Long before the sun comes up on the West Coast, the culture of McNeese State’s women’s basketball program is taking shape.
It begins with a woman getting in her car around 4:30 in the morning to make an hour-long drive to workout. She will spend roughly 90 minutes shooting, dribbling, running and doing whatever she can to make herself better.
Then, she will get back in her car and drive another hour home. All this to get her desired athletic work in before going to a paying summer job.
By 9 a.m., as most of our days are really just getting started, Desirae Hansen has already put in her work for the Cowgirls.
“You do what you have to do be ready for the season,” Hansen said in a phone interview.
Hansen is a 6-foot junior guard who has decided to leave the comfort of the Portland State program she has helped take to the NCAA tournament for McNeese before ever seeing the campus. In fact, she won’t reach Lake Charles for another three weeks or so.
“I have never been that far away from home,” Hansen admitted. “But when you believe in somebody so much, miles don’t matter.
“I’m looking forward to getting down there and getting started.”
Hansen is coming to play for new coach Lynn Kennedy, who she was a three-year starter for at Portland State. Kennedy was hired last April and has turned over the Cowgirl roster.
“I believe in him and his system so much,” Hansen said. “It is work, work, work and have fun. I just love playing for him. He wants to win and I want to win.
“I just enjoy playing in his system and for him. I have learned so much from him and I want to keep on learning from him.”
For Kennedy, Hansen is the perfect fit for what he is trying to build at McNeese.
“It is great, for us to get a player like her to come here in our first year is a big deal,” Kennedy said. “She is one of the best players, best leaders, I have ever coached. She makes some unbelievable passes, some unbelievable shots. She will make others better.
“She also has a great personality, one that gets people to come to her. I think the community will fall in love with her.”
Especially if she helps the Cowgirls win.
“Winning makes everything fun,” said Hansen, who has talked and texted a lot of her new teammates. “If we all stick together I think we can win right away. That is the plan.”
Winning would be nothing new for Hansen, who is a two-time All-Big West player. Hansen shot 37 percent from beyond the 3-point arc and averaged 11.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists over 90 games at Portland State.
Kennedy’s fast rebuild has found players from all over the world, but his prize catch was getting his twotime All-Big West player he knew so well to join him in Lake Charles.
And she has proven to be solid in the clutch. As a freshman she hit the game-winning shot that put PSU into the NCAA tournament.
“Desirae is not afraid of the moment,” said Kennedy. “She leads by her actions more than words. She is a special, special player.”
That appears to be the case no matter what time of day it is.