The time for asking “Will they be ready?” has come and gone.
Either the youngest women’s basketball team in the Southeastern Conference is ready for the season or it isn’t.
LSU did its best to acclimate the five new freshmen on the roster during the team’s trip to Italy this summer and the Lady Tigers hope this past Sunday’s exhibition — a dominating performance against Division II Mississippi College — was enough to work out any first-game jitters.
Either way, come 4 p.m. Friday, LSU has to put whatever it has on the court and hope for the best.
It would’ve been easier if coach Nikki Fargas hadn’t scheduled No. 23 South Florida on the road for the season opener, or No. 2 Texas two weeks later.
But the seventh-year coach didn’t want easy.
With five SEC schools ranked in the preseason Top 25, she wanted to throw her young players into the fire early.
“It’s going to be a great environment for those freshmen and our returning players to play in,” Fargas said. “It’s not one you want to say, ‘Hey, let’s get on the road our first game,’ but we’ve got to get familiar with that environment quickly because a couple weeks later we’re going to play on the road and we’re going to play against Texas.
“Yes, I am testing our team early. The non-conference schedule is set up for us to go through the SEC regular season and not just get our names called.”
Fargas didn’t announce her starting lineup for the season opener but said she’d like to stay relatively consistent throughout the year.
If the exhibition is any indication of who gets the nod Friday, junior forward Tatum Neubert and freshman point guard Jailin Cherry will start alongside the big three of Raigyne Louis, Ayana Mitchell and Chloe Jackson.
With three of the team's four upperclassmen, it’s likely the most experienced lineup LSU can put on the court. And Fargas previously said she won’t take both Louis and Jackson off the court at the same time.
Both players were listed on preseason award watch lists for the nation’s best small forward and shooting guard, respectively. Louis also was named to the preseason All-SEC team as the league's reigning Defensive Player of the Year.
But considering only one other team in the conference has so few juniors and seniors on its roster, the Lady Tigers will need their freshmen to step up at some point no matter who starts.
“The main objective is to get everybody ready,” Louis said. “Even though it’s probably my, I don’t know how many games (I've played), you still get the jitters and nerves out there. The game plan is to get everybody ready and know who to defend and how to defend these players.”