Making the Jump

Louisiana Tech was in a similar position twenty years ago. Behind Sheila Ethridge in the 1990-1991 season, The Lady Techsters finished 18-12 and lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

In the 1991-1992 season, things went about the same. Behind senior Shantel Hardison, who had missed the previous season, The Lady Techsters finished 20-10 and again lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

They had other players during that two year period. Daniel Whitehurst was the leading rebounder. Pam Thomas was the energy guard who also led the team in assists. Something was missing. The Techsters needed someone to put them back over the top. They had won the national championship behind point guard Teresa Weathersoon in 1988.

Enter the 1992 signing class. Raquel Spurlock, Vickie Johnson, Kendra Neal, and Debra Williams joined the party. The Techsters went 26-6 during the group's first year and The Lady Techsters went deeper into the NCAA tournament.

In the 1994 season, with the senior point guard Thomas joining the four dynamic sophomores, The Lady Techsters made it all the way back to the NCAA Championship Game. Johnson, like Weatherspoon, went on to be a WNBA All-Star with the New York Liberty. Spurlock was that inside force that every team needs to be able to compete in the paint.

The 1995 signing class included Monica Maxwell, LaQuan Stallworth, and Amanda Wilson. They were joined the next season by junior transfer Alisa Burras, a 6'3" center, and freshman point guard sensation Tamicha Jackson. Another junior college transfer, Betty Lennox joined the group the following season. The Lady Techsters were once again in the NCAA Championship Game in 1998. The following year, they made it to the Final Four for the last time.

What's it going to take for Louisiana Tech to get back to competing for NCAA Championships on a regular basis? Looking back twenty years ago, it started with a signing class. The 2011 signing class includes Kanedria Andrews and Whitney Frazier from El Dorado, AR; Courtney Hayes from Las Vegas, NV; Savanna Langston from Parkers Chapel High School in Arkansas, and Laura Owen from Benton, LA.

Teresa Weatherspoon, Tech's All-American point guard and 2010 Hall of Fame Inductee, has brought the Techsters back to the tournament as their head coach. They fell short against Rutgers in the first round this year, but the excitement that filled the CenturyTel Center in Bossier City showed that Tech fans can see it coming.

Speaking of Shreveport-Bossier, the area will be a key to the Lady Techsters continuing the uphill climb. Coach Weatherspoon is looking to build a fence around the region for recruiting. She signed Owen from Benton this year as well as three players from Southern Arkansas. Weatherspoon played for Tech alongside Erica Westbrooks from Camden, AR.

Another Benton standout, LuLu Perry, will be heavily recruited by several schools in the coming year. Morgan Rogers, from Loyola in Shreveport is a 6'3" center that will also be a prime target for some of the best women's teams in the country. These two players could be what The Lady Techsters need to get back to where they want to be. Similar to Tamicha Jackson and Alisa Burras joining the 1995 signing class a year later, Perry and Rogers paired with the 2011 class would make for a very talented lineup.

Regardless of what players sign with Coach Weatherspoon a year from now, Louisiana Tech is back on the scene in women's basketball. Tons of potential recruits will be vying for a possible position in the 2012 class. With that, The Lady Techsters will be back competing for trips to the Final Four and beyond soon enough.

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