In Hugo, Okla. (pop. 5,978), which got its first McDonald's less than five years back, Betty Lennox found heaven. It was there, while playing for Grant elementary school, that she first heard the words she loves more than ice cream and fudge and peanut butter combined: Just shoot, Kid. Keep shooting.
Before she became a high-scoring guard at Louisiana Tech, where through Sunday she was averaging 18.4 points for the second-ranked Lady Techsters, Lennox was an offensive juggernaut in one of the last states in the U.S. that required girls to play basketball under the old six-on-six rules, in which each team had three players on offense and three on defense. "I was scoring 60 points every game I played," says Lennox. "I never had to worry about defense. Just dribble and shoot, dribble and shoot. It's what God made me to do."
Maybe so. But before ninth grade another higher power—Betty's mother, Bernice—moved the Lennoxes to Independence, Mo. On the first day of varsity try-outs at Fort Osage High, Betty was jolted by a new reality. "When I dribbled the ball to half-court, I stopped," she says. "I didn't think I could cross. Everybody was laughing at me. I was like, Is there something on my pants?" No, but she did get sent down to the freshman team. It was only later that season that she was promoted to the varsity to stay.
Lennox's journey to college stardom also took extra time. She spent her freshman season (1995-96) at Butler County ( Kans.) Community College but was disappointed in the level of play. "I knew it was all wrong when I saw our 300-pound, no-muscle post player," she says. She moved on to Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas, as a sophomore and averaged 26.4 points as Trinity Valley won the national junior college women's championship.
The adjustment to Division I was not easy, especially when Louisiana Tech coach Leon Barmore, a no-nonsense kind of guy, kept her out of the starting lineup last season and made her a regular target of criticism in practice. "It was obvious Betty had a lot of talent," Barmore says, "but she can sometimes be undisciplined." Exhibit A: At halftime of a game last season Lennox was so frustrated with her play that she went to the locker room chalkboard and scribbled, DON'T PUT ME BACK IN THE GAME! Barmore wasn't amused.
Episodes like that—and her nonstop trash talking—have earned the 5' 8" Lennox the affectionate nickname Psycho, but her game is well under control and keeps improving. Even in defeat she has been impressive. At Connecticut on Jan. 2, the No. 1 Huskies walloped Louisiana Tech 90-63, but Lennox had a game-high 27 points, prompting UConn coach Geno Auriemma to say, "That Lennox can score with anyone."
Lennox's next goal is the WNBA, and she figures to be a high-first-round pick in the league's April 25 draft. If so, it will be thanks in part to her obsessive commitment to weight training. During the off-season, Lennox worked out three hours a day, five days a week, and she has increased her bench press to 160 pounds. "Betty is dedicated," says backcourtmate Tamicha Jackson, "and a little crazy, too."