Last season, the LSU Lady Tigers were desperate to find guards to handle the ball after point guard Destini Hughes went down with a midseason knee injury at Tennessee.
This season, the guard position looks to be LSU’s strength.
As it did in its two exhibition victories, the Lady Tigers will likely trot out a three-guard, two-forward lineup for their season opener at 2 p.m. Sunday against Wichita State in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
So confident is second-year coach Nikki Caldwell in her team’s backcourt play that she and her staff have installed an entirely new offensive package designed to capitalize on her team’s surplus of backcourt players.
“We’re going to a different look because we have more guards who can handle the ball, coming off ball screens and back door people,” Caldwell explained.
Senior Bianca Lutley will likely be the designated point guard. She averaged 5.3 points 2.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game last season.
If Lutley can handle the ball effectively, the hope for LSU is that it will free up senior Adrienne Webb and junior Jeanne Kenney to score from the off guard positions.
Webb is the Lady Tigers’ top returning scorer with 9.9 points and 3.5 rebounds per game last season. Kenney, who prepped at St. Michael the Archangel, averaged 5.6 points and 2.8 assists last season despite battling injuries and having to handle a large share of the point guard duties after Hughes went out.
“I told Jeanne we’ve got to get her more shots,” Caldwell said. “We’ve got to make sure we move her off the ball. And we want to make sure she knows we are very conscious of the sacrifice she made for this team (last season).”
Redshirt freshman Anne Pedersen, a native of Copenhagen, Denmark, will finally see her first action as a Lady Tiger after sitting out her true freshman season with a knee injury. She will join a pair of true freshman guards coming off the bench: point guard Coco Baker from Helen Cox and Danielle Ballard.
If the Lady Tigers, who have only 10 players on their roster, are thin this year’s it’s in the frontcourt.
LSU will start big inside with 6-5 junior forward Theresa Plaisance and 6-4 junior center Shanece McKinney. Their only backups are 6-4 freshman center Derreyal “Tank” Youngblood of John Curtis and 6-2 sophomore Sheila Boykin.
LSU, which in March will host NCAA tournament first- and second-round games at the PMAC for the second straight year, will try to get back to the tournament after last year’s team reached the second round and finished with a 23-11 record.
They’ll do it without five seniors who have departed the scene, among them All-Southeastern Conference forward and leading scorer LaSondra Barrett.
“We need to really focus in on every possession and hopefully the outcome will be in our favor,” Caldwell said. “We have the tools, personnel and competitive spirit to get back there (to the NCAA tournament). Offensively, we need to share the basketball, take good shots and have a good turnover ratio.”
LSU opened the Caldwell era at Wichita State last season, coming away with a 64-56 in the first-ever meeting between the Lady Tigers and the Shockers.
Coach Jody Adams’ Wichita State team went 20-13 last season, reaching the WNIT. She and Caldwell were teammates at Tennessee.
“Jody Adams is one of the best in the business,” said Caldwell. “She is a very disciplined coach and they play very hard. She too was on that 1991 (Tennessee) championship team. She understands and knows what it takes to win, and she has that competitive drive that her teams display.”
NOTES: The game will be shown live on Cox Ch. 4 in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Lafayette and can be heard locally on 107.3 FM on the LSU Sports Network. Live streaming video is also available in the Geaux Zone of LSUSports.net. … Tickets are $6 for adults, $3 for children ages 3-12. … The PMAC ticket office and doors open at 1 p.m. … The first 1,000 fans in attendance will receive a free LSU mini basketball hoop.