Nearly 500 LSU fans turned out Monday at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center to watch Kim Mulkey and her second edition run through their first official practice of the 2022-23 season.
LSU hosts Bellarmine on November 7 to tip-off the season. Additionally, the Tigers will host two exhibition games against Mississippi College on October 27 and Langston on November 3 with both exhibitions free to the public.
Before the practice, Mulkey held her first press conference of the season, expounding on the need for this new roster to find itself and create chemistry.
“Our theme for the year is ‘Piece it 2gether’ and the two obviously is signifying our second year at LSU,” Mulkey said. “We have a lot of talent on the floor, but we’ve got to piece it together. We have kids coming from other programs, high school kids stepping on campus for the first time, we have returning players who will have to play different roles. We have to piece it together and that takes time.”
Mulkey added nine elite players during the offseason.
LSU lost nearly 80% of its offensive production from last year’s 26-6 team that reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Guards Alexis Morris (15.0 ppg) and Ryann Payne (5.6 ppg) are the only returning players that averaged over five points per game a season ago.
Morris is the only returning starter.
Obviously, Mulkey’s second roster at LSU will look much different than her first season. The Tigers will look to replace to production of All-America guard Khayla Pointer as well as other starters Faustine Aifuwa, Jailin Cherry and Autumn Newby.
Mulkey led the greatest turnaround by a first-year head coach in SEC history and was named AP National Coach of the Year.
Forward Angel Reese (from Maryland), the top player in the transfer portal during the offseason and the top JUCO transfer in the country, Australian guard/forward Last-Tear Poa (from Northwest Florida State College), headline the nine roster additions.
LSU also added sharp-shooting guard Jasmine Carson (from West Virginia) and an established post player with SEC experience in LaDazhia Williams (from Missouri). Kateri Poole (from Ohio State), a former five-star prospect out of high school, rounds off the list of incoming transfers.
Poole has experience playing in a packed PMAC as she was on the Ohio State team that knocked LSU out of the NCAA Tournament.
Mulkey likened the NCAA transfer portal to free agency in Major League Baseball.
“Those guys have somebody assigned to that computer now, right? And every time somebody gets DFA, boom, you pick them up. Well that’s kind of what the transfer portal is,” Mulkey said.
“We stay on top of it and, certainly, it’s here to stay. We lost a tremendous class of seniors last year, and a lot of points, and a lot of production. And so we had to fill a lot of needs. And we did that through the high school signings, but the big thing is experience when you sign high school kids, is that they don’t have college experience.”
The freshmen class will also have an opportunity to prove themselves this season.
Flaujae Johnson, the No. 26 player according to ESPN’s HoopGurlz.com, is dynamic guard who can score at multiple levels. She’s also a rap star that has a record deal with Jay Z’s Roc Nation.
Sa’Myah Smith is the top player out of Dallas who led her talent-laden DeSoto High School team to back-to-back Texas 6A State Championships as a junior and senior. Alisa Williams, a top player from the Dallas area, is another solid signee and joins walk-on Izzy Besselman of Baton Rouge’s Episcopal High School.
“That’s why we need to build cohesiveness and ‘Piece it 2gether’,” Mulkey said.