Jeanne Kenney’s career at LSU over following concussion

Jeanne Kenney knew the deal even before her senior season began.

One more concussion, whenever it came, would force the end of her LSU basketball career.

Kenney suffered that concussion Tuesday in LSU’s 76-67 NCAA tournament second-round victory over West Virginia.

So while the Lady Tigers are playing in the Sweet 16, Kenney won’t be.

LSU coach Nikki Caldwell announced Thursday that the senior guard from St. Michael the Archangel has been ruled out of action for the remainder of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.

Kenney has had three or four previous concussions, Caldwell said, and the possibility of her suffering another one was too great a risk to allow her to continue playing.

LSU plays at 1:30 p.m. CDT Sunday at Louisville in a regional semifinal game on ESPN2.

“If it had been her first one I’d say we’d go day by day,” Caldwell said. “But we knew all season long if she had another one, or was symptomatic of another one, that would be it.

“If she’s symptomatic she’s even more at risk.”

Caldwell said Kenney will be allowed to travel with the team to Louisville, Ky., for LSU’s second straight Sweet 16 appearance.

A three-year starter, Kenney is LSU’s second-leading scorer this season with 11.3 points per game. She also leads the Lady Tigers in 3-pointers (71 of 181), free-throw shooting (91.5 percent) and assists (3.5 per game).

“Jeanne Kenney has meant so much to the legacy of our program,” Caldwell said.

“She’s going to be remembered. The relationships she’s built with her teammates and her underclassmen are going to carry us through.”

Kenney left midway through the first half of the West Virginia game and headed to the locker room to be examined during a media time out at the 7:38 mark.

She never returned to the court, finishing with just two points.

Kenney hasn’t spoken to the media since, but issued a statement through LSU afterward.

“I’m so proud of heart, fight, courage and determination shown by my teammates” Tuesday night, Kenney said. “Forever LSU.”

Kenney was also badly injured in last year’s NCAA tournament.

She suffered a concussion late in LSU’s first-round win in freak collision with teammate Adrienne Webb, sidelining her for the Lady Tigers’ second-round upset of Penn State.

Kenney later said she has no memory of the injury.

She returned for LSU’s loss to California in the Spokane Regional semifinal, starting the game wearing a face guard.

“She’s had high spirits,” said Theresa Plaisance, Kenney’s long-time friend and fellow senior. “She’s been pretty positive and very excited for the team and for the underclassmen stepping up.”

LSU (21-12), the No. 7 seed in the Louisville Regional, will have just eight players available Sunday from an original roster of 11 when it faces No. 3 Louisville (32-4).

Sophomore center Derreyal Youngblood was suspended from the team before the NCAA tournament began. Then freshman guard Raigyne Moncrief suffered a tournament-ending knee injury in LSU’s 98-78 first-round win over Georgia Tech.

Caldwell said Moncrief’s left knee will require surgery but she expects she will be ready for the start of the 2014-15 season.

Caldwell said she was eager for her remaining players to have closure regarding Kenney’s availability. She informed them of Kenney’s status at practice Thursday, LSU’s last before heading to Louisville on Friday.

“I want the team to be ready,” Caldwell said, “not focused on whether Jeanne is back or coming back.”

Without Kenney and Moncrief, LSU’s fourth-leading scorer with 10.1 points per game, the Lady Tigers’ starting backcourt will include Danielle Ballard and DaShawn Harden and either Rina Hill, Jasmine Rhodes or Sheila Boykin.

Ballard was the start of LSU’s first two NCAA wins, averaging 23 points and 16 rebounds per game.

Caldwell said she was leaning to starting Rhodes. She played well as Kenney’s primary replacement against West Virginia, scoring 11 points in 20 minutes.

“I got in and knew something had to happen,” Rhodes said, “so I did my best to do my part.”

Hill has started eight games and would give LSU an extra ball handler.

“The freshman, like Rina Hill, started a few games early in the season, so it wasn’t a shock that she played well (Tuesday) night,” Harden said.

“We’re used to being in tough situations.”

The injury not only means an end to Kenney’s LSU career but likely her basketball career overall.

Before the NCAA tournament, Kenney said she didn’t plan on playing professionally but would like to begin a coaching career as a graduate assistant.

Now that chapter will begin sooner than Kenney planned.

“She’s going to be our assistant coach,” Caldwell said. “She’s been that throughout the whole year. She’s been that extension of our staff. Now she’s going to have to play a different role, but we’re still going to need her mentality and her voice to be heard in the huddles.”