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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 1/2 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." --B.J. SCHECTER

Returning Starters [Four]
Points per Game '96-97 69.7
PPG by All Returning Players 68.5