Lady Topper basketball underway with first practice

Junior guard Bianca McGee, left, runs past sophomore guard Danay Fothergill to shoot the ball during the first practice of the season Monday, Oct. 1, 2012 at the practice gymnasium inside E.A. Diddle Arena.

Natalie Hayden

WKU began its 2012-2013 basketball season Monday night with its first practice.

In a rule change implemented three years ago, teams are allowed to hold 30 practices beginning 40 days prior to their first regular season game.

“I was really impressed with the intensity of the girls and how hard we worked,” coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. “This is one of the days I’ve been dreaming for.”

This year is Heard’s first year coaching the Lady Toppers. The former WKU player replaced Mary Taylor Cowles, who was fired after a 9-21 season in 2011-2012.

The team returns just five players from that team. Two signed with WKU last fall, and another four came on board after Heard’s hire.

One of last year’s fall signees, freshman guard Micah Jones, described her new coach as “intense.”

“She doesn’t settle for anything less than the best and she’s going to tell you straight up what you’re doing wrong and what you’re doing right,” Jones said.

For their first practice, the team focused on drills that worked on offensive motion, Heard said.

“We definitely got better,” sophomore guard Alexis Govan said. “Things that weren’t really here at the beginning when we came back in September, I saw changes in everybody. Everybody’s game has gotten better.”

Heard graduated from WKU in 1990, where she was part of four NCAA Tournament teams. 

She was head coach for two years at Kentucky State and spent five years as an assistant coach at Louisville, where she helped coach the Cardinals to an appearance in the 1992 national championship game.

She said she’s glad to be back at WKU and is excited about the team’s first practice and what lies ahead for them the rest of the season.

“We talked about energy, passion and getting better at the things we know we’re good at,” Heard said. “Today was a one day stepping stone.

“We want to continue to grow as a unit. We’re getting to the point where we learn to compete every day, every second.”

The Lady Toppers will join the men’s team on Oct. 12 for Hilltopper Hysteria. The event will be held at Diddle Arena at 6 p.m.

WKU will play a home exhibition game at 6 p.m. on Nov. 2 against Harding University.