One way to put the past behind you is to focus on the future.
For LSU Eunice head basketball coach Michael Bari, the 9-17 finish last season is now just a statistic.
Bari, entering his ninth season with the Lady Bengals, is excited about the new squad set to report to campus in just a couple of weeks.
“We tried to recruit kids that were competitive, teachable and coachable,” Bari said. “I am pleased about who we have on the team this season.
The LSUE basketball program is moving up to NJCAA Division I level, which allows the teams to offer better scholarships.
“The issue that is different between baseball and softball is recruiting is more competitive to land the top players,” Bari said.
“To be able to offer full scholarships is putting us on the same playing field as everyone else.”
Bari said LSUE doesn’t have the same allotment of scholarships as some other programs, “but we can still offer some quality scholarships.”
The Lady Bengals are also joining conference MissLou with a chance to capture a championship.
“We now have 12 competitive games that mean something,” he said. “We used to just play our schedule out in January and February in hopes of making the playoffs.”
The Lady Bengals will face Delgado, Southern-Shreveport, Baton Rouge Community College and Meridian Community College three times each in conference play.
Bari said the conference champion and the team with the best overall winning percentage will advance to the regional tournament at Mississippi College.
The Lady Bengals open the season Nov. 2-3 against Mountain View College in Dallas, Texas before playing Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in the first home game on Nov. 12.
“I think they will be able to learn, take direction and make the right decisions on the floor,” Bari said. “I think we can reach our goals of winning the conference and getting to the regional tournament.”
Thibodaux High’s Kelsey Thibodeaux (5.2 ppg) was the only returner from last year’s squad, but she injured her ACL and MCL during a summer workout session and will miss the season.
“It will be very competitive at practices but the cream will rise to the top,” Bari said of setting the starting five players.
“There will be no preconceived ideas and everyone starts on equal ground.”
The only sophomore will be Northwest Florida State College transfer point guard Elisavet Pitoloupou, originally from Athens, Greece.
“In the type of system that we run, the point guard is the most important person,” the coach said.
“Lisa is a pretty good all-around player,” Bari said. “She can score from the outside but can also get to the basket. She is a real slick ball handler.”
LSUE’s other point guard is Brooke Richard from Sulphur, who “defends well and has a great heart.”
Bari said he expects Richard to be one of the leaders of the team this season.
Bobbi Montibon moves from Hawaii to Eunice and should be a spark to LSUE’s offense.
”She can shoot from large range,” Bari said. “She has great speed, understands the sport well and she could make a huge difference on the court.
“She is a great kid, a great leader with great character.”
Taylor Hurd (Jinx, Okla) can play the 1 or the 2 guard, according to the coach.
“She is a great outside shooter and a good athlete,” the coach said of Hurd.
Meghan Cross, (Winwood, Wash.) shoots the perimeter well, but she can play inside and outside, the coach pointed out.
Taylor Perry (Derango, Col.) “is a great defensive player and rebounder,” Bari said. ‘She is an active post player and that is good in our system.”
Jordan Sweatt (Tomball, Texas) can get up and down the floor and is an offensive threat and a very good post player, according to the coach.
DeRidder’s Felishia Walters has good size (6-2) and is a good rebounder, the coach said.
Kate Faulk (North Vermilion) will be a valuable asset to the Lady Bengals because of her versatility, Bari commented.
Basile’s Chesley Dubroc is recovering from shoulder surgery but has the potential to become one of the better Lady Bengal players, Bari said.
“She can shoot the ball from the outside but very skilled inside,” the coach said. “She will be a good complement to some of the big kids we have.”
The coach describes Amber Hill (Redemptorist) as “a banger with a strong body who will be at the right place at the right time to score.”
Rhonda Nelson (Broadmoor) is a great perimeter shooter but played a lot inside for her high school team, according to the coach.
Brooke Richard (Sulphur) should be another asset for the Lady Bengals, especially on defense.
“She is a solid player that sees the floor well,” Bari said. “She is a very good defender who knows the game and should be a great leader on the court.”
Bari said there is one final offensive addition they are waiting for from California to complete the roster.
With the addition of the chair back seats in the gym and a designated locker room for the team, Bari said he is pleased with the improvements.
“The locker room was a big selling point to the kids as they visited,” Bari said. “They saw a room where they can study, hang-out and relax.”
Bari said he is ready to put the disappointments of last year behind him.
“We didn’t shoot the ball as well as I thought we would,” he said. “This year we should have shooters.
“We went through two rounds of losing players and the team was getting depleted,” Bari said. “I thought the kids who we finished with played real hard.
“My biggest disappointment is not the wins and losses,” he said. “It is what happened last year with the character of the group.
“I have always prided myself in having teams with character that we are very competitive on the floor.
“This may be the most talented team we have had here,” Bari said. “It should be fun for everyone. The question is can we get 13 freshmen and a kid from Greece all on the same page?”