in Jacqueline Jeffcoat, who hauls down 6.6 rebounds a game. “They are bigger than us, but we are faster,” associate head coach Sallie Guillory said. “We said to the players, ‘Go get the ball!’ We did that, and we blocked out. We had a scoring drought (in that win), and we can’t have those droughts.”
For Fields and her teammates, finding another win against Texas State may come down to having a strong will. “Sometimes freshmen do hit a wall,” Guillory said. “I think Simone already hit her wall and crawled over it. Kids play a lot of minutes. It’s about who can finish and be mentally tough. You have to find a way.”