Alicia Thompson, a 6'1", 175-pound senior forward, is noticeably stronger than most of her opponents—both physically and mentally—which should come as no surprise, considering her past. She was a four-time Texas Class 3A girls' shot put champion at Big Lake High in the town of Reagan County, and she outmuscled opponents to the tune of 23.7 points and 9.6 rebounds per game for the Lady Raiders last season. Thompson's mental resolve comes from her mother, Patricia, who as a single parent raised Alicia, two sons, two nephews and one niece. Patricia is a diabetic and eight years ago was diagnosed with lupus, a painful disease that affects the skin and joints. The ailment has left her weak and unable to work, but she rarely misses a home game, driving the 3� hours from Reagan County to Lubbock. "My mom always finds a way to make it," says Alicia. "I wish I could be back home to help her, but she gets more satisfaction watching me succeed."
Thompson has certainly had her share of success as a Lady Raider. Her explosiveness has drawn comparisons to former Texas Tech star Sheryl Swoopes, the 1993 national player of the year. But the Lady Raiders, 20-9 last season, feature much more than Thompson; they also have three other starters returning and welcome a pair of junior college All-Americas.
Coach Marsha Sharp hit the juco jackpot six years ago when she found Swoopes at South Plains College in Levelland, Texas, and she's hoping to have similar luck with 6'2" center Angie Braziel, who averaged 15.1 points and 8.9 rebounds for South Plains last season. Kyna Cosby, a guard who averaged 18.1 points and 3.6 assists per game for Howard College in Big Springs, Texas, adds to an already talented backcourt.
Texas Tech has the tools to play Sharp's up-tempo pressing game, thanks to a core of experienced upperclassmen that includes 6'2" senior center Crystal Boles, now recovered from off-season knee surgery. Boles has 170 career blocks and needs only four more to become the Lady Raiders' alltime leader.
"We're hosting an NCAA Regional, and one of our main goals is to be playing in it," says Sharp, who showed her commitment to Texas Tech in October by donating $100,000, half of her salary, to help fund a new academic services building to be erected on campus. "I'm not taking anything for granted, but this team has the potential to be the best since 1993." That Lady Raiders team, for those who have forgotten, won the national title.
As for Thompson, she knows it's her time to lead, a role she readily accepts. "We have a chance to do something here," she says. "This summer I've worked harder and practiced longer. I'm the one who has to lead by example, I can't afford to slack off."
If Thompson does get tired during games, all she has to do is look up in the stands for strength. "I have some tremendous motivation," she says. "Every time I look up and see my mother, it inspires me. If she can get through every day without complaining, I sure can try harder in a game."