LINCOLN — Sophomore Brandi Jeffery started six games for the Nebraska women’s basketball team this year. There’s a certain thrill to being in the starting lineup, and it’s a role she’d like to pursue next season.
But as NU has progressed through the Big Ten schedule and the NCAA tournament, Jeffery finds herself enjoying the countdown to the 15-minute mark of the first half, when she usually makes her entrance into the game.
“Sometimes I’d rather come of the bench just to see how the flow goes from the game,” Jeffery said Wednesday. “I watch how things go and that makes me more confident.”
Another source of confidence for Jeffery — fellow sophomore Tear’a Laudermill. “T,” as teammates and coach Connie Yori call her, is typically Nebraska’s first sub off the bench. The 5-foot-7 Jeffery and 5-9 Laudermill often sit together, waiting their turn. Their games are similar, and so are their roles: give Nebraska an extra dose of energy.
“When I see her play, it boosts me up,” Jeffery said. “When she starts up, I start up. When I start up, she starts up. When the rest of the team sees us play, it gets them going.”
Laudermill averages 18 minutes per game. Jeffery averages 14. Think of the two players combined as a sixth starter who chips in 9.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. They can also eat up fouls that starters Lindsey Moore or Rachel Theriot might otherwise get.
Yori uses Laudermill as a “hound” who can pick up an opposing point guard deep in the backcourt and make her burn off half of the shot clock before engaging the offense. While Laudermill still occasionally forces shots and passes that make Yori shake her head on the sideline, she helps NU get quick transition baskets with her speed.
“I can see myself maturing,” Laudermill said. “Even coach came up to me and said, ‘T, you’re maturing.’”
Jeffery can be a pest in the passing lanes or offer an instant burst of offense. In Nebraska’s second-round NCAA tournament win over Texas A&M, she helped erase a 12-6 deficit with a short jumper in the lane and a 3-pointer from the corner.
Those are the only shots she took in the game. That’s a sharp difference from her high school career in Vacherie, La., where she was a three-time all-state player averaging 22.5 points over her last three seasons.
“Where I came from, my mentality had to be score,” Jeffery said. “I have help here. In high school I didn’t have help like I have here.”
Laudermill had more help — her Riverside (Calif.) high school team was among the top 25 teams in the nation — but she still scored 17 points per game as a senior. She was as highly ranked a recruit as Moore and higher than Theriot. Still, it’s been a growing process.
“It’s not hard to wait,” Laudermill said. “You need poise. Everybody’s going to have their time. I’m pretty sure everybody had their time in high school. They were the best player. But in college, they had to wait their turn. It’s not a huge thing. We wait. You learn more.”
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