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Augustus is no slouch on defense either. LSU likes to pressure the ball and disrupt offenses with deflections, a stat that's charted every day at practice, most often with Augustus at the top of the list. Ohio State coach Jim Foster, who coached Augustus on the gold-medal-winning young women's world championship squad last summer, sums her up this way: "A lot of good young players have attributes; Seimone has a game."
Augustus has been honing that game virtually her whole life. The only child of Kim, a bank teller, and Seymore, a newspaper pressman, Seimone could dribble well enough at age three to join a Bitty Ball team for five-year-old boys. Until Seymore started an AAU team for girls when Seimone was in middle school, she was the only girl and youngest player on boys' recreational and AAU teams.
She worked on her fundamentals with special drills that Seymore dreamed up. He tied one hand to her waist with a belt and had her dribble, pass and shoot with the other. He strapped on a bowling glove that forced her to keep her right wrist straight and exaggerate her follow-through on shot attempts. He had her wear blindfolds and goggles that prevented her from looking at the ball as she dribbled on the backyard concrete. In an attempt to sharpen her vision, the two often scrimmaged in the dark, sometimes until 3 a.m. Seymore, a former high school high jumper who never went to college, passed on a lot of useful advice to his daughter: Don't be a hothead, get an education, let the game come to you. But he says his most important piece of advice was this: "If you don't love the game, leave it behind."
Augustus still loves the game and still works hard at it, showing up an hour or two early for practices and workout sessions, even those that start at 6 a.m. "Anytime I mess up, even if it's a simple turnover, that affects me," she says. "The next week in practice I tell myself that I'm going to work that much harder. If I'm getting beat on the drive, I'll go against someone like Temeka, who is quicker than me, to work on that. Or if it's blocking out I need to work on, I'll go against someone like [6'1" power forward] Wendlyn Jones."
Her talent and industry have brought her so much fame that Augustus hasn't been able to go to a local mall unrecognized since she was about 11. She doesn't mind the limelight--"it's the norm," she says--though she doesn't see why the attention should be focused on her alone. When she is approached for an autograph, she always signs, even when the fan proffers a Bible, as a preacher did in a Piggly Wiggly recently. If a teammate is with her, Augustus introduces her. "She'll say, 'This is my teammate Marian Whitfield,'" says Whitfield, a redshirt freshman guard. "And then the person will ask for my autograph too. That's the kind of person Seimone is."
Polite, humble, fundamentally sound, Augustus is an old school soul. She admires the games of Julius Erving and George Gervin (having watched those greats on ESPN Classic), listens to R&B as well as rap and covets the long, fast muscle cars of the 1960s. Until she can make enough money to buy her dream car, a '64 Chevy Impala, she is content to roll around campus in her current ride, a metallic-blue former Louisiana state trooper car she bought at auction for $1,000. Taking a cue from MTV's Pimp My Ride, one of her favorite shows, she converted the '95 Chevy Caprice into an SS Impala by changing the paint, the interior, the grille and a few plaques and emblems. She rarely tests the car's horsepower. "I just like to cruise," Augustus says.
In most other matters she has pedal to the metal. Augustus had enough credits to graduate from high school in three years--she stayed a fourth year to play basketball and take a few electives--and by averaging 18 credits a semester at LSU and nine every summer (she is majoring in business marketing, with minors in fashion merchandising and design, and carries a 3.0 GPA), she will do the same in college.
Rumors circulate about her ambitions. Will she become the first woman to leave for the pros after just three years of college ball? When asked about this, Augustus--for once--makes a face. She says she'll be at LSU in her senior year, "taking classes like bowling and yoga, unless...." She stops to consider the scenarios that might keep her out of a Lady Tigers uniform. She lands on the unlikeliest: "Unless Coach kicks me off the team."