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UL head coach Garry Brodhead, center, is convinced his Ragin' Cajuns are ready to make a run at the Sun Belt Conference championship this season after having last year's run cut short by the coronavirus shutdown.

The offseason had gone better than really just about any program in the country.

UL coach Garry Brodhead’s women’s basketball squad hadn’t missed anyone for any practice sessions due to COVID-19 from the summer until November.

That recently changed, however. A positive test on the squad has forced a two-week quarantine.

Now Brodhead waits to see if the momentum for his highly motivated Ragin’ Cajuns slips at all in preparation for the new season opener against North Texas on Dec. 4.

“It could,” said Brodhead, whose Cajuns were picked to finish second in the Sun Belt West after going 19-12 last season. “I’m anxious to get back started. I’ve found over the years when we take a couple of days off, it kind of slows us down, so that’s a big concern of me.

“Everything was going so great. I felt like we were really ahead of the game. We’ll just have to work on ourselves again and try to get ourselves ready.”

Brodhead’s Cajuns thought they were headed to New Orleans for the Sun Belt Conference tournament’s final four in March when the coronavirus shutdown hit.

So it became a theme of "Unfinished Business" throughout the summer. Now the team has to remain patient yet again, not being allowed back to practice until the day after Thanksgiving.

The first two scheduled games against UNO on Nov. 25 and Loyola on Nov. 30 have been canceled.

Before the interruption, though, Brodhead was more than excited.

“I thought we were deep,” he said. “I thought defensively we were probably as good as we’ve been in the past. Offensively, it just looks like we’ve got more scoring. We’ve added some newcomers and that’s really help our athleticism, but it looks like most of the scoring will come from the returners.”

So even though the team is in quarantine, constant calls from the coaching staff to keep up have produced encouraging results.

“It seems like they’re more motivated than ever to get back,” Brodhead said.

Before leaving, the intrasquad scrimmages have been like nothing Brodhead’s seen in at least four seasons.

“Our scrimmages are so much better,” Brodhead said. “They’re just battling. Every one is a two- or four-point game, because both teams can guard.

“We don’t have any real weaknesses from anybody across the board on the defensive side. Usually we have to hide a couple of players. And we’re just athletic.”

Much of the scoring will come from seasoned veterans like junior Brandi Williams (11.7 points per game last year) and Ty’Reona Doucet (12.6 points, 7.6 rebounds).

Williams is looking to become a more consistent scoring threat as a junior.

"It’s not that she had a sophomore slump, but people really started guarding her," Brodhead said. "I think last year, she thought it was just going to carry over from her freshman year. She’s shooting it well. She’s stronger, in better shape and spending more time on her game."

But newcomers like Weatherford College junior transfer Destiny McAfee have looked promising.

“She’s the most athletic kid we’ve ever had,” Brodhead said. “It’s close, but I think Destiny is faster (than ex-UL star Kia Wilridge), I really do, and she’s bigger.

"Offensively, she’s got to get a little more comfortable. Defensively, on the ball, she can really guard. She’s very coachable. She wants to make sure she’s doing things exactly right."

Brodhead is also hoping for a boost from Lafayette Christian newcomers Tamera Johnson and Bre’ Porter.

“She can defend and she can rebound,” Brodhead said of Johnson. “She can guard inside or out.”

Unfortunately, Brodhead said the quarantine has negatively impacted Porter more than any player, but she’s expected to help in the paint defensively and on the boards.

“We’re hoping by the time she gets to conference that she’ll be ready to help us inside,” Brodhead said.


Email Kevin Foote at kfoote@theadvocate.com.