The LSU women’s basketball team had T-shirts made this summer with the letters “NBA” on the front.
It’s not at all what you think.
“It stands for ‘No Babies Allowed,’ ” coach Nikki Caldwell said.
The reference is to the Lady Tigers’ schedule, especially the start of it.
Friday’s 11:30 a.m. season opener against Arkansas-Little Rock — the game will be a field trip for thousands of local school children — marks the first of five games in nine frenetic days for LSU.
The Lady Tigers also host Sam Houston State at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Jackson State on Monday, Tulane on Wednesday and Rutgers on Nov. 22.
“This is a very aggressive schedule and a very intense one,” Caldwell said. “But as I’ve said, if you poll student-athletes and ask them whether they want to practice or play, they’ll say they want to play. (The early schedule) has got that tournament feel.”
By tournament, LSU’s fourth-year coach is referring to a fourth straight trip to the NCAA tournament come March.
But that will be a challenging goal for a Lady Tigers team that lost three senior starters off the squad that last year made a second straight trip to the NCAA Sweet 16 and finished 21-13.
Adding to the personnel issues is the unknown surrounding junior Danielle Ballard.
The preseason All-Southeastern Conference guard missed LSU’s two exhibition games for a violation of unspecified team rules and remains indefinitely suspended. Ballard, LSU’s top returning scorer and rebounder with 10.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, is allowed to practice with the team during her suspension.
“There’s no update on Ballard,” Caldwell said Wednesday, “but I’ll tell you this group has done a nice job of focusing on the task at hand.”
Caldwell said she will go with the same starting five from LSU’s two exhibition wins over Loyola of New Orleans and Mississippi College.
Rina Hill, a 5-foot-7 sophomore will start at point guard and will be joined in the backcourt by 5-10 sophomore Raigyne Moncrief and 6-1 junior Anne Pedersen.
Ann Jones, a 6-3 junior transfer forward from Memphis and Akilah Bethel, a 6-0 junior transfer guard/forward from West Virginia, will replace departed All-SEC forward Theresa Plaisance and fellow senior Shanece McKinney in the post.