Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- LSU women's basketball coach Nikki Caldwell speaks on basketball media day Wednesday. Caldwell said the Lady Tigers trained with the Marines as they try to take the next step.

The time to beat was 2 minutes, 20 seconds.

That was how long it took LSU baseball players to push a Humvee 100 yards during a Marine-styled combat fitness test this summer.

Before her players and coaches started pushing, Caldwell laid out the challenge for them.

“I brought the team together and said, ‘We can’t lose to baseball,’” Caldwell recalled Tuesday during LSU basketball media day. “‘We don’t play them, but this is competition.’

“We pushed that Humvee about 50 yards, and I want to tell you we were about to stop, but we kept digging. All we wanted to know was our time.”

The time: 1:58.

“Everyone went crazy,” Caldwell said.

One team-building drill isn’t going to drive the Lady Tigers to another Southeastern Conference title or back to the Women’s Final Four this season.

But after losing three senior starters from last year’s team, Caldwell has tried to hammer home to this team that they must all pull together to achieve any measure of success.

“We trained harder, we came together more as a team, and we did the unthinkable when training with the Marines,” Caldwell said. “We just wanted to take the next step in getting this team to the next level — which our ultimate goal year in and year out is to compete for not only an SEC championship but an NCAA championship.

“We have a great nucleus that is returning. With the addition of the newcomers, we expect nothing but greatness from our team this year.”

Caldwell has 12 available players on her fourth LSU team — a 13th, North Texas transfer forward Alexis Hyder can practice but not play in 2014-15 — giving her a chance to employ more of a pressing, full-court style for perhaps the first time in her LSU tenure.

The Lady Tigers will be led by junior guard Danielle Ballard, who averaged an incredible 23.3 points and 14.0 rebounds during LSU’s three-game NCAA tournament run to the Sweet 16 in March.

Despite that eye-popping play, Ballard insisted she wants to cooperate, not dominate, within the framework of this year’s team.

“Last year is last year,” Ballard said. “We have some awesome players coming in this season. We have to play as a team.

“It isn’t my team.”

As much as anyone, Caldwell plans to hand the running of the team to sophomore point guard Rina Hill.

The daughter of an American father and Japanese mother, Hill is considered to be the first Japanese-born women’s basketball player in Southeastern Conference history. Having learned at the feet of former LSU senior guard Jeanne Kenney, Hill said she will try to force herself to be the vocal leader the Lady Tigers need from the point position.

“I’m not a very vocal person,” Hill said. “But I’m trying to get out of my comfort zone so I can do more for the team.”

Replacing 6-foot-4 Theresa Plaisance, a two-time All-SEC selection, and 6-5 center Shanece McKinney will likely be 6-3 freshman Alliyah Fareo from Australia and 6-0 junior Akilah Bethel, a transfer from West Virginia.

“I’m trying to work hard to give coach Nikki what she needs from me,” Bethel said.

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