FEINSWOG: LSU cashing in on Miami treasures

The LSU women's basketball team led visiting Georgia on Sunday afternoon by two points with 8:28 left when Florence Williams hit a wide-open 15-footer to make it 50-46.

Points were not flowing freely, because 2:04 later, she hit another wide-open shot and LSU's lead was 52-46.


One minute after that, Williams was left alone again and swished in another. The Lady Tigers led 54-46.

And with 4:01 to go, Williams, a fifth-year senior from Miami's Edison High School, found Sylvia Fowles, a sophomore from Miami's Edison High School, underneath for a basket that put LSU ahead by 10.


Thank-you, drive home safely, final score: LSU 68, Georgia 61.


This Miami thing can't be understated for LSU, whose women's basketball team also includes senior Scholanda Hoston, yet another product of Edison.


In 1983, the late Bob Brodhead, then the LSU athletic director with a remarkable talent for hiring coaches, raided the University of Miami baseball program and took an unknown assistant coach named Skip Bertman.

All he did was turn LSU's into the pre-eminent college baseball program in all the land, punctuated by five NCAA titles from 1991-2000.


He had players from Miami or surrounding areas like Rick Greene, Luis Garcia, Johnny Tellechia, Adrian Antonini and Tom Bernhardt. Two of his assistants, Dan Canevari and Turtle Thomas, are products of Miami, Canevari as a player and coach Thomas as a coach. Current Tiger Edgar Ramirez is from Miami.


Ricky Blanton, on the one of the most beloved LSU basketball players ever for his remarkable career in the late 1980s, is from Miami.


The LSU football program is currently loaded with Miami talent, from Ali Highsmith to Dwayne Bowe, but don't forget that QB Rohan Davey was from Miami.


But all that pales to what Miami has meant to the LSU women's basketball program.


It started with Marie Ferdinand, who came to LSU in 1997 and left as an All-American destined for a stellar career in the WNBA.


All the Miami/LSU kids seem to know each other and hang out together.


Williams knew Davey before LSU. Fowles said Bowe is like her big brother, although she's 6-6 and Bowe is only 6-3.


She laughed. "Well, he's like my little big brother."


Williams isn't surprised others from home have followed her.


"They know we have a good football program and a good women's basketball program," Williams said. "All our sports are doing very well so why not go where things are going well?"


She smiled.


"We're the hot city," Williams boasted, meaning Miami, not Baton Rouge.


"No question," assistant Bob Starkey said. "Florida's a hotbed in all sports."

None of that is lost on LSU head coach Pokey Chatman who, as an assistant, got things started by getting Ferdinand.


Chatman saw her play in a summer league game, made the connection and the pipeline was laid.


"Marie was the first and she had a great experience," Chatman said.


It didn't hurt any, Starkey pointed out, that Ferdinand was, for some reason, a huge LSU football fan.

Hey, whatever works in recruiting.


"Florida has a lot of quality players," Chatman said. "There are a lot of schools there that want them. It's only going to get tougher."


Any good college sports program has to do well in its own state, and LSU women's basketball certainly has. To wit, Seimone Augustus is from Baton Rouge. But a team also has to branch out nationally if it wants to contend for national titles.


"You have to own your state and you have to branch out to other places," Starkey said.

"We were fortunate that we could go to one city and do some one-stop shopping."


That's Miami nice, all right.


"For us to all be here," Fowles said, "is just a blessing for all of us."




Lee Feinswog is the author of "Tales From The LSU Sidelines," a Baton Rouge sportswriter and host of the television show Sports Monday. Reach him at (225) 926-3256 or lee@sportsbatonrouge.com. His newest book, "HoopDaddy" is available at www.HoopDaddy.net.

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