Compared to the end of last season, the scene inside the LSU Lady Tigers’ practice gym was a crowded house Wednesday.
LSU coach Nikki Caldwell has 12 players, 13 including forward Alexis Hyder, who is sitting out this season after transferring from North Texas.
The Lady Tigers had just eight players by the time they bowed out of the NCAA tournament’s round of 16 last year at Louisville after a string of injuries and a suspension, the second straight year LSU found itself wearing thin.
There may a hole in terms of departed senior leadership — All-Southeastern Conference forward Theresa Plaisance, Jeanne Kenney and Shanece McKinney combined for 34.1 points and 16.3 rebounds per game — but there are at least plenty of pieces to help Caldwell figure out her team’s 2014-15 puzzle.
“Everyone has the responsibility of scoring, but also defending,” Caldwell said. “We’ll be quicker, faster and more mobile.”
A guard-heavy roster will allow the Lady Tigers to be more adept at pushing the tempo and playing full-court defense.
Caldwell said her team is ready to run after a second straight offseason of Marine-supervised drills.
“This has been our best offseason in terms of training and conditioning. I’m excited about our summer workouts,” Caldwell said.
“We want to make sure we don’t leave a man behind. All for one and one for all.”
LSU’s seven returning letter-winners from last year’s 21-13 team are headlined by junior guard Danielle Ballard — the Lady Tigers’ top returning scorer and rebounder with 10.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game — and sophomore guard Raigyne Moncrief.
Moncrief suffered an NCAA tournament-ending knee injury during LSU’s first-round win over Georgia Tech in March, but she practiced Wednesday.
Caldwell said Moncrief will alternate practice and rest days for the time being.
LSU lost assistant coach Angel Elderkin last week when she took the head coaching position at Appalachian State.
Caldwell said she has no immediate plans to replace Elderkin, shifting some responsibilities among returning assistants Tony Perotti and Tasha Butts.
Former LSU point guard Destini Hughes has returned as a graduate assistant, while former All-SEC LSU forward LaSondra Barrett is working as a volunteer coach until she becomes a graduate assistant in the spring.
The Lady Tigers will join the men’s basketball for Bayou Madness activities on Oct. 17. LSU opens its exhibition schedule Nov. 5 against Loyola of New Orleans and the regular season Nov. 14 against Arkansas-Little Rock.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.