LaSondra Barrett, Swayze Black, Courtney Jones, Destini Hughes and Taylor Turnbow arrived at LSU on the heels of the school’s fifth straight trip to the Women’s Final Four, part of an eight-player recruiting class ranked among the nation’s best.
Combined, the five seniors have appeared in 428 games for LSU and made 193 starts in three years.
But they haven’t experienced the success of their predecessors, losing in the second round of the NCAA tournament as freshmen and sophomores and missing the Big Dance altogether, if only by the slimmest of margins, their junior year.
Now, as they prepare to help coach Nikki Caldwell begin a new era of LSU women’s basketball, they realize this is their last shot to get the program back on top.
“We take this season very personally,” Barrett said. “We want to have a new start to LSU women’s basketball and finish our career strong.”
Barrett and the other seniors have seen their ups and downs. They were originally recruited by Pokey Chatman. They signed with Van Chancellor, who coached them the past three years.
In April, Caldwell arrived.
One of her first priorities was to make sure she had the big senior class on board. She knew the Lady Tigers would never reach their potential without it.
“It starts with us leading the way, showing the way for the younger players,” Barrett said.
Caldwell proved at UCLA she could rebuild, taking the Bruins to the NCAA tournament in her second season and putting them in the top 10 a year later. She knows at LSU that she will only have to, as she put it, tap into the fight of a veteran nucleus.
The Lady Tigers return 10 letter-winners from last year, and they add McDonald’s All-American Krystal Forthan from Chancellor’s final recruiting class.
But if the Lady Tigers achieve the kind of success this season Caldwell said they can, you can bet the five seniors will lead the way.
Barrett, averaging 12.2 points and 6.2 rebounds for her career, returns after starting 83 games the past three seasons. Turnbow has blocked 81 shots in 56 starts. Jones, who has scored in double figures 17 times, had two double-doubles last year.
Black is arguably LSU’s best athlete, an explosive forward who must become more consistent. Hughes, who has made 25 career starts at point guard, is probably the team’s best one-on-one defender.
“I want to make sure right off the bat that our seniors understand they’ve got one more shot at this,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell throws out reminders constantly.
“This is your last first day of practice,” she told the seniors before Thursday’s workout.
More such landmarks await.
In November, the seniors will take the court for their last season opener. In January, they will play the first game of their last SEC schedule. In March, they hope to make one last run at their first Final Four.
“We’re willing to do whatever it takes our senior year,” Barrett said. “Whatever it takes to keep LSU women’s basketball rolling.”