By Scott Mammoser
One of the most storied programs in the history of women’s basketball is Louisiana Tech. Winners of the inaugural NCAA Final Four in 1982, the Lady Techsters added a second national title in 1988. New this season in Ruston is former Washington Mystics forward LaSondra Barrett, who joins as an assistant coach.
Barrett, who is from Jackson, Miss., played for LSU from 2008 to 2012 and was named SEC Co-Freshman of the Year and first team All-SEC twice, averaging 12 points and six rebounds for her career. The Mystics selected her 10th overall in the 2012 WNBA Draft.
“I’ve learned a lot,” Barrett said of her young coaching career. “It’s good having a vision and being able to watch kids grow and how they transform. It’s a process, but we’re sticking to it, and I’m loving what I do. I went back to my alma mater, LSU, after playing overseas for a couple of years, and I got a liking to being back in the game and being around young athletes. I get to share my experience with them.”
After her return to Baton Rouge as a graduate assistant, she spent a season on the bench at Florida International University as an assistant, before a third stint last year at LSU as the director of player development. Still, she looks back on her playing days as her favorite memories.
“Even when we get back together, everybody has their own life,” Barrett said. “My senior year, because of injuries, I had to play the point guard, and those are things we laugh about now. We played against some of the top players, and I get to say I played with her or against her, and I think that is pretty cool.”
After her season with the Mystics, Barrett played one year in Israel and two in Australia, another unforgettable experience.
“It was probably the most fun I’ve had,” Barrett said of playing overseas. “I got to see a lot of cool places and meet a lot of cool people. The game of basketball does that to you; it takes you to places you would never imagine. I’m from Mississippi, and I never thought I’d be in Australia, playing for two years and pretty much living there for a year.”
Barrett also represented USA Basketball at the 2009 Under-19 World Championships in Bangkok, Thailand. The star-studded U.S. team defeated Spain for the gold medal, and that particular event returns to Bangkok this summer.
“Even looking at some of the girls who are playing now, like Skylar (Diggins-Smith) and Nneka Ogwumike, seeing the women they’ve become,” Barrett said of her teammates. “I remember when Skylar was in high school, and I was a freshman in college. That shows how much it opened my eyes that basketball has impacted the world to see all of these teams from all over the world. It showed me this game of basketball can take me anywhere I want to go.”
Now Barrett attempts to bring the Lady Techsters back to their glory days, consistently competing for deep NCAA Tournament runs and producing All-Americans. The team already has wins over Houston, Memphis and Alabama through the first month of the season, and senior guard Kierra Anthony was selected preseason All-Conference USA. Current head coach Brooke Stoehr is in her third season and played for the program as Brooke Lassiter from 1998 to 2002.
“We want to get to the Top 25, that’s our aspiration,” Barrett added. “We have the talent and the drive, it’s a matter of putting it together. We’re playing tough teams early, that way, when we get into our conference, we don’t have those top teams, but we can show that we went on the road and can compete.
“Recruiting is the biggest thing. Back in the day, they had the top kids in the area, and I think winning the conference and getting back to the NCAA Tournament, and as you saw last year, mid-majors created their own path. Central Michigan and Buffalo both made the Sweet 16. Once we get it back there, we’ll get it back and running.”