Young and energetic

LSU enjoyed its most successful run in the history of the women's basketball program after five consecutive final fours. But second-year head coach Van Chancellor will have his work cut out for him in making it six in a row after losing all five starters from last year's squad.

“I sure am glad that I came up here and we had this press conference after five practices because before we were practicing I didn’t feel very good about our team,” Chancellor said at media day on Tuesday. “We were young and inexperienced but after five practices I really like our team.”


Not only did Chancellor lose his entire starting five from a year ago, but he also lost six other seniors, and has a squad made up of seven freshmen, three sophomores and four juniors.


Among those players that Chancellor must replace is Sylvia Fowles, who owns several school records and is the most decorated center to ever play for the Lady Tigers.


“You cannot replace a kid that shoots 55 percent for a four-year period,” said Chancellor. “We have better shooters at other positions so what we’re going to do is change our offense a little bit. We’re going to adjust it. We’re going to run our same basic plays, but we’re going to run them different ways and allow our five players to face the basket. We’ll play a more of an open post.”


Chancellor still hasn’t figured out who will replace Fowles in the middle but one candidate is Ayana Dunning, who was a McDonald’s All-American during her senior year at Columbus (Ohio) Eastmoor.


The post position is not the only spot that the headman is still undecided on though, as only one player has locked down a starting position.


“Our best starting five is Allison Hightower and four more,” said Chancellor. “Yesterday we started 1-five and then in Canada we started 1-five. Yesterday I made up my mind that this was the five and I put it all down in purple and I have three new purples today.


“It may be different tomorrow but I know one thing and that is Hightower will start,” added Chancellor. “If I had five I’d tell you right now. We probably will play more players than I ever played in my career because we will probably change the starting lineup more times than I ever changed it.”


With all of the new faces, Chancellor needs someone to step up and be a leader on and off the court. Although Hightower is only a junior and has averaged just under 20 minutes and 6.6 points a game over her career, she is the one who will fill that role.


“She’s been beyond anything I ever expected,” said Chancellor. “She’s our best weightlifter. She’s our best player to run at 6 o’clock in the morning. She’s our best practice player, not in terms of how good she is, but in terms of how hard she works. She has really endorsed this.”


The 5-10 junior guard from Arlington, Texas will also have an added responsibility on the court this year.


In the past, Hightower was good at taking a defender off the dribble and was one of LSU’s best outside shooters, knocking down 37.4 percent from 3-point land. Chancellor hopes that she continues to knock down the 3-ball and he also hopes she is a little more vocal now that this is her team.


“We’ve asked her to call more plays,” said Chancellor. “We’ve asked her to run our team like she’s a point guard. She’s stepped up and beyond my wildest dreams has exceeded my expectations.”


LSU was not a strong outside shooting team in Chancellor’s first year but he set out to change that when he hit the recruiting trail. He landed one of the country's top classes and brought in a couple of young ladies that will give Hightower a little bit of help at knocking down some jumpers.


“Andrea Kelly is a pure shooter and a great shooter,” said Chancellor. “Courtney Jones is a great shooter too. Those two kids can really shoot the ball. Allison is not as great a shooter as those two are but she is a better scorer.”


Chancellor may face one of the biggest challenges in his 30 years of coaching on the college and professional level. His team is young and it has a schedule that includes nine teams who reached the NCAA Tournament last season.


It may be a tough task, but its one that Chancellor is eager to tackle.


“I really enjoy coaching this team,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun. I thought at one time we were kind of rebuilding because of losing so many players and having so many young players. But they want to learn and they are doing a heck of a job.”


LSU will open the season on Nov. 16 at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center when the Lady Tigers take on Notre Dame in the State Farm Tip-Off Classic.



Season Tickets On Sale


Season tickets for both the women’s and men’s basketball teams remain on sale at the LSU Athletics’ Ticket Office starting at $95 for the women and a special 100th anniversary price of $100 for the men’s basketball team.

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