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Deneen Parker: "The team is so athletic and so talented." Lasondra Barrett: "It's a different team."

POSTED: June 3, 2020 -- 12:07 p.m. CT

Earlier this week Ronald Hughey, Houston Cougars women's basketball head coach, announced the additions of Deneen Parker and Lasondra Barrett to the coaching staff.

Barrett joined the Cougars prior to the 2019-20 season as Director of Recruiting Operations and will take on assistant coaching duties where she will work primarily with the Houston wing players.

Parker has coached for 20 plus seasons. She spent the 2019-'20 season as an Assistant Coach at Indiana State. Prior to her time at Indiana State, she was an Associate Head Coach at Northwestern State for three seasons. Parker was on Southern Methodist's coaching staff for 21 seasons.

I had a chance to speak with both of them to get their thoughts on the 2020-'21 Houston Cougars women's basketball team; life in the American Athletic Conference without the UConn Huskies; and, more.

The HRR: Why Houston? Why the University of Houston? Did Coach Hughey have to twist your arm, sell you on coming to Houston? Was it a tough sell?

Coach Parker: Hughey didn't have to sell me on it at all. What sold me is the future of the Houston Cougars. Just watching film. The team is so athletic and so talented and with the kids that sat out last year. I mean with the kids that sat out last year that transferred. We had four sit out and then with their signing class, to me, this is a team that can get us back to the top 25 because we were in the top 25.

To me this team we have coming in even more talented that team. So, why not Houston?

Coach Barrett: I saw what the team had done in the past and just talking to him and what he talked about just having good people around and then the vision that he wanted to grow Houston women's basketball. And so I think that that's really what sold me more than anything.

The HRR: Describe that vision for me. What is Hughey's vision for women's basketball?

Coach Barrett: One, to get it get it to a stable place. I think it has had some success in the past. But, I think his dream is to put Houston women's basketball on the map. And, it starts with the culture of getting players and players who you know may not come from strong basketball backgrounds or players that may not come from great environments. But, take those kids and mold them into leaving here and becoming great women and not only that but great players.

We talked about hanging up banners. I think comparison to what the men's program is doing. He wants that same vision for the women's program and that's in coming in here and winning conference championships and winning seasons and getting back to years when you remember Houston women's basketball and take it back there and grow it even more.

I think just to kind of be a part of something special that was one thing. I was like, okay, I felt it. I felt it in his voice. I felt it in just his energy and what he talked about like I think you know when you start something new it feels great. That's kind of where I went with him. I was like, let's go.

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The HRR: What are your thoughts about The AAC with UConn no longer in the conference?

Coach Parker UConn is gone, you know, in the American Athletic Conference, you were always going to be playing for second and that's just that's just facts. UConn was very dominant and you know respect to Geno and his staff. Nothing but respect. But, now that they're gone, to me it opens up. Now. We are going to contain, you know, every night. We're going to contend every night for that conference championship, that tournament championship, and be on our way. I'm a True Believer that we do have the tools to get there.

Coach Barrett I think it's wide open. I think with UConn's not being there, I think everybody becomes optimistic. But, at the same time, I would say it's a relief like oh wow because you still have really good teams (in the Conference). It's not a cakewalk; but, I think it's a little bit more balanced. It's not so top-heavy and dominated. I look at our conference with more teams being able to compete versus just one team that dominated the entire time they're in the league. I think with them leaving it's wide open and I think every team now feels like they can possibly win it. That's what should be the mindset. The mentality for sure; and, I think the players think that as well, too.

The HRR: Have you gotten a sense from the players, I guess so far. It's early, of course that they have a chance now to win the conference?

Coach Barrett: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Eryka Sydney who sat out last year. She just loves ball. She's always trying to play. Full of energy. I think just additions like her and the other ones that are becoming eligible now, Britney (Britney Onyeje), Paris (Paris Netherly) and Miya Crump, I think is going to be a sleeper for a lot of people. Along with the with the freshmen we brought in. It's a new energy; and, it's a different team.

Coach Parker: These kids don't care who they play. They just want to win and you know looking at our non-conference schedule like we're going in and playing top 25 teams. Top 15 teams. That's the only way you're going to beat the UConns, especially if you want go to the NCAA tournament. That's another thing that I respect about Hughey. He's going to put our girls in the situation to win against big time programs and that's what it's all about.

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