Faith inspiring Nicholls State’s women’s basketball push

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Faith is believing in that which you cannot see.

With a long history of losing basketball and a reputation for annually being near the bottom of the Southland Conference standings, the Nicholls State women’s basketball program lacked this powerful five-letter word when head coach DoBee Plaisance took over the program in May 2008.

Now, more than four years later, the Colonels are blossoming from a caterpillar into a butterfly – right before everyone’s eyes.

And it is that same faith that is now the leading source of fuel for the team’s turnaround.

“Praise God, it really looks like it’s starting to evolve,” Plaisance said last week from the seat of her office desk inside Stopher Gymnasium. “And it’s been a labor of love, I can promise you – a true labor of love.”

Step away from the big picture for a second and let’s focus on Plaisance – the visionary for the program’s Renaissance.

The Nicholls State women’s basketball coach is a winner – straight up. Facts speak for themselves, there is no way that one can deny it. Plaisance has won at every level of basketball that she’s coached.

Prior to arriving in Thibodaux, Plaisance had a long, successful 13-year career at Loyola – a run that annually saw her teams win more than 20 games and push deep into the NAIA Women’s Basketball National Championship Tournament.

While coaching at the small, New Orleans-based school, Plaisance’s teams eclipsed program records for wins in a season (28). They also obtained the highest national NAIA ranking in the school’s history (No. 15).

Prior to spearheading the Wolfpack’s program, Plaisance dominated the Louisiana high-school scene, winning back-to-back state championships in 1993 and 1994 with St. Martin Episcopal High School in Metairie. Her program posted a combined 70-4 record in that dominant span.

So when the Colonels announced Plaisance’s hire four and a half years ago, it seemed like it’d be a grand slam home run on paper.

But everyone involved would admit it’s taken a lot of work and dedication to get the program turned around.

Oh yeah, a little bit of that faith we mentioned earlier has helped, too.

For as intense a competitor as she is, the Nicholls’ women’s basketball coach is one of the most spiritual people one could ever meet.

She has motivational quotes and spiritual sayings plastered across her office walls and desk. Aside from these wisdom-filled words are other relics she’s collected in the past, be it a newspaper clipping of a previous victory or photos of her beloved children – LSU standout forward Theresa Plaisance and soon-to-be highly recruited prospect Country Day junior Scott Plaisance.

Through all of this inspiration, Coach Plaisance has developed an innate thirst for success and a pure hunger for victory and conquering challenges. She really does believe everything is possible through her beliefs and faith.

Those sentiments were surely tested when she moved from Loyola to Thibodaux.

There was not a bigger challenge in women’s college basketball than the Colonels’ women’s program in May 2008.

It was time for faith to be laid into action.

As soon as she took over the Colonels’ program, Plaisance immediately started proclaiming a vision for the program – one which Nicholls would shake its losing ways, overcome adversity and reach the top.

To the outsider looking in, Plaisance probably was told she was crazy on multiple occasions, but she never wavered and pushed forward.

She recruited players that were previously considered “out of Nicholls’ league” and sold this same vision – one where a player could create her own legacy instead of repaving a path laid by another.

Some players scoffed and headed toward bigger, more historically successful schools.

Others bought in and made Plaisance’s vision their own.

They are the meat of the team’s current success.

These are players like standout senior Alisha Allen, who was Plaisance’s first major get.

A 5-foot, 11-inch forward, Allen received offers from a lot of schools in Texas, but chose the Colonels because of the opportunity to be a part of something great.

“Alisha Allen was my first verbal commitment ever in life,” Plaisance said with a laugh. “At Loyola, we didn’t get early scholarships, so she was my first. She came in and a lot was put on her, but she’s been magnificent.”

A year after Allen’s arrival, Plaisance loaded up again, hauling in prominent players like LiAnn McCarthy from Ursuline Academy and KK Babin from St. Michael the Archangel.

The team then dipped into the local fountain and got transfer and former Vandebilt Catholic standout Sumar Leslie, who transferred from UL-Monroe to Thibodaux.

Like Allen, all three players had opportunities to play for more established programs.

They didn’t.

They wanted to be a part of Nicholls’ rebuilding.

“These players bought into my vision of what could happen here,” Plaisance said. “They had no knowledge that things were going to change. They had absolutely nothing to go on except my vision. They just believed.

“They just had faith.”

The early years of Plaisance’s Nicholls run were true tests to that faith.

The Colonels won just two games in Plaisance’s inaugural season and then three games in year two.

“Those were hard days,” Allen said. “Playing as hard as you can and still losing – it’s not fun. But we just never gave up and we always kept the faith.”

Then, the winds of change started to blow through the program.

The Colonels found more success in year three and won eight games. That number would have probably been larger had Leslie not sustained a broken hand mid-way through the team’s season.

Last year, the Colonels pushed the number up to 15 wins and won the program’s first-ever Southland Conference Tournament game.

Right now, Nicholls is 6-2 and appears to be a real contender to win the Southland Conference Championship.

Always a coach, Plaisance said the team has earned its record, despite committing too many turnovers and allowing too many rebounds.

“It’s a good day when Nicholls State can not be playing its best and still winning,” Plaisance said. “Because I promise you there were days when we were playing great basketball and losing.”

For their successes, the Colonels are currently receiving votes in the website’s Women’s Basketball Mid-Major Top 25 poll.

Plaisance acknowledges pride with the honor – even though she doesn’t believe her mission is yet complete.

“We’re going to crack into that national Top 25 someday – you watch,” Plaisance said with a laugh.

She has faith it will happen – sooner, rather than later, too.

It’d take a brave soul to doubt her.

Just look at how far they’ve come so far – all through faith.