NSU women overcoming negative history in inspirational year

Hoskins’ balancing act
February 22, 2012
Super Cooper race set to help local infants
February 22, 2012
Hoskins’ balancing act
February 22, 2012
Super Cooper race set to help local infants
February 22, 2012

I handed Nicholls State junior forward Alisha Allen a single sheet of printer paper following a preseason practice in October.

I sat back and carefully observed her reaction.

“What is this?” Allen asked, clearly confused by the list she was now looking at.

“It’s the preseason conference rankings,” I answered back. “Look where you’re picked.”

Allen’s eyes patrolled the page north to south, her finger tracking the teams on the list.

“McNeese, Central Arkansas, San Antonio, Stephen F. Austin,” she whispered to herself, patrolling the 12-team spread. “Lamar, Northwestern, Sam Houston.”

She finally located Nicholls.

Her tone changed from friendly banter to more an angry scowl.

“This is where we are?” Allen rhetorically asked. “That’s beautiful. That’s exactly what I needed to hear.”

The Southland Conference’s Sports Information Directors apparently weren’t buying into the Colonels’ rebuilding process this preseason and picked the Colonels to finish 11th place in the 12-team league.

The league’s SIDs apparently believed Nicholls was still miles away from prominence and still had a couple more years as a league laughing stock before taking the elevator to the top of the pack.

Flash forward a couple months to the midway point of the season.

Who’s laughing now?

Nicholls is proving everyone wrong and is establishing themselves as one of the up and coming teams in the Southland Conference, currently fielding a 14-11 record, including a 7-5 mark within the conference.

To everyone else, it’s a surprising story.

Why wouldn’t it be? Nicholls hadn’t won 14 games combined in the past three seasons, having posted a woeful 13-70 record.

Don’t tell that to Allen and the rest of her team.

This fast start is exactly what they’ve been preparing for all along.

“We know we’re better than this,” she said on that particular preseason afternoon.

The reasons for the Colonels’ turnaround are so abundant that it’s not possible to list them all in one sitting.

They are also too many factors to accurately rank – things have just sort of fallen into place.

Colonels coach DoBee Plaisance and the team’s players tout that to be a result of faith and destiny.

Whether that is or isn’t the case remains unknown, but it’s safe to assume someone’s hands have touched this program in the past few years to help spark this turnaround.

Let’s start with Plaisance, a wise-minded basketball purist who is in her fourth year with the program.

Sure, anyone can coach X’s and O’s within a basketball program. Plaisance is no different, having the Colonels fully prepared before, during and even after games throughout the grind that is a 16-game conference schedule.

But what Plaisance has brought to the team is a vision – a long-term plan in which the Colonels aren’t cellar dwellers, but are instead among the elite in the conference.

With it, she also brought the patience and the savvy to see such a lofty process to its completion.

The coach admits there are tiring nights and lonely days where she wonders if her vision will ever be complete.

She admits doubt has crept into her mind at times, especially during three-straight losing seasons to begin her tenure with the team.

She’s the first to tell someone that doing something big is difficult at a place where things have only been done small for so long.

But four years into rebuilding, it’s easy to see Nicholls is headed in the right direction in its program restoration.

Flip from the coach and shift to the team’s players.

For one of the first time in program history, Nicholls has a plethora of talent to pool from on its roster.

They have guards – senior Sumar Leslie is among the top players in the entire Southland Conference – a sure favorite to be considered for the league’s player of the year award.

She scores, rebounds and distributes to her teammates. Defensively, she leads the conference in steals – a true warrior on the floor dedicated to doing whatever it takes to help her team win.

OK, I’ll go out on a limb and say it – she is THE best player in the conference.

Am I biased? Maybe.

That’s another story for another day.

Her running mate K.K. Babin isn’t too far behind, building on a solid freshman season with another gritty sophomore campaign.

This kid just seems to always be in position to make the big play late in the game. She was that way in high school. She remains that way now – a true clutch performer.

Shift to the wings and the Colonels have junior Alisha Allen, who recently scored her 1,000th points with the team.

Allen is a true hybrid guard/forward who has both the ability to post smaller players and drive by larger, slower players.

Defensively, she also gives the team the ability to guard either body types – a true luxury for Plaisance.

When she plays well, Nicholls almost always wins.

That trio makes up a sort-of big three for the Colonels.

Imagine that – a program that has never even had a big one before now has a big three.

Beyond the Colonels standouts, Nicholls also has true specialists – something they’ve never had in recent memory.

Freshman Jenny Nash, sophomore LiAnn McCarthy and senior Portia Washington are able to come in and shoot the 3-ball to stretch the floor.

Senior forward Jasmine Hoskins gives the Colonels force and muscle, a polished post presence the team lacks while waiting for younger posts like JonMarie Guillory, Erin Luton and Syleida Ellis develop.

With coaching and talent, the Colonels are also enjoying a little bit of good fortune.

Leslie is a transfer from ULM – where would the team be if not for her decision to return home to Thibodaux?

Likewise, where would the team be had balls not bounced their way a handful of times throughout the season?

Some may call it luck – the Colonels call it faith.

This humble sportswriter calls it a job well done – a true testament to the benefits of hard work and dedication.

These are the brightest rays of sunshine this program has seen in its long and tumultuous history.

With a little more seasoning and experience, the Colonels will be sitting at the pot of gold resting at the end of their long awaited rainbow.


No one has endured a darker rainstorm to get to that gold than you ladies have!