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LSU head women's basketball coach Nikki Fargas, left, gives players instructions as Khayla Pointer (3), right, listens during practice on LSU Basketball Media Day Tuesday.

Advocate Staff Photo by PATRICK DENNIS

For Khayla Pointer, Friday night wasn’t just the first game of her college career.

That would’ve been easy to deal with.

But just six days earlier, as the Lady Tigers prepared for their season opener at South Florida on Friday night, the freshman point guard got the news: her father was dead.

He never saw her play a college game.

Pointer could have sat out the trip to South Florida. LSU coach Nikki Fargas — Pointer’s aunt on her mother’s side — would’ve understood.

But Pointer knew that’s not what her father would’ve wanted. He wouldn’t have wanted her to miss a game.

She won’t.

“She’s been a strong young lady,” Fargas said. “She’s handling the loss of her father as well as anyone can. The team has wrapped their arms around her, as well as other members of our staff and fans. She’s going to play for her father. When asked if this is something she wanted to do this weekend, she said ‘This is what he would want me to do.’ We’re going to be fully supportive of her being with us.”

Pointer wasn’t available for interviews this week, but she made the trip to Tampa and played 26 minutes, second-most on the team. She scored two points and had four assists, a block and a steal.

On Saturday, she and Fargas traveled together to Memphis for the funeral and will return in time for Sunday’s 2 p.m. home opener against Southeastern Louisiana, team spokesperson Judy Wilson said.

Pointer's teammates rallied behind her during the past week, making sure she was OK and taking her out to eat when they could.

Senior Raigyne Louis said she’s never had a teammate go through something like that, but there’s a certain level of respect that comes from teammates when a player chooses to play during a time like this.

“It shows her strength. I don’t think I could would have such strength,” Louis said. “To lose your father that you were so close to — it wasn’t like it was expected or he was sick. It happened unexpectedly. Just something that for Kayla to go through that and be here today and be developing and scoring the basketball, just amazing strength.”

LSU to retire Sylvia Fowles jersey

There will be no more No. 34s in the LSU women’s basketball program.

Before Sunday’s home opener, the Lady Tigers will retire former LSU great Sylvia Fowles’ No. 34 jersey and raise it to the rafters of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

Fowles will also be recognized at halftime with her LSU teammates who went to there consecutive Final Fours in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

Fowles and her teammates were also recognized on the field during Saturday’s LSU football game.

Since her time in Baton Rouge, Fowles has won two WNBA Championships, including this year’s title, and is the reigning league MVP. She’s also a four-time WNBA All Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year.

“It’s more than her just being a great basketball player,” Fargas said. “She’s a great person. You can see that in how she conducts herself and how she behaves and how she gives of herself and her time. This is just a small way for us to say thank you for your contribution to the women’s game and especially to LSU.”

Follow Mike Gegenheimer on Twitter, @Mike_Gegs.