During most of Head Coach Sue Gunter's 19-year tenure at LSU, the Lady Tigers have been a force both nationally and in the SEC. Under Coach Gunter, LSU has made 9 trips to the NCAA tournament, including an Elite 8 finish in 2000. Following 6 straight NCAA appearances in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Lady Tigers hit the skids, with 3 consecutive losing seasons capped by an abysmal 7-20 record in 1994-95. With her job in jeopardy, Coach Gunter turned to the junior college ranks and struck gold, bringing in a crop of five players, including First Team All-SEC players Elaine Powell and Pietra Gay. The Lady Tigers made a spectacular turnaround and were the invited bubble team to the NCAA selection show in1996, only to be snubbed on national TV when the NCAA didn't award their 21-11 with a tournament bid. Since then, LSU hasn't missed the post-season, with four NCAA appearances including two trips to the Sweet 16 and one to the Elite 8. Last year, led by First Team All-American Marie Ferdinand, the Lady Tigers lost in the second run to national runner-up Purdue.
Returning Players: LSU loses three starters, including their top two scorers, Ferdinand (21.1 ppg) and April Brown (11.3 ppg). Key players returning are the small but athletic senior center DeTrina White (9.5 ppg, 7.4 rpg), junior forward Ke-Ke Tardy (9.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg), junior point guard Kisha James (5.8 ppg, 2.5 apg) and sophomore twin guard/forwards Roneeka Hodges (8.4 ppg) and Doneeka Hodges (6.9 ppg). A key question for the Lady Tigers is the health of White, who was hampered during much of last season by back problems, but who is reportedly healthy now.
Incoming Players: LSU's incoming class is considered to be one of the top classes in the country, ranked #5 by the All-Star Girls Report. Headlining the group is 6'3 forward Aiysha Smith, who was named as a junior college All-American last year and who was named as an alternate to the USA's World University Games team. Smith, along with 6'3 freshman Tillie Willis and 6'1 freshman Wendlyn Jones, will add the height that LSU has lacked for the past couple of seasons. Coach Gunter hopes that another junior college transfer, Patty Hanten who averaged 18.1 ppg and 42.3% from 3-point range last year, will help bolster LSU's perimeter shooting, last year's other primary weakness. High school teammates Scholanda Dorrell, ranked as #9 guard by All-Star Girls Report, and Florence Williams, ranked as #7 high school forward by All-Star Girls Report, complete the incoming class.
Outlook: No single player is likely to replace the inimitable Ferdinand, who has moved on to make a splash in the WNBA. But Coach Gunter has done a good job of addressing LSU's weaknesses, bringing in more height in the post and a premier 3-point shooter. If the junior college transfers click, if White is healthy, and if the Hodges twins continue to improve, LSU could be a very formidable team, once again competing for one of the top four spots in the SEC. At worse, despite the loss of Ferdinand, is unlikely to fall below the middle of the SEC pack.