MONROE, La. (AP) — Chrissy Givens needed little time to get reacquainted with the Madhouse on Millhaven. Crowds crammed inside the old gym to watch the former Ouachita star during her transcend playing career. The biggest difference is Givens’ no. 22 now hangs from the rafters.
Givens, introduced as the new girl’s basketball coach at Ouachita on Thursday, wants to bring that same energy back to her alma mater.
“I always have this feeling when I come in here because I played with a group of girls who were like family,” Givens said. “We had everyone in the city talking about the Ouachita Lady Lions and even now I have chills because I feel that.
“I’m elated to have this opportunity and it’s a dream come true to be home.”
Ouachita Principal Larry Long first had the idea to bring Givens back two years ago. Givens, who was playing professionally overseas, told Long after a workout at the Madhouse that her dream job was to coach the Lady Lions.
Long knew exactly who to call after Amber Obaze-Ford accepted the head-coaching job at Summerfield.
“When I got the word that Amber was going back to Summerfield, (Ouachita Parish Schools personnel director Todd) Guice told me I might want to get a short list together. I told him I had a really short list and it was Chrissy Givens,” Long said.
“I think this is just going to bring some excitement back to the program and I think she’ll keep it to the level it’s been at for several years.”
In Obaze-Ford’s final season, Ouachita finished 32-7 and played for the Class 5A state championship. The Lady Lions went 133-43 (.756) under Obaze-Ford, won three district championships, made four consecutive quarterfinals appearances.
Ouachita lost just one district game over the past two seasons.
Givens said she will retain assistant coach Debra Marshall, who played collegiately at Louisiana-Monroe. While she hasn’t met the players face-to-face yet, Givens has interacted with several Lady Lions through social media.
“I’m ready for my school to have a championship,” Givens said. “Amber did a great job and now I’m praying that I can pick up where she left off and improve to get Ouachita what it has deserved for a long time.”
Givens was the first player in Class 5A history to make the Louisiana Sports Writers Association’s All-State team four years in-a-row. No Lady Lion had ever broken 2,000 points in a career until Givens, who graduated with 2,500 points scored and 1,000 rebounds.
Ouachita played for a state championship in 2003, the final season for Givens and head coach Robert Mitcham, falling to Southwood in the title game.
Givens was voted the Class 5A MVP, District 2-5A MVP and the News-Star’s All-NELA Player of the Year. The valedictorian of her senior class, Givens was also a two-time winner of the News-Star’s Paul Martin Award.
“Ouachita made a home-run hire,” Mitcham said. “Chrissy is the most focused and intense person I’ve known in basketball. I rarely had to open my mouth back then because she would get all over her teammates for doing something wrong. You could tell back then she would make a tremendous coach.”
At the college level, Givens shined at Middle Tennessee from 2003-07, where she was a two-time Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Sun Belt Tournament MVP. The Blue Raiders won four consecutive conference tournaments with Givens on the roster and played in the NCAA Women’s Tournament each year.
The Phoenix Mercury selected Givens in the third round of the 2007 WNBA Draft. Givens played for the Detroit Shock and overseas for 13 years.
Givens prefers a fast-paced style of play built around full-court, pressure defense.
“I’m not a zone person. I believe real ball players play man-to-man, full court defense and we’re going to do everything we can to be in shape to play that way,” Givens said.
Ouachita isn’t the only school in District 2-5A to hire a Givens. Pineville hired Chrissy’s sister, Tillisha Givens-Wenslow, to succeed former Ouachita assistant Tiffani Edmondson in June.
“We’ve already said it’s going to make for some fun conversations when we get together,” Givens said. “We weren’t ever the most talented players but we were the work-hard players. I know she’s going to have her girls playing that way and it’s going to be a battle.”