Tear’a Laudermill's smile and humble presence hides a truly scary basketball player.

She's the fastest player on the Nebraska women’s basketball team. She's quicker on defense than almost anybody the Huskers have played, and, in the past, could sometimes be completely out of control.

The 5-foot-9 sophomore from Riverside, Calif., would dazzle opposing offenses and pester the heck out of unaware guards. She’d get a steal, speed down the court and then put up one of the most ridiculous three-point shots.

Those days are gone.

Laudermill has a lot more control and has cut down the wildness in her game. NU coach Connie Yori has praised the maturity and poise Laudermill has shown this season.

“Her choices are a lot better and getting better every game,” Yori said recently. “She gives us something nobody else can give. That’s important.”

As a result, Laudermill is playing more and more as the first player off the bench. In her last seven games, she’s averaging more than 20 minutes per contest and better than seven points and an assist, too.

Laudermill has 16 steals through 10 games this year. With Oral Roberts on the schedule Thursday at the Devaney Sports Center and Grambling State on Dec. 29, it's likely she’ll pile on more thefts before the start of the Big Ten Conference season Jan. 2 against Wisconsin.

“I’ve always been a player who pesters other players,” Laudermill said. “That’s the way I learned to play. You go as hard and as fast as you can all game long.”

She learned that style from playing in the driveway with her brother, Theron II, mom, Pam, and dad, Theron.

“Everybody in the family played basketball and we go at it whenever I’m home,” Tear’a said. “There’s a lot of pride going on. I try to be the best. My brother thinks he’s the best. My dad and mom played a lot of basketball and they think they are the best. I know I am.”

The work on defense has paid off.

“When the guard throws an elbow because I got a steal or tipped a pass, or when somebody else gets mad, I know I got in their head and they’ll be thinking about that instead of the game.”

Laudermill said she has learned to control her game.

“I took a lot of junk-shot threes and now my first concern is to play defense, then take care of the ball, then take a shot if I’m open and we’re in our offense,” Laudermill said. “I think Coach Yori trusts me more, so I can be in a close game at the end and she won’t have to worry. I am truly more patient and poised, but I haven’t cut down my explosiveness.”

Laudermill said senior Lindsey Moore and junior Jordan Hooper have helped her.

“You never want to go against Lindsey in practice, because she’ll make you look foolish; she does that to everybody because she’s so good,” Laudermill said. “And Jordan, she’s such a great player and she’s so humble. They’ll do anything they can to make the rest of us better.”

Reach Ken Hambleton at 402-473-7313 or khambleton@journalstar.com.