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New athlete finds home, comfort with Cajuns

New athlete finds home, comfort with Cajuns

New athlete finds home, comfort with Cajuns

McCants joins fourth college in four years in coming to UL.

Bruce Brown

About Elaine McCants

Position: Point Guard

Nickname: E, Easy

Hometown: Boston

Favorite Music Group: 2 Pac

Interest/Hobbies: Basketball

Favorite Movie: Dirty Dancing

Favorite Sports Team: 1998 Chicago Bulls

Favorite Athlete: Michael Jordan

Favorite Actor: Julia Roberts

Personal Goals: Graduate

Thousands of students, from college to grade school, have been sent scrambling by Hurricane Katrina, suddenly in search of a new school after being uprooted by the storm.

Minus the catastrophic weather factor, Elaine McCants can relate to that feeling.

The Boston native attended Providence, then Xavier of Ohio and then spent last year at Chipola Junior College before arriving at the University of Louisiana, ready to add savvy and skill to the backcourt for Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajun women’s basketball team.

"I’m the new kid on campus every year," McCants said at Earl K. Long Gym.

"It was tough last year in JUCO. I never thought I’d play for a junior college. It was a poor decision, I guess."

The 5-foot-6 junior also attended two high schools in three years, so she could hold a seminar on fitting in with new surroundings.

"I only played basketball my first two years of high school," McCants said. "Boston is very bad for high school competition. Fortunately, I was on a good AAU team that went to a lot of Nike invitational tournaments."

After McCants went to Chipola, she sought advice from a trusted source for her next opportunity and found an unexpected connection to UL coach J. Kelley Hall.

"I wasn’t thinking about coming here," McCants said. "I was thinking about Michigan State, or maybe Kentucky. But then I talked to my coach at Xavier (Kevin McGuff), who is coach Hall’s best friend. He’s a real good guy, and he told me about coach Hall."

"Kevin was the best man in my wedding," Hall said. "His assistant, Mike Bradbury, was in the wedding, too."

"Once I talked with coach McGuff, coach Hall didn’t really have to tell me much," McCants said.

Hall could have mentioned how open people are in south Louisiana, but that became quickly apparent just the same.

"I’ve been surprised at how nice people are here," McCants said. "They make you feel welcome. And the (UL) teachers make themselves available, whether you’re an athlete or not. It’s a big campus, but everyone has been friendly.

"We’ve had two long weekends, and I told my mom that I went to a party that’s the best I’ve seen in four years of college. And I’ve heard about all the festivals in the area."

In addition to friendly people, McCants has also found a Cajun program that posted a 22-9 record last season and reached the championship finals of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, a program that will open its 2005-06 season at SMU in the Preseason WNIT.

"I’d love to be part of building a program," McCants said. "It’s clear they know what they want to do, and I know we can be a good, decent team that will be respected."

McCants will dive into the mix at point guard, joining senior Ashley Blanche and Jeanenne Colbert.

They’ll be expected to get the most out of a bevy of perimeter shooters, including returnee Onna Charles as well as sharpshooting newcomers Blair Brodhead and Whitney Dunlap, while Alicia McDaniel provides the defensive force.

"Elaine predominantly plays the point, but she is a guard who can attack and can shoot the ball," Hall said. "When we assessed our three games with (Sun Belt champion) Middle Tennessee last year, we said we’ve got to have guards that can attack.

"You’re looking at three of the best point guards in the whole Sun Belt Conference. I’ll want two of them on the floor at all times. And, with Blair and Whitney, we’ve got five who can play the 1 or 2."

"Everyone would love to play 40 minutes," McCants said, "but coach Hall said he wants to play two of us (point guards) all the time and that would be great.

"I like it that there are so many. It makes me work harder. It keeps it competitive. I can’t work out with the team right now. I’m doing my thing, lifting weights and getting in the gym at night. But I watch them to see who can do what with the ball. You’ve got to know your personnel and what the guards like to do.

"If I had to scout myself, I’d probably mention how I pass the ball. I see the floor pretty good."

McCants is awaiting medical clearance to hit the floor, something that has been as common as first-time introductions to new teammates.

"I have a heart murmur – actually one valve is smaller than the others," McCants said. "I have to get on a treadmill and have them do an ecogram. They have to do it every year."

McCants mentioned the procedure as most would talk about renewing a driver’s license, with a matter-of-fact shrug. It’s just one more obstacle to face.

If adaptability means anything on the court, McCants should be able to deal with any occurrence during the game.

The Cajuns received word on Wednesday that Blinn Junior College transfer forward Amber Williams has been cleared to work out after heart questions on her physical … freshman guard Blair Brodhead is five months removed from knee surgery and still needs to rest the hinge at times, but there’s nothing wrong with her shooting touch.

Originally published September 13, 2005