Theresa Plaisance is making a name for herself

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNISLSU's Theresa Plaisance is fouled while shooting by Mississippi State's Martha Alwal in the second half of LSU's 62-42 win in January at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNISLSU's Theresa Plaisance is fouled while shooting by Mississippi State's Martha Alwal in the second half of LSU's 62-42 win in January at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

By her rough estimate, Theresa Plaisance got more than 1,000 recruiting letters from schools all over the country.

Not one came from her mother, DoBee Plaisance, the women’s basketball coach at Nicholls State.

By her tongue-in-cheek estimate, DoBee Plaisance figures her team could have won three Southland Conference titles with Theresa on the team.

She would have loved to have coached her daughter. But true love sometimes is loving someone enough to let them go.

“I feel so close to Theresa,” Plaisance said. “We have such a close relationship I can’t describe it. But I just said I felt it would be in her best interests to play for someone other than Mom. She needed to hear it from someone else, not just the basketball piece, but about making the right choices.”

The right choice for Theresa Plaisance was to go play for a big-time program like LSU.

Finally, after two seasons of averaging about nine role-playing minutes per game, DoBee Plaisance’s daughter has finally come into her own.

It would be easy to call Theresa Plaisance an overnight success, the way she went from averaging 4.5 points and 1.9 rebounds as a sophomore to being one of the premier players in the Southeastern Conference as a junior. Going into Thursday’s game at Missouri (8 p.m., FSN), Plaisance leads the SEC with 17.6 points and 3.1 blocks per game and is seventh in rebounding (8.0).

But the overnight success story is a myth. Truth is, Plaisance always had an array of versatile talent draped across her 6-foot-5 frame.

As a young girl, she won four straight local NFL Punt, Pass and Kick competitions. As a college player, she’s played all five positions.

But it took work to become an All-SEC caliber player. Work and toughness.

“I worked with LaSondra Barrett a lot here when she was working out for the WNBA,” Plaisance said. “I also got in the gym with Anne (Pedersen) a lot and got up like 700 shots a day.

“Hard work really does pay off. I guess I’m a testament to that, because this is the hardest I’ve ever worked in my whole life.”

Then there were practically daily admonishments from her mom to be tougher so she could go sneaker-to-sneaker with some of the most-talented post players in the nation.

“Having a skill package is one thing,” DoBee Plaisance said. “But you have to have that grit and toughness, mentally and physically. I knew she possessed those qualities, but they weren’t dominant until this year. I credit coach (Nikki) Caldwell and her staff for bringing them out full bloom.”

Caldwell said Plaisance’s improvement came down to a personal choice to significantly improve.

“She’s always been that player who had greatness in her,” Caldwell said. “She made the choice every day through practice and preparation to get herself to this point.

“She also saw an opportunity. We graduated four post players who ate up a lot of minutes last year. She knew this year and next year were her time. She’s definitely seized the moment.”

Plaisance has been consistently excellent, scoring in double figures in 24 straight games after getting eight points in LSU’s opener against Wichita State — though that night she grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds.

In replacing the departed Barrett as LSU’s go-to offensive force, Plaisance has grown in Caldwell’s estimation into being a player worthy of being mentioned with such low post stars as Baylor’s Brittney Griner and Connecticut’s Stefanie Dolson.

“Theresa is she’s a very unselfish player,” Caldwell said. “She’s a great teammate, one of the funniest kids on our team. She’s a joy to coach.”

Coming off a 14-point, seven-rebound, three-block performance Sunday in LSU’s 63-41 win at Mississippi State — a game in which Plaisance once brought the ball downcourt like an economy-sized point guard and drilled a top-of-the-key 3-pointer — Plaisance will again have to be on her game for LSU (15-10, 6-6 SEC) to pull off a road win at Missouri.

Mizzou (15-11, 4-8) has lost three straight, including a 61-56 home defeat to Mississippi State, but before that the Tigers handed Tennessee its only SEC loss by a shocking 80-61 score.

The key for LSU will be to defend the perimeter, likely pulling Plaisance and the Lady Tigers out of their preferred 2-3 zone.

Mizzou leads the SEC and ranks seventh nationally with 8.4 3-pointers per game. The aptly named Morgan Eye, a 5-9 sophomore guard, leads the SEC in 3-point shooting percentage (41.0) and is second nationally with 3.69 3-pointers per game.