close
close

‘Good or great?’ A young Seimone Augustus chose the latter | Sport

Editor’s Note: This is the eighth in a series of stories about the 2024 inductees into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. Induction festivities are June 20-22 in Natchitoches.

One car ride home from Greenville Elementary changed Seimone Augustus.

Augustus remembers “having a moment” because her team lost an after-school basketball game. She didn’t know how to deal with it.

‘We walked to the car and my father said, ‘They hit you and that’s the end of it. You have to learn to be a great loser before you can be a great winner.” “

Then Seymore asked Augustus, “What do you want to do?” Do you just want to be good? Or do you want to be great?’ ”

They sat in the car for a few minutes before driving home.

“When I got out of the car, I said, ‘I want to be great.’ Then I stormed into the house,” Augustus said. “And my father said, ‘We have work to do.’ And that was it.”

Two state high school titles at Capitol, three Final Four appearances at LSU, three Olympic gold medals and four WNBA titles would be years away. But hoop dreams and the work required to achieve those feats came into focus around age eight for Augustus, a two-time national player of the year at LSU.

With induction into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame – all in the span of six months – Augustus reflects on her path.

The June 22 induction into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame is also a full-circle moment for Augustus, who recently joined the LSU women’s basketball staff as an assistant coach.

“It’s a celebration of me, but this is also a celebration that gives me the opportunity to express gratitude to the people who have been important in getting me to where I am today,” Augustus said. “The opportunities I was given and the people who helped made it possible.”

By the time Augustus reached Capitol High School, she had competed in a high school game and was on the cover of Sports Illustrated for Women with the headline, “Is She the Next Michael Jordan?”

Augustus averaged 24.8 points, 11.9 rebounds and 6.0 assists in high school, leading her team to a 138-7 record, including a 52-game winning streak.

Before that, there were lawn chairs, bowling gloves and a gravel driveway that made dribbling difficult.

“We laugh about it… the bowling gloves and the goggles that keep you from looking down,” Augustus said. “Tying an arm behind my back to force me to use my other hand. And putting garden chairs in the garden.”

Father and daughter biked or walked to gyms and/or streetball fields in downtown Baton Rouge to play.

“I attribute a lot of who I am and what I am to the person I played against growing up here in Baton Rouge,” Augustus said. “I always say there wasn’t a place I didn’t go to play a match. I wasn’t on a travel ball team. We didn’t have the money.

“My reputation at the time was, ‘I played against that girl.’ It didn’t matter… old, young, middle-aged, male or female… I would play you. This is how you become a street legend. People would say, “Oh, I saw that girl doing some work. And her father was there with her.” ”

August’s AAU basketball play was limited. Her father put together a team that played in a national tournament one summer in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Her play earned an invitation to the Blue Star Elite camp in Terre Haute, Indiana. Future WNBA stars Diana Taurasi, Nicole Powell and Swin Cash were there.

“I didn’t know about a (player) ranking system or who any of these players were. That was great for me; I had no fear, no fear,” Augustus said. “I wore little pigtails and they gave me a nickname… they called me puppy.

“They’d say, ‘You’ve got game, but you’re still a puppy.’ You can’t go on the veranda with the big dogs yet.’ ”

Soon everyone knew about Augustus. Fans lined up for hours to attend Capitol games. The late Pat Summitt of Tennessee and Geno Auriemma of UConn were among the college coaches who came to Baton Rouge.

The LHSAA girls basketball tournament set attendance records three of the four years Augustus played in it, including a night in 2002 when the University Center in Hammond was sold out – something that didn’t happen again until the LSU women played Southeast Louisiana last December.

Three of the LSU women’s basketball team’s top five all-time home games occurred during Augustus’ career. LSU assistant coach Bob Starkey sees it as a foreshadowing of the popularity of today’s stars, including Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese.

“I think we should all be grateful for what’s happening in women’s basketball today, and it’s because of players like Seimone,” Starkey said. “We set attendance records when we were home and led the SEC in attendance because people wanted to see her play.”

At LSU, a relentless work ethic and passion defined Augustus as much as her abilities.

Starkey, late LSU head coach Sue Gunter and others saw a focus that surpasses the pressure that came with elevating LSU to the national stage.

After scoring 2,702 points at LSU and earning national player of the year honors in 2006, Augustus was the No. 1 WNBA draft pick of the Minnesota Lynx.

She won Rookie of the Year in 2006 and averaged more than 20 points during her first three seasons. A torn ACL cost Augustus most of the 2009 season, and surgery to remove fibroid tumors limited her games in 2010.

Future Hall of Famers Lindsey Whelan, Rebbekah Brunson, Maya Moore and Taj McWilliams-Franklin joined the team in 2011.

“In 2011, the stars aligned. I had more talent around me than I had ever had in my career,” Augustus said. “All we had to figure out was how to make this talent work.

“Everything coordinated. We were all longing for this big, beautiful moment. We were all hungry for it. Years of losing and injury came to an end. That made me believe in faith and fate.”

The Lynx won four titles in seven years. Augustus was the MVP of the 2011 finals.

The WNBA didn’t exist when Augustus was a little girl. Her idols played on the 1996 Women’s Dream Team, which made winning gold medals with her teams extra special.

“I think the ultimate for any player should be an Olympic gold medal,” Augustus said. “It is for me.”

Clearly, there’s no better place than home for Augustus.

“We live in a society now where you don’t find a lot of humility,” Starkey said. “Seimone is modest. She loves Baton Rouge, LSU and Louisiana.”

An early August memory reinforces Starkey’s point.

She earned a spot in the Elks National Hoop Shoot competition in Boston. The trip included a visit to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

“I got to put my hand in the ball so you can see how big Michael Jordan’s hand is,” Augustus said. “I never, ever put myself there.

“It was like being shown a fragment of your life, or what it could be, before you start living it.”