IT'S BEEN a hectic season for Louisiana Tech senior guard Erica Taylor, whose Lady Techsters (20-9) will face Temple in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. While trying to improve her stock for the WNBA (she averages 11.1 points and is projected as a top 20 pick), the 5'10" Taylor juggles motherhood (her daughter, Nia Jay, was born on Dec. 14), matrimony (her husband of 19 months is boxer Jermain Taylor, who's 23-0 and is a WBC Continental Americas champ) and school (an English major, she's set to graduate in May). "It's overwhelming at times," says Erica, 22, who started Tech's three NCAA tournament games last year while pregnant. "There are days I break down crying I'm so tired." Recently Jermain spent weeks away, training. Here's Erica's typical day:
5:45 A.M. Wakes to the sound of Nia, who sleeps in the same bed. "Once she begins to grunt, it's time to get up," says Erica. She changes Nia's diaper, bottle-feeds her and gives her a bath. (When Jermain is in town he often gets diaper duty. "He's pretty good," says Erica.)
7:00 Nia takes a catnap; Erica gets dressed. "I hop in the shower, put on a baseball cap and some [sweats]," says Erica. "I don't have time to get all cute."
7:30 Erica drops Nia off with a nanny, 15 minutes away and then hustles to make her first class.
8:00 A.M.-12:15 P.M. Three straight classes: History 102 (American history), Spanish 201, Biology 102
12:30-1:45 Without stopping for lunch, she heads to English 417 (American Literature). "I'm very vocal in there," says Erica. "I have been working on my own book since 12th grade. It's fiction, about a young married couple with kids. Jermain thinks that it's about us, but it's not."
2:00-4:30 Practice. "I like to say two o'clock is my favorite class," says Erica, who missed this season's first 14 games. "But sometimes I'm tired. I thought I would be in shape in two weeks. I rushed it and had foot problems. Now I'm about 75 percent."
5:00 Wal-Mart stop for "diapers, milk, bibs, maybe laundry detergent."
5:30 Erica picks up Nia and stops at Taco Bell or another fast-food place so Erica can get something to eat.
6:00-10:00 (nongame nights): Erica and Nia return to their Ruston apartment. Erica juggles schoolwork and caring for Nia, while taking calls from her parents and six siblings. "I'm the baby of the seven, and Jermain has three sisters," she says. "They all call me."
6:00-10:00 (game nights): Nia's in the stands with her nanny (or Jermain if he's in town). "I like to see Nia and Jermain before the game starts," says Erica. "I like to know they are there and safe. I'm a mom. I worry."
10:00-11:00 Bedtime. "When Jermain is away, it's very hard," says Erica. "We have those beamer phones, the kind that lets you see each other when you talk. We'll often fall asleep with the phone on.... I try to go to sleep at the same time as Nia so I won't be tired if she happens to get up. Then it starts all over again." --Richard Deitsch
DARREN CARROLL (THREE TAYLORS)
TEDDY BLACKBURN/REUTERS (JERMAINE ARMS RAISED)
DONNY CROWE (ERICA DRIBBLING)