WKU recruits ‘encouraged’ by Lady Tops’ tourney run

Cole Claybourn

The Lady Toppers’ troublesome regular season didn’t go unnoticed by their recruits.

But neither did their unlikely run through the Sun Belt Conference Tournament that left them one win away from the NCAA tournament.

That run, plus a renewed mindset by the Lady Toppers, has the 2011 recruiting class excited about next season.

 Danay Fothergill, a Pulaski Southwestern High School guard and WKU signee, said when she watched the Lady Toppers in the Sun Belt tournament, she saw a different team than what she saw during the season — a team that was having fun.

“This season, I think they struggled with that,” Fothergill said. “As that grew on, they started to just have fun and work hard. It’s encouraging knowing that I’m going into an atmosphere with a bunch of girls that I know are going to play hard and have fun.”

The Lady Toppers finished the season 12-16, and it was their first losing year since the 1981-1982 season.

But once the Sun Belt tournament started, Fothergill said she also saw a team that knew how to respond under pressure and win when it needed to.

WKU didn’t win more than two games in a row during the regular season but won three games in three days to advance to the finals of the conference tournament, narrowly losing to Arkansas-Little Rock.

“It’s encouraging,” Fothergill said. “Now going into it, I know they’re going to want to win. They played hard because they knew it was crunch time. “

Stevens High School (Texas) product Alexis Govan said that same winning mentality is what has her excited for next season.

“I like to win and hate to lose,” she said. “Losing isn’t an option in my mind. So seeing how they finished — it really motivated me to get in there and work even harder so I can be ready to help them next year.”

Liberty Christian High School (Texas) recruit Summer Fife admitted it was hard to watch her future team struggle to a losing record. So when WKU made its postseason run, Fife said she was elated.

“I never doubted them, but it was kind of discouraging,” she said. “But next year is a whole different year. It’s new players, and everyone will get better over time. I’m not worrying at all.”

Fife will bring her own winning ways to the team. Her high school team won the Texas Private and Parochial school state championship earlier this month. Fife’s 19 points in the championship game earned her a spot on the all-tournament team.

She said she sees the same capability in the other three recruits — Govan, Fothergill, and Franklin-Simpson High School’s Chastity Gooch.

“I have really high expectations,” Fife said. “I really think the freshmen that are coming in are going to be really good. And I know the juniors that are going to be seniors are really good, so I don’t have any doubts on how well we’ll do.”

Govan said she plans to pick up right where the Lady Toppers left off last season but will take it a step further.

“All of the incoming freshmen have a background of winning,” she said. “In my mind, we can take the Sun Belt with what we have and what’s coming in. We can get to the NCAA tournament and make a dent in there.”