Lady Toppers feel they’ve found missing piece


Junior center Jasmine Johnson (left) and the Lady Toppers are harping on a heightened sense of team chemistry entering the 2010-2011 season.

Cole Claybourn

Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles said something seemed to be missing from last year’s team.

When the close bond among the players during their spring and summer workouts became obvious, Cowles said she realized what the missing ingredient was from last season’s team: chemistry.

There was a reason the Lady Toppers felt like a change was needed, something senior forward Arnika Brown said was pretty simple.

“At some point, you get tired of losing to the Middle Tennessees and the same teams over and over again,” she said. “So we thought, ‘Let’s just do the little things that we have to do in order to win.’”

As a solution, players began planning weekly team get-togethers to eat, play board games or go to the movies.

Junior forward Jasmine Johnson said the main difference is the players simply want to be with each other off the court.

“Last year, I think we felt like we were demanded to do certain things, and if we didn’t we’d have to run,” she said. “So this year we just thought, ‘Why not do some fun stuff?’ Ever since the summer it’s just clicked, and we have fun.”

Cowles gave credit to WKU’s eight upperclassmen for taking the initiative to bring the Lady Toppers together.

“They spend so much time together as it is —traveling, playing and practicing together,” Cowles said. “To have a group of ladies who simply just want to be with each other because they like being around each other — those kinds of things make a huge difference when it comes time to compete on the basketball floor.

“What’s neat is that it’s not even a mandatory thing, but it’s a thing where everybody is talking about it, saying, ‘What night are we going to get together and do this?’”

As a go-to board game, the players all agreed on Taboo, a popular word-guessing game similar to Catch Phrase.

“We go crazy on Taboo,” Johnson said.

Brown jokingly labeled herself as the best Taboo player on the team but then admitted that title actually belongs to senior guard Amy McNear.

“She doesn’t know what she’s doing half the time,” McNear said of Brown. “It’s definitely me.”

Regardless, those simple games seem to be paying big dividends for the Lady Toppers so far this season. Johnson said she’s already noticed a drastic change in the team camaraderie from this time last year.

“We just know each other better than we did before,” Johnson said. “Even though our freshmen just came in July, we know our strengths and weaknesses and what the next person is going to do.

 “We just have each other down pat right now.”