Jessica Barber has been promoted to associate head coach, ULM women’s basketball head coach Brooks Donald Williams announced.
Barber enters her fourth season with the Warhawks in 2022-23. She served as assistant head coach in 2021-22 and as recruiting coordinator and assistant coach during her first two seasons.
“Jess has impacted our program and the ULM community profoundly in her short time,” Williams said. “The connection Jess has with our players and recruits, and the support she shows them as well as their families while staying completely aligned with our program and our program’s values is extremely rare. We are making incredible strides because of Jess and the way she genuinely cares for people and the feel she has for making them better on and off the court. We are extremely fortunate to have Jess and her leadership in our program.”
Barber oversees guard development on the court. However, her impact has also been felt off the floor. Barber has helped flip a culture with team comradery, relationship building and elevation of standards in every area. In just two seasons she pulled in two of the highest touted recruiting classes in the region as well as guided last season’s squad to the best semester GPA in the record books as the academic liaison for women’s basketball.
“Three years have flown by at ULM,” Barber said. “While I realize there’s a lot of work left to be done, I’m thrilled with what Coach Brooks has done thus far. Entering year four, I know the best has yet to come. I continue to be thankful for the people in the Monroe community who pour into this university, our program and this team.”
Under Coach Barber’s watch, junior guard Gara Beth Self was named the Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year in 2019-20. Self was the first specialty award winner for ULM women’s basketball since joining the conference in 2006-07 and the first Freshman of the Year or Newcomer of the Year honor for ULM since Jab Johnson was the Southland Conference Newcomer of the Year in 1988.
Self averaged 12.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.1 steals per game in Sun Belt conference action, getting the start in all 18 games. She scored double figures in 15 games, 12 of those coming in Sun Belt play. Self scored a season-high 28 points at then league leading Coastal Carolina on Feb. 27. Self, a New Albany, Mississippi native, was Williams and Barber’s first signee at ULM.
“It’s hard to wrap your head around the work Jess has been able to do in less than three years’ time,” Williams said. “Jessica Barber is respected across our state for not only her coaching ability and knowledge of the game but also for the incredible impact she has on young peoples’ lives. She is a difference maker in every sense of the word. I’m excited to see the impact she will continue to have in our program, on campus and in the Monroe community.”
Barber’s impact on the bayou was an immediate one on the recruiting trail, signing five high school state champions, four of which are from Louisiana. Jada Anderson and Qua Chambers, both from Benton High School, were each honored as LHSBCA Players of the Year. Chambers also was the top-ranked guard in Louisiana by MaxPreps and No. 128 nationally in the 2020 class.
The 2021 class received regional attention for pulling in the area’s most talented scorers to Monroe. A member of the Clarion Ledger 2020 Dandy Dozen and Starkville Daily News Player of the Year, Amaya Ford has been known to produce big time numbers. The Starkville, Mississippi, native and 2018 6A State Champion was one of the most highly touted recruits in the state of Mississippi after putting up 46-point and 55-point nights in her senior season.
Ford averaged 5.8 points and 3.0 rebounds per game as a freshman. She scored in double figures seven times and ended the year with 15 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals at the Sun Belt Conference Tournament in her final outing as a freshman.
Barber helped haul four of the top eight players in Louisiana in the 2021 class featuring two of the best guards in south Louisiana. Aasia Sam, a sharpshooter from LaGrange High School and McDonald’s All-American nominee, was an early commitment for the Warhawks. Sam, who scored over 1,500 points and won two 4A State Championships in Lake Charles, also was named Miss LaGrange High School and graduated Summa Cum Laude. As a Warhawk, Sam scored in double figures four times as a freshman and averaged 4.7 points.
Bre Sutton, a flashy and dynamic point guard who hails from New Orleans’ Warren Easton High School, is one that Barber is all too familiar with. Sutton was someone Barber watched grow up in the city while she was coaching at Edna Karr. As a true freshman, Sutton scored in double figures six times, led the team in scoring four times and led the team in assists 11 times.
Katlyn Manuel was a four-time All-Parish, All-District and All-State honoree who led her team to a 3A state championship game in 2021. Manuel averaged 17 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks in her senior campaign. Manuel also was a Class 3A state champion in the 4×100 meter relay. Manuel recorded double figures four times as a freshman while averaging 4.7 points and 4.8 rebounds a game. Manuel led the Warhawks in rebounding 11 times this past season.
The big four, Ford, Sam, Sutton and Manuel, were all in the top seven in scoring for the Warhawks as true freshmen while Manuel finished as the second leading rebounder.
The 2022 recruiting class includes South Louisiana standout Myca Trail. Trail was selected as the girls Outstanding Player in Class 3A after averaging 18.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, six steals and three assists per game. She led St. Louis Catholic to a 32-2 record and second consecutive Division II championship. The 5-foot-10 Trail scored 33 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the championship game.
“Working with Jess in recruiting has been a joy,” Williams said. “She’s genuine and these kids know that right off the bat. Our success in recruiting directly relates to her authenticity. I look forward to working with Jess every day, and most importantly, for our student-athletes to get to work with her daily. I’m so excited for Jessica Barber to be at ULM. As we have already seen and will continue to see, she is a difference maker.”
Barber took over as the liaison for the women’s basketball staff with athletic academics in the spring of 2020 during one of the most trying times, as the semester was moved to online classes in mid-March. Barber worked tirelessly as an encourager to help student-athletes adjust to their classes being completed from their homes.
In 2021, the Warhawks boasted a 3.575 team GPA for the spring semester which included four 4.0s, seven 3.5s or higher and 11 student-athletes who had 3.0s or higher. The team 3.575 was the highest semester GPA for a women’s basketball team on record due to Barber’s daily and persistent encouragement.
“Jess stepped in at just the right time to assist with encouragement and reminders for our student-athletes on the academic side,” Williams said. “We have an incredible athletic academic staff with Carmen Wright and Tyler Edwards, but having someone in our immediate coaching circle to follow up and encourage daily made all the difference. I have no doubt that her investment in academics has been the difference in how we’ve finished. She is helping to change a mentality and culture and it certainly starts in the classroom.”
Barber has 15 combined years of experience at the high school and collegiate levels, and also spent 13 years coaching the New Orleans Domino’s AAU team.
Barber worked for the Washington Parish School Board, serving as an assistant coach at Franklinton (Louisiana) High School in 2017-18 prior to becoming head girls basketball coach at Pine High School in 2018-19.
She previously spent six seasons as girls’ head basketball coach at Edna Karr High School in New Orleans, compiling a 140-57 record (.711) from 2011-17, including back-to-back trips to the state semifinals in 2014 and 2015. Barber led the Cougars to four-straight 10-4A District Championships from 2014-17 while earning District Coach of the Year honors three times (2014, 2015 and 2016). During her tenure, she helped develop 12 players who went on to continue their careers at the collegiate level.
Prior to taking over the girls’ basketball program at Edna Karr, Barber served as the head coach for the boys’ basketball team at Greater Gentilly High School in New Orleans from 2009-11.
She spent two seasons working as an assistant coach under DoBee Plaisance, first at Loyola University New Orleans in 2007-08 then at Nicholls in 2008-09.
During the 2007-08 campaign, Loyola New Orleans claimed the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference regular-season title, advanced to the Elite Eight of the NAIA Tournament and won a school-record 28 games (28-7 final record).
Barber accepted her first head coaching position at hometown Franklinton High School in 2006-07. She inherited a team that went 3-21 the season prior to her arrival and led the Lady Demons to a 13-12 record.
A four-year letterwinner as a point guard at the University of Mobile from 2001-05, Barber helped the Rams win the 2002 GCAC Championship and became the school’s all-time assists leader (384). She earned GCAC All-Academic honors for four consecutive years from 2002-05.
Barber, who earned her Bachelor of Science in human performance and exercise science from the University of Mobile in May 2006, served as a student assistant coach during the 2005-06 season.
“I’m incredibly honored to work alongside Coach Brooks Donald Williams while serving our student-athletes,” Barber said. “Being promoted to Associate Head Coach is the greatest compliment, one that I am extremely grateful for. New role, same purpose.”ULM