Baton Rouge Community College women’s basketball coach Paula Lee revealed what appeared to be a running joke during last Thursday’s media day news conference.

“The one thing you can expect from the Lady Bears is that we’re going to defend and we’re going to run,” Lee said as she turned around to face BRCC’s 15-player squad positioned behind the lectern.

“And we’re going to run, and we’re going to run, and we’re going run.”

The refrain elicited a few laughs from the crowd. But the dedication to defense and fast-paced offense is no joke for a BRCC squad that features 11 players who are either true freshmen or freshmen in experience going into this Thursday’s home opener with Pearl River Community College.

Lee has brought a hard-nosed approach that includes 6 a.m. practices. This squad is quite different from the undersized BRCC team that finished 15-11 with a 7-2 Miss-Lou Conference record in Lee’s first season a year ago.

Among the freshmen for the Lady Bears are 6-foot-2 Keisha Toston of Lake Providence, 6-1 Ke’ra St. John of Winnfield and 6-2 Jamera Martin of New Orleans, 6-0 Desiree Savage of Block-Jonesville, along with former Jewel Sumner player Taliah Robertson (5-10).

“The team you see up here is a very young team,” Lee said. “These ladies are athletic and very talented.

“While we’re young, the beauty of this team is all these kids come from good programs. They know how to win. It’s just a matter of getting them to win at a different level.”

Sophomore point guard Quitesha “Bunny” Scott represents the opposite end of the spectrum, standing 5-1. Rhondalon Popularas (5-7) is another returnee. Also back is 5-7 Brittney Brown, a former Plaquemine High player who was part of the first BRCC team two years ago.

“It’s a different feel,” Popularas, a former Dutchtown High player, said. “We’re so young, and we have to be patient.

“But we’re very athletic and we’re fast. Everybody, even the big girls, have speed. So we’re going to be able to run the floor. And we’ll actually have a post game.”

The list of newcomers also includes some familiar names. Jacquiesha Spears (5-9) prepped at Glen Oaks, while 5-4 Courtney McMorris (Holden), 5-6 Whitney Williams (Amite) and 5-9 Jasmine Dudley (Springfield) all have local ties.

Having so many newcomers has brought an infusion of energy.

“I’m excited,” Robertson said. “I feel the environment we have is going to take us pretty far. The thing we have to do is work together as a team, and I believe we can do that.”

Lee is little more skeptical.

“We get in a drill setting, and we’re the best drill players you’ve ever seen,” Lee said. “When it’s time to carry it over to offense or defense, we revert back to some bad habits.

“But this morning, they were focused and it really looked like they were putting things together. I am excited about the effort.”

As she looked over at her players preparing to have a group picture taken, Lee couldn’t help smiling.

“I know it may take a little while,” Lee said. “Once this group gets a couple of games under their belt, I think they’ll be exciting to watch.”