Last year, a lot was asked of Khalya Pointer. As the Lady Tigers’ primary offensive threat, she averaged 32.7 minutes per game and could reach upwards of 40 on some nights when her team needed her offensive spark.
“Usually, I don’t mind,” Pointer says. “Sometimes, if I had to play 38-39, I’d be a little tired, but you know, whatever the team needs.”
You can’t argue with the results. Pointer averaged 14.8 PPG, 4.8 APG, 4.0 RPG, and 2.1 SPG en route to her first All-SEC selection. LSU posted their best win percentage since 2012 and would have gotten themselves into the NCAA tournament had COVID-19 not intervened.
With the graduation of Ayana Mitchell, LSU’s second leading scorer, it would seem like Pointer may be asked to do even more. But Head Coach Nikki Fargas believes the matter is a little more complicated than that.
“I hope we can get those minutes down for Khalya,” Fargas said. “But she showcased that she obviously could handle it. She finished top five in minutes played in our league, top five in scoring, top five in assist to turnover ratio, top five in assists. I think she’s somebody from a stamina standpoint, I would like to have her get some of those minutes off early first and second quarter so we can have her down the stretch. I don’t want her pacing herself.”
The good news for Fargas is she has guards that she can expect to hold roles of their own. Domonique Davis, Tiara Young and Jailin Cherry will lessen the burden for Pointer when she rests for those crucial minutes late in the game. Cherry played in all 30 games, averaging 5.8 PPG and 2.1 APG, while Young played in all but one, averaging 4.8 PPG and 1.3 APG.
Yet, there are other players emerging alongside Pointer. The team as a whole is shooting better from three-point land, hoping to improve from a .303 3P%. Pointer, Awa Trasi, a veteran forward, Sarah Shematsi, a talented transfer from France, and some of the young guards behind Pointer will be shooting a lot from the perimeter. However, the one name Fargas has put on watch is one that might surprise Tiger fans who knew the team well last year.
“Faustine Aifuwa,” Fargas said incredulously. “I know a lot of people are going to say ‘You gave Faustine Aifuwa the green light?’ Yes, I have. She’s worked extremely hard on coming down in that trail spot and knocking down the three.”
Aifuwa had attempted just one three point shot last season. Her dominance has always come from inside the paint and with her post offense, but as she looks to expand her game and make it to professional basketball, she knew her offense would have to add another dimension. Aifuwa may form a powerful duo with Pointer to lead LSU against formidable SEC opponents.
The Lady Tigers will open with BYU and West Virginia at the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout in Las Vegas on Nov. 27th and 28th. After a whirlwind offseason, and with much to prove and much more to be responsible for, Pointer thinks there’s a lot to be excited about with LSU’s start looming.
“This might be the biggest roster LSU has ever had,” Pointer said. “We have 17 players. So the practice atmosphere is really different. There’s so much energy, with our freshmen, our returners, our JUCO transfers. It is just so many different people, but we have a lot of depth this year. We have a lot of players that can do a lot of things.”
While Pointer demonstrated last season she could be the Superwoman when her team needed her to be, she may not have to anymore with the emergence of her teammates as key contributors. The responsibility won’t fall on any one player, and that’s exactly how this team wants to play.