After transferring from West Virginia University following her sophomore season, senior forward Akilah Bethel settled into her new home and is a regular starter and key component on the LSU women’s basketball team. She looks to be a leader for the Lady Tigers and finish strong during her last season at LSU.
For Bethel, her collegiate career is all about change. Aside from making the more than 1,000 mile-long trip from Morgantown, West Virginia, to Baton Rouge, Bethel also changed positions on the court.
Bethel plays power forward for LSU after playing exclusively at the shooting guard position during high school and her time at West Virginia. She said she had to work hard to adjust to her new position, but it is ultimately more suitable for a player with her skill set.
“I’ve had to adapt, which made me versatile,” Bethel said. “Like [LSU] coach Nikki [Fargas] says, I can rebound the ball, and I can push it up [the court] myself with my guard skills.”
Off the court, Bethel adapted to Baton Rouge, and on the court, she garnered a greater amount of playing time. The idea of transferring to LSU came during her sophomore year at West Virginia.
Bethel’s Mountaineers took on the Lady Tigers, and LSU’s style of play caught her eye. She said she was looking for a school that would give her more playing time and more leeway to showcase her skills.
“I was amazed at how freely they played,” Bethel said. “They were really in a rhythm, and that attracted me.”
Bethel said she reached out to Fargas with the intention of joining the team. They discussed how she would best be utilized in her new position, and before long, Bethel made LSU her new home.
Fargas said the transition worked well for Bethel and the rest of the team. She praised Bethel’s effort in LSU’s 57-51 victory against the University of Arkansas at Little Rock on Nov. 18, marking the Lady Tigers’ first victory of the season on the road.
Bethel led LSU’s full court press in the second half and caused some key turnovers — deflecting a pass in the backcourt that resulted in a steal that forced Little Rock to commit two 10-second violations.
“She turned that game around for us,” Fargas said. “I like the fact that we have an athletic big that can get after guards and really disrupt them from a defensive standpoint.”
Aside from her coach, Bethel earned the respect of her teammates, who appreciate her competitive attitude during games. Junior forward Alexis Hyder said it’s important for the team to keep its energy up, and Bethel helps the cause.
“She has an attitude. Not in a bad manner, but she plays hard, and people know not to mess with her,” Hyder said. “And it spreads throughout the team, so she gives us a lot of energy.”