LSU’s Plaisance and Kenney reflect on the journey

LSU seniors Theresa Plaisance and Jeanne Kenney have been friends and teammates for more than half their lives.

Kenney, a prep star at St. Michael the Archangel in Baton Rouge, has been a three-year starter and coach on the court under Nikki Caldwell.

Plaisance, a New Orleans native who prepped at Vandebilt Catholic in Houma, has transformed herself from a benchwarmer to just the 13th two-time All-Southeastern Conference player in program history.

As they prepared for the final homestand of their Lady Tiger careers — LSU opens the NCAA women’s tournament Sunday against Georgia Tech — they sat down with The Advocate to talk about their journey.

Q: When did you two first meet?

Plaisance: We were about 10 or 11, and we were in this really hot gym that was the home gym of my AAU team. A couple of days before, I heard somebody was going to come in to help me out, someone who could score some. I was like, “All right, we’ll see how this goes.” So this little bitty thing walks into the gym and I’m like, “This is our savior who’s about to save our team?” Jeanne was like this big — this little bitty twig. I was like, “Come on, this can’t be the kid.” But then she came in and we clicked right away.

Kenney: I passed her the ball.

Q: So how tall was Theresa (now 6-foot-5) back then?

Kenney (to Plaisance): You weren’t 6-feet then. You were 10. You weren’t 6-foot.

Q: Did you two start becoming friends then?

Plaisance: We just instantly clicked. Jeanne and I spent all of our time with each other. We really didn’t get sick of each other. Every camp we went to, almost every weekend we stayed at each other’s house. If we were in Baton Rouge, I was at her house. If we were in New Orleans, she was staying at my house. We were like sisters, basically, during the summer. It was weird playing against her during the high school year.

Q: Did you influence each other when it came to deciding to attend LSU?

Kenney: Not at all.

Plaisance: There were only two schools that we (both) had in our top five that were the same. We had this talk when we were in eighth grade …

Kenney: It was our first elite camp.

Plaisance: We were all starry-eyed about going to college. We were like, “Yeah, we’re going to go to college together.” But as we got older we were like, “Uh, if we don’t go to college together, it’s OK.” It just so happens we both signed here.

Kenney: She committed first.

Q: Jeanne, you strongly considered going to DePaul. What made you decide to play for the hometown school?

Kenney: My parents didn’t force me, but they said, “You’re four minutes away; you’re going on the visit.” So I was like, “OK, I’ll keep an open mind.” I fell in love with it. The atmosphere has always been part of my life. I fell in love with the traditions and the program, and I wanted to be a part of it.

Q: What do you hope your legacies will be when you are done playing here?

Plaisance: I just want our legacy to be that we never gave up. We had to battle our way through a lot of things, and we’re going to have to battle again. I don’t want to go out without every ounce of energy and effort left on the court. That’s what I want people to remember about our senior class.

Kenney: I’m just glad that I got to be part of something special. To witness this crazy one get her 1,000 points and 500 rebounds, I’m glad to be a part of that. The legacy I hope I left is that hard work pays off.

Q: Speaking of that, how proud are you of Theresa to develop into the player she’s become?

Kenney: If you really think about it, freshman year, she didn’t get in a lot at all. Her sophomore year, we had a stacked group of post players. So for her to accomplish 1,000 points and 500 rebounds in basically two years is pretty impressive. She had a standout junior season, and we needed her to. It gives me chills to think what it could have been if she could have had those four years. But to accomplish what she’s done is an amazing feat. She put her name in the books.

Plaisance: I just want to go on the record by saying probably half my points came off Jeanne’s assists. A lot of things I really couldn’t do without Jeanne. There’s a lot of times we’ve been through together. We had to cry our way out of things. We’ve stuck together through a lot, and I’m glad I got to spend my four years with Jeanne. I honestly couldn’t imagine my college career without her. It’s weird to think about next year not waking up to Jeanne in the kitchen.

Q: Are you thinking about a pro career at all, playing overseas?

Kenney: No, I’m done.

Q: You’ll be a graduate assistant somewhere?

Kenney: That’s the plan.

Q: Will Jeanne be the head coach at LSU one day?

Plaisance: She very well could be. And I’ll gladly be her assistant. Jeanne is a great basketball mind. She knows X’s and O’s. She makes play calls with or without Coach’s approval. I think Jeanne will definitely take the reins of some program and evolve into something great.

Q: Would you like to come back here one day as the coach?

Kenney: I don’t know. I’ve learned through the years that anytime you plan something, it never goes according to plan. So just kind of one step at a time, working on my (graduate assistant) spot, then go from there. If it happens, it happens.

Q: Theresa, certainly you hope to get drafted in the WNBA this spring, then play overseas?

Plaisance: That’s the hope. I’d really like to play basketball for a bit longer. It beats getting a real job. I still have a love for the game that I’m not willing to let go. I want to see how far my basketball career can take me.