Lady Topper hoops holds first practice

Kyle Williams

The Lady Toppers laced up their sneakers and hit the hardwood for the first basketball practice of the 2013-14 season last Monday in Diddle Arena.

WKU finished last year with a 22-11 record and a brief stint in the 2013 Women’s National Invitation Tournament. The Lady Toppers accrued 13 more wins in the 2012-13 season than the season prior — the first under coach Michelle Clark-Heard — and hold the record for largest single-season improvement in Sun Belt Conference history.

Heard, who was named the 2013 Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year, said the Lady Toppers coming off an impressive season have high ambitions for this year.

“The expectations are going to be there,” Clark-Heard said. “I think we just want to focus on us and continue to keep getting better and just work hard each and every day.”

The Lady Toppers welcome back all five starters from last season, including junior guard Alexis Govan. The San Antonio native was the third highest scoring sophomore in the nation last season at 20.3 points per contest. Govan was a member of the 2013 Sun Belt All-Conference First Team, and her 20.3 points per game average ranks fourth most in program history.

The 5’10” sharpshooter said the Lady Toppers are focusing on putting in the necessary practice time as the upcoming season looms.

“We expect to come out here and work every day,” Govan said. “Every game, you have to compete. That’s one of the main goals — to compete every time we step on the floor.”

Junior forward Chastity Gooch also returns. She was second in the nation in double-doubles last season with 26. Gooch was named the 2013 Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year and is the only Lady Topper to record at least 400 points, 300 rebounds, 50 steals and 50 blocks during a single season.

Gooch, who is used to being the primary post player for the Lady Toppers, said her post game will be amplified by 6’3” freshman forward Bria Gaines and 6’4” freshman center Ruta Savickaite.

“They have a lot of potential,” Gooch said. “Bria — she’s a beast down there. Then Ruta, she can shoot the ball as well…they’ll be very helpful for this team.”

Govan and Gooch are coming off strong sophomore seasons in which they combined for 36.5 points and 17.2 rebounds per game. However, the Lady Toppers have many other offensive and defensive threats that are more than capable of helping carry the load this upcoming season.

Senior guard Bianca McGee, who has shared the court with current WNBA player and former Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins in her AAU days, averaged 12.5 points per game in 24 games last season. Senior guard Chaney Means started 29 games last season and played in all 33, averaging 4.2 points and 3.3 rebounds a game while recording a team-high 70 assists.

Heard said she’s excited about the chance to continue coaching the Lady Toppers, who have been competing hard early on during practice.  

“The competition is what’s been really good,” she said. “That’s why we’re really excited about the opportunity to get the girls together so they can continue to keep meshing.”