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UL women's basketball coach Garry Brodhead endured a lot of losses last season, but he's confident the lessons learned will prevent another repeat disappointment during the 2020 season.

(Editor's Note: By all standards, the 2018-19 athletic school year was a disappointing one for many UL programs. This is the second of a 10-part series that reviews the previous season in each sport and previews the prospects for the coming school year.)

The 2017-18 UL Ragin’ Cajuns women’s basketball team did have a winning season at 17-16, 5-13 to secure the program’s first four-year winning streak ever, but it was a step behind the previous three seasons.

A year later, the Cajuns dipped to 7-23 — the exact record UL was the year before coach Garry Brodhead’s arrival and worse than the 10-21 showing in his first rebuilding season.

“Last season was hard for a lot of girls to understand,” Brodhead said. “We had the talent, but not the experience.”

Add the injuries and the result was a season Brodhead and his Cajuns can’t wait to forget.

But it doesn’t do much good to confront Brodhead with such negativity. He’s too excited about the prospects for next season to be too downtrodden with the review of last season.

“I’m very excited about next season,” he said. “These girls want to work. If they didn’t want to work after the season we had last year, then I’d be worried. But I’m not worried at all.”

There are many reasons to believe the Cajuns will improve dramatically in the 2019-20 season, at least according to Brodhead’s plan.

Last year’s team had no seniors. Only 6-1 center Kendall Bess will be a senior this season.

Last year’s squad played all season without its floor leader in point guard Jasmine Thomas and its top defender in forward Kimberly Burton. Both are expected back this season.

“Kim is fine,” Brodhead said. “She’s 120 percent ready.

“Jasmine is a lot better. She’s getting close. I’ve been pushing for her to get in condition. I told her not to try to be ready to play for the season, but to try and be ready to play for the summer.”

Another big reason he wants Thomas ready to go is the team will be leaving for Cuba on Aug. 3 to practice and play three games.

“I’m very excited about that trip,” Brodhead said. “It’s something that’s always helped the men. It gives the kids a chance to play together and bond. It really helps the team chemistry.”

With Thomas not available last season, the Cajuns struggled to fill the point guard role. Many tried, but no one consistently succeeded.

Two young point guards have been added to the fold in Red River product Makayia Hallmon of Coushatta and St. Louis High product Alex Goodly of Lake Charles.

“Hallmon can really defend,” Brodhead said. “I think both can help us next year. We’ll definitely have more depth at the point.”

That will allow more offensive minded performers like junior Jomyra Mathis and sophomores Andrea Cournoyer and Diamond Morrison, as well as junior Skyler Goodwin, to shed their point guard duties and concentrate more on their areas of strength.

More consistent point guard play should also benefit sophomore guard Brandi Williams, who shined through the team’s overall struggles last season with averages of 12.8 points, 3.6 rebounds and an 87.9 percent showing at the free throw line.

“Brandi can shoot it and she’s a better athlete than people realize,” Brodhead said. “She’s just so coachable. She played hard and really wants to do what it takes to improve.”

The frontcourt is also filled with possibilities. Until a late-season injury derailed her a bit, junior forward Ty Doucet’s season was  encouraging, averaging 13.2 points and 8.3 rebounds a game.

Not having enough depth in the low post wore her down, however. Bess finally appeared to overcome her injury by the stretch drive and gives Brodhead a double post threat.

“That was our plan last year,” he said. “We thought she’d be ready for December, but it took a while longer than we thought it would. I think she (Bess) really showed progress by the end of the season. She got her confidence back. She’s really one of the more natural basketball players we have. She understands the game.”

The third freshman newcomer — 5-11 forward Caira Wren from McKinley in Baton Rouge — sounds like a clone of Burton with her aggressive, physical defensive game.

That depth is another reason for Brodhead’s optimism, offering him the ability to utilize full-court pressure a lot more next season.

“With all the injuries and inexperience, we were just very limited last year,” Brodhead said. “I’m really looking forward to teaching them how to run and jump. I really think that’s going to create more offense for us.”

To further illustrate the determination of this team after last year’s season, the entire coaching staff returns in tact and the only player that left was guard Caroline Rivera, who is transferring to a Division II school.

“I like the makeup of our team,” UL athletic director Bryan Maggard said. “There’s a good talent base and they’re young. (Brodhead is) another coach who gets very frustrated when things don’t work out after all the hard work being put in. But I’m real excited about this upcoming season because I like the makeup and talent on this team. I have high expectations, as does he for this next season.

“We’ve got to stay healthy, but at the same time, if we have some bumps and bruises, which we’re going to have, we’ve got to make sure that we’re winning the games we’re supposed to win.”


SEE THE FULL SERIES

Bob Marlin, staff counting heavily on newcomers to improve Cajuns defensively and in Sun Belt race

Garry Brodhead points to healthier, more aggressive approach producing big dividends next season

Billy Napier finally able to sleep some after witnessing football program's progress in second spring

Softball was UL's best team in 2018-19, but no coach more upset than Gerry Glasco

New UL soccer coach Lance Key solely focused on program's future

Coach Lon Badeaux confident new track game plan will have Cajuns contending for Sun Belt crowns again

Robichaux hoping 2020 baseball season's puzzle fits together far better than this year

Influx of talent has Cajun tennis thinking big again in next year's Sun Belt race

Volleyball coach Mazeitis-Fontenot develops plans to rebound in style on, off the court


Follow Kevin Foote on Twitter, @FooteNote.