Oct. 6, 2010
RUSTON - Thanks to a new rule implemented by the NCAA this year, women's college basketball teams around the country are starting practice earlier than ever before and Louisiana Tech joined the fracas Monday when the Lady Techsters held their first official team work-out of the fall.
Head coach Teresa Weatherspoon's team is coming off a successful season that saw the program record 23 wins, capture the Western Athletic Conference Tournament title and advance to the program's 26th NCAA Tournament - its first since 2006.
Weatherspoon said she hopes her team will capitalize on the experience of last year's late season run and postseason appearance.
"Hopefully last season's success built some confidence and gave our kids an idea of what it takes to accomplish their goals," said Weatherspoon, who enters her third season with an overall mark of 32-11. "Hopefully, it built a hunger in each player to get back (to the NCAA Tournament). We don't want to fall off the ladder, but instead continue to build. This year sets up big for us with the first and second rounds (of the NCAA Tournament) in Bossier City. However, we have to handle our business in order to get there."
Tech, which is slated to play its first exhibition game on Nov. 2 against Arkansas-Monticello, has eight battle-tested letterwinners returning led by two-time first team all-conference selection Adrienne Johnson.
Gone is two-time WAC Player of the Year Shanavia Dowdell, who led LA Tech in scoring and rebounding the past two years.
Johnson, who averaged 16.0 points and 7.2 rebounds per game last season, is looking to become the first Lady Techster since Kodak All-American Tamicha Jackson to earn first team all-league honors three straight years.
"Adrienne is on a mission this year," Weatherspoon said. "The one thing that she wants to do is put this team on her shoulders. It's something we don't want her to do, but she is capable of doing it. She has truly changed her game during her career, playing with her back to the basket, facing the rim and stretching defenses. She has gotten better at handling the ball and can play the three though the five positions. With that type of versatility, she will really be able to put other teams at a disadvantage."
Tech also returns five other players who have collegiate starts under the belts, including senior guard Whitney Jones, senior guard/forward Tarkeisha Wysinger-Mackey, senior guard Brietta Thomas and junior guard Jasmine Bendolph.
With an influx of talented newcomers including forward Shantale Bramble-Donaldson, guard Jelena Vucinic, guard Brittany Hardy, guard Angie Felton and guard Kassietta Brown, Weatherspoon said the individual work-outs that the players have been participating in the past few weeks are invaluable.
"The individual workouts are the best thing we have," said Weatherspoon, who was named the Maggie Dixon Rookie Coach of the Year by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) following last year. "It allows the players to understand what we want from them. You can now bring that right into the practice plan. You just want them to grasp it immediately. You have to do a good job of teaching, and they have to pick it up quickly."
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