Constance Quinn sits, fidgeting in a chair and scrolling through her iPhone while her basketball coach, Nikki Fargas, addresses a small group of reporters on a recent Wednesday morning.
Across campus, another coach, softball’s Beth Torina, awaits Quinn — a returning 60-game starter from her team looking to defend a Women’s College World Series berth — for a team meeting.
It was Torina who brought a daunting query to Quinn’s attention in mid-December.
Her team decimated with injuries and down at some points to seven healthy bodies, Fargas pleaded with Torina, LSU gymnastics coach D-D Breaux and LSU volleyball coach Fran Flory at an all-staff meeting to search their teams for anyone with basketball talent.
Torina had a few. Six-foot-two-inch pitcher Carley Hoover once played, named to the all-region team as a freshman at D.W. Daniel High School in South Carolina. So did Shemiah Sanchez at Georgia’s East Coweta High School, though convincing an out-of-state freshman to give up her winter break was difficult.
“But I think Connie is one of our best athletes,” Torina said. “I love watching her on the basketball court, she’s so fast. She may not have the whole scheme or skill down, but she looks athletic out there, and she’s a special athlete.”
So after pondering the decision, praying and consulting with her parents, Quinn joined the LSU women’s basketball team, becoming the first two-sport player of Fargas’ playing or coaching career.
Quinn, a point guard at Oak Grove High School, had two tryouts and a few practices to get acclimated before travelling to Rutgers and UConn on Dec. 19-21.
She saw her first game action against Rutgers, playing three minutes and recording an assist before being admittedly starstruck at UConn, where she played nine minutes and pulled down a rebound.
She averages six minutes per game for the short-handed Lady Tigers, and though she’s yet to score a basket, Quinn’s brought a trait not seen from many teammates this season.
“She’s been extremely helpful in a lot of different ways that aren’t necessarily going to show up in a box score,” Fargas said. “I was very excited about the fact that she would bring a toughness to our team that we were missing. We’re missing a little toughness, Rina Hill brings it, but Connie also brings it.”
That tenacity began with hesitation. Initially, Quinn said she didn’t want to jeopardize her softball season, so she avoided driving into a clogged lane for layups for fear of injury.
But Torina calmed Quinn’s trepidation, explaining that injury can happen anywhere. She could turn an ankle walking to class or suffer a similar injury in softball practice.
“I realized I wasn’t doing any good by being passive, so over time, I got rid of that fear and just went with it,” Quinn said. “It took a lot of relief off that my softball coach was OK with it, and she was stating the fact that you can get hurt doing anything, so that was what gave me confidence to just push forward.”
That led to a situation in practice a few weeks ago where Quinn drove the lane, and Fargas thought she tweaked an ankle. Immediately, Fargas told Quinn she was done for the day.
Quinn refused, staying in.
“There’s a level of stubbornness in her,” Fargas said. “But demanding excellence from her is something we continue to do. I don’t want to waste her time. I don’t want to waste Beth’s time by not pushing her and making sure that she’s excelling, even if it’s in another sport. Her being a leader, her being vocal, her being a part of our team, helping our team get better.”
Fargas ended her session with reporters on that Wednesday morning. She and Quinn sat, detailing the next week’s plans. Quinn’s days are numbered with the team as school begins again and softball demands become more vigorous.
Then, she heads for the team meeting. It’s commonplace. Since softball resumed preseason work after the break, Quinn has split her days with practices for both sports. The two programs share a strength coach, so Torina knows they’re managing her well.
“She’s in really good shape,” Torina says. “I keep asking if she’s tired and she says no.”
It’s a routine few can fathom.
“She makes it look easy,” Lady Tiger forward Ann Jones said. “That takes toughness and heart, and that describes Connie. She’s a tough young lady, and it’s awesome to have her around. I couldn’t imagine doing both, but she’s perfect for it.”