UL guard Brandi Williams (2), shown here during the WNIT last season, returns for her junior season with more athleticism.

It’s typically a term used to describe players, but UL women’s basketball coach Garry Brodhead is a gym rat, too.

He’s always really pumped up about the start of the college basketball season, but something is a little different one week into preseason practice.

For starters, it’s the first time he's began a season coaching the reigning Sun Belt Conference regular-season champions.

The bigger thing is the makeup of his new roster.

“It looks like this team is probably the hardest-working team we’ve had since we’ve been here,” Brodhead said. “That always excites me, the ability to work hard, the availability of being in practice and having the numbers we have with 16 kids.”

Brodhead said it’s a group that’s “always shaking their heads” up and down as he instructs them.

“They love to practice,” he said. “You don’t have to try to talk them into it. It’s ‘How do we do this?’ It’s got me really, really excited."

Leading that group is sophomore point guard and Alabama transfer Destiny Rice from Shreveport’s North Caddo.

“She’s almost identical to (former UL point guard) Jasmine Thomas,” Brodhead said. “She’s built strong and she loves to get to the rim. She likes contact, and she’s a leader, too. She’s just a born leader.”

Much of the last few seasons has been about finding a point guard since Thomas’ career was cut short due to repeated injuries. In addition to Rice, there’s also Old Dominion freshman transfer Lanay Wheaton.

“They’re both strong, tough, hard-nosed players,” Brodhead said.

So with more pure point-guard options on the roster this season, the staff’s biggest question mark is the inside game, especially on the boards.

Part of the team’s expected bulk — former St. Martinville and LCA standout Bre’ Porter — is no longer on the team. Sophomore Caira Wren returns to rebound and play defense at 5-10, and 6-1 freshman forward Lafaedria Green brings some size and moves to the paint.

But mostly, the Cajuns will be depending on senior forward Ty’Reona Doucet again. She elected to return for another season.

Doucet was hoping to be more of a forward, but will likely end up playing center.

“I like what I see from Ty a lot,” Brodhead said. “Not only is she the defensive player of the year but our leading scorer. I think she can bring more of that. Her shot has improved over the summer, and she’s improved in her ball handling and passing. I think we’re going to see some different things from Ty. Hopefully, we can keep her healthy.”

Brodhead said Doucet (10.9 points per game, 8.0 rebounds per game last season) had surgery in the offseason to correct groin issues, so he’s counting on a healthier season from the Ville Platte native.

Junior guard Brandi Williams also thought about leaving the program but returned. Brodhead is expecting big things from her after she averaged 11.9 points on 45.2% shooting from 3-point range last season.

“She came back and I’ve never seen her work this hard,” Brodhead said of Williams. “She wants to play at the next level. If you want to play at the next level, you’ve got to put in a lot more effort than normal. It’s not a normal person that can make it to the next level.

“She put in some time this summer. I’m very pleased with where she’s at. She put in some time this summer. I think her vertical increased by five inches.”

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