For Theresa Plaisance, basketball has been part of her life since birth, literally. Before Theresa was two years old, her mother Mary ‘DoBee’ Ronquillo Plaisance coached the St. Martin High School basketball team to state titles in 1993 and 1994. “I’ve had a basketball in my hands since I was born. I had multiple basketballs in my delivery room,” she told The Summitt after Friday’s game against Seattle. “I was around teams all the time … we were running plays with my mom’s team throwing alley oops, things like that.”
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Coach DoBee Plaisance balanced her love of family and coaching by blending the two whenever possible. “Before my kids started school, I always had them with me when I was coaching,” she said in an interview with The Advocate. “They slept on the floor of charter buses and in gyms. They may have missed a few regular meals, but we didn’t miss spending time together.”
As fate would have it, Plaisance grew to be 6’5 and have a successful college basketball career of her own. When her mother landed her current job at Nicholls State University, Plaisance transferred to Vandebilt Catholic High School and recorded a game-high 24 points, 11 rebounds, and five blocked shots to win the first state championship for the girl’s program.
The Dallas Wings forward loved every minute of her childhood, “it was really a fun childhood, being around a team and I can’t imagine my life not having a team in it.” That includes her family team, who all pitched in to help support the basketball careers of her, her mother and her younger brother Scott, Jr, the second back-to-back high school state champion in the family. “We have a really tight-knit family and that goes as far as my grandparents as well,” said Plaisance. Her father was especially supportive of all of his basketball stars, “My dad is the ultimate supporter … [he] was balancing everything, trying to make every single game.”
Testing her comfort zone
Plaisance entered LSU as a McDonnell’s All-American and a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year. Despite being the first player in LSU history to play for the USA Basketball U18 women’s team, she struggled in her first two years. As a freshman, she averaged less than five minutes per game and less than 12 minutes per game as a sophomore. “In my college career, I kinda struggled my first two years, I didn’t really play a lot,” said Plaisance.
She went from no starts in her first two seasons to 33 starts in 34 appearances by the 2012-13 season. She attributes her turnaround to coach Tony Perroti, who pushed her limits. “He made me really uncomfortable with things, recalled Plaisance, “I was doing ball handling drills that our point guards were doing, finishing with big practice guys [guarding] me, [he made] me run all these sprints,” recalled Plaisance. “He took me out of my comfort zone and things I like to do and he pushed me to my limits.”
She finished her junior campaign top ten in the SEC in rebounding (8.3 RPG, 4th), field goal percentage (43.7, 6th), blocks (2.5 BPG, 2nd) and free throw percentage (.728, 10th). She was the first player in the SEC to rank in the top 10 in all five of those categories, and the first SEC scoring champion to hail from LSU since Seimone Augustus.
Evolving again in the WNBA
Plaisance was selected 27th overall by the Tulsa Shock (now the Dallas Wings) in the 2014 WNBA draft. Plaisance also had a modest start in her professional career but has made the most of her time this season. In her 20 starts this season, Plaisance has averaged 7.9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. She leads the Wings with a 95.5 free throw percentage line and ranks fourth from 3-point range, shooting over 30%.
Head coach Fred Williams turned to Plaisance when Courtney Paris was out with an injury early in the season. “Her outside shooting ability with her size at 6’5 helps us a great deal,” said coach Williams on Friday in Seattle. “Just her enthusiasm the IQ for the game has been good for us through the course of this season.”
With Paris back in the lineup, Plaisance has returned to being a role player. However, the self- professed gym rat is always looking to improve mentally and physically. In Dallas, former teammate Erin Phillips helps her grow her game. “I look up to [Erin Phillips] a lot. She’s been a really good coach to have – a very great basketball mind and I’m always going to her. [for advice]”
Phillips now serves as the Wings director of player development, but just last season was on the court with Plaisance. “she’s in a different role, it’s awesome but it’s kinda the same as well. Because, when she was on the floor, we would look to her for veteran advice … having Erin around benefits me, as well as a lot of other players as well. She does a really great job for us.”
Going the distance
In addition to Phillips, Plaisance also turns to McWilliams-Franklin, especially about attaining longevity in basketball. “If anybody knows how to extend their career to the fullest, it’s Taj,” said Plaisance of the 14 year WNBA veteran. “As I get older, developing my game, seeing how I can change the way I do things to help my career to have longevity [is key]. So, having coach Taj is really great.”
One key to longevity is versatility. Plaisance has proven she is willing to evolve her game and challenge her comfort zone. The Dallas Wings are a young team and Plaisance is one of five rostered players with three or more seasons of experience. However, Plaisance knows basketball – there’s no doubting that.