ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) Before most people are even awake, the LSUA women’s basketball team is hard at work.
Photo Source: KALB
“You never really get used to these 5 a.m. practices, they just get a little easier,” said Head Coach Bob Austin.
These early morning practices make his team mentally tough, having to process information and be on high alert at a time where many are still tucked into bed.
“Some of them handle (the early start) better than others,” says Austin.
Brittany Hall is one of the ones who seems to be dealing with the early morning well. She’s picking her teammates up, pushing them. Her physical presence may not be intimidating, but her forcefulness on the court is. Whether it’s game-day or an early morning practice, Hall is laser focused.
“She has that point guard mentality. She’s not going to let you fall behind, she’s not going to let you falter. She’s gonna make sure you’re locked in.”
That ‘point guard mentality’ proves useful on the court. On one of the darkest days of Hall’s young life it would also prove useful off of it.
A GREAT LOSS
“I got the phone call the morning of the (Our Lady of the Lake) game. And I was just…like, how do I even go play a game?”
On the morning of January 3, Hall received word that her grandfather, whom she had been close with her entire life, had passed away. The news made it increasingly difficult to focus on basketball.
“It was obviously something that she was struggling with. As a coach, I feel like my role is to focus on basketball and if (my players) need help, it’s my job to be there,” said Austin. “If she needed that time to go be with her family, I made sure she was able to take it. That’s what matters.”
Hall decided to play against Our Lady of the Lake. It would be the team’s next game that would push the limits of her mental and physical toughness even further.
“I felt a poke, it hurt, no question.”
Hall’s injury while playing the University of the Southwest initially didn’t seem extreme. Hall checked out of the game to run water through her eye.
That’s when she noticed the blood.
“It became increasingly difficult to see, all of the blood in my eye. I’m running water in my eye and its just falling out red.”
Hall spoke with the team’s trainer. After being cleared, Hall found herself back in the game.
The team would drop back-to-back games for the first time this season.
After the game, Hall’s eye wasn’t getting any better.
“I thought it was a good time to let her know that, if she wanted, she could take some time away from the team. After the game it swole up, got worse. There was no guarantee a doctor would clear her for at least the next two games.”
That didn’t stop Hall from showing up when she wasn’t expected. While the team would be practicing, she would be trying to keep to her routine to the best of her ability, doing ball handling and footwork drills to the side of practice.
For Hall, basketball was something she had always leaned on before. She wasn’t going to stop now.
“I’m a firm believer in the idea that getting to the gym getting up some shots, that it can relieve tension. I believe that, I really do,” said Hall. “That’s how I’ve always handled hard times. That’s how I was going to handle things now.”
“We didn’t put her jersey out, to be honest,” said Austin. “Coach (Chris Johnson) asked if we should put her jersey out, I said there’s no use until she gets cleared. At the time, didn’t really look like that was going to happen.”
As the team prepared to host Huston-Tillotson in a crucial home conference game, Hall was in New Orleans, surrounded by family as they buried her grandfather.
"My family was very supportive. I felt like everyone had my back and was supporting me,” said Hall. “When I said I wanted to make it back, see if we could catch the doctor, we went for it.”
At the end of the three hour drive sat a crucial appointment. If Hall misses it, she potentially misses not only the team’s game that night, but also the team’s game the following night.
“We had made preparations and adjustments to play without her. We felt comfortable about the game-plan. The idea was she wasn’t going to be there,” said Austin.
They should have known better.
Hall’s point guard mentality, that toughness she had displayed on and off the court her entire life, wasn’t going to keep her away for long.
So at the half, Hall appeared.
She dug her uniform out of the closet. Cleared to play after making her appointment, she was ready to roll.
Hall was crucial down the stretch for LSUA, notching four points and five rebounds to pair with two assist and a blocked shot in limited minutes.
The decision to play was one that ended up being pretty easy for Hall.
She had someone special she needed to play for.
“I was going through something, when I came in here it was still on my mind a little bit, but once I got into the motion of playing, it kind of pushed me to keep going,” said Hall. “Because I know he’s still watching. And he would want me to do that.”