Cajuns women will have new faces, same philosophy next season _lowres

Advocate file photo by PAUL KIEU -- UL-Lafayette coach Garry Brodhead built a strong program with guard Kia Wilridge and her fellow seniors, and he hopes to continue the tradition next season.

LAFAYETTE — Although there will be a changing of the guard for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette women’s basketball program, some set-in-stone principles will remain in place.

A couple of days after the Cajuns completed a 25-10 season with a second straight Women’s Basketball Invitational title, the look toward the offseason contained a commitment to some basic ideas regarding the guard positions.

“I don’t know how much our philosophy is going to change. ... I think we are going to play small probably for a while,” Cajuns coach Garry Brodhead said. “I think guards win games on the women’s side. We have good guards, and that is what we are trying to bring in is those good guards who can not only score but defend.”

That effort might receive a boost next season in a potential return by guard Jaylyn Gordon, who missed the final 18 games after she was suspended for a violation of team rules.

“She is doing some things that I am very,proud of her for, so we are expecting her to come back and continue to help us win games,” Brodhead said. “That is where we are now. She has not been involved in any of our practices. But I expect that she continues to grow and do the things that we are asking her to do to be part of our program.”

Guard play was a big piece of the most-recent success. Seniors Keke Veal and Kia Wilridge combined for 49 points in the Cajuns’ 87-85 win over Weber State in the WBI championship.

Brodhead was glad to get those points in a high-scoring contest, but he does not envision the Cajuns making a practice of playing games in the mid-80s.

“With rule changes and everything that is involved in basketball today, it is all about scoring,” Brodhead said. “They want people to score 100 points, and I don’t think the game was made for that. That’s why you have offense and defense. For this group right here, they are just so hard-nosed. They bought in, and they knew from the beginning the type of defense we play and the type of philosophy we have would fit them. They knew they would be able to excel, and it started to show the last couple of years.”

Those past couple of years have produced the first back-to-back 20-win seasons in program history. With Wilridge, Veal and fellow seniors Brooklyn Arceneaux and Adrienne Prejean having put their hand prints on the foundation of the program, Brodhead acknowledged the challenge of trying to build upon that.

“When (those seniors) came in, we had some growth and all that,” Brodhead said. “We knew they were talented, and we went through this process. I think it’s going to be fun for us; this new process. You are bringing in new kids and new excitement to the program. We have some talent coming in, but it’s going to be the experience we are missing.”

That is where a summer can be a vital step as a bridge from this season to the next. For freshmen such as forward Jordan Alexander and center Breionne Cooper, the challenge is to learn from the grind of their first 35-game college season.

“All of the freshmen have to make sure they finish strong in the classroom in the spring, hit the weight room in the summer and become stronger,” Brodhead said. “It’s a long freshman year. They fought through it and there were a lot of ups and downs. But I think their mindset will be completely different after the summer and they understand it a little bit more.”