Monday, January 22, 2018
Sports

Ex-St. Petersburg Catholic star Jerica Coley scores big at Florida International

She is a braided wonder who slashes to the basket and generates excitement for Florida International University. With a crossover dribble that freezes defenders in their hightops, and with a feathery touch to match, guard Jerica Coley has become a scoring machine.

Coley, a former standout at St. Petersburg Catholic High School, is the third-leading scorer in Division I women's basketball, averaging 24 points. She has scored in double figures in her past 31 games, dating to the final three games of last season. And she has injected life into the Panthers (20-9), helping them reach their first 20-win season in a decade and securing the No. 3 seed in the Sun Belt Conference tournament, which starts Saturday in Hot Springs, Ark. FIU opens against Louisiana.

By attacking the rim and hitting shot after shot, Coley, a sophomore, has become so dynamic that FIU's sports information department is promoting her as an All-America candidate. Coley now has a nickname (Holy Coley) that appears regularly on Twitter hash tags and a YouTube video produced by the school.

"I definitely would not have expected any of this," Coley said. "It's hard to say this was a goal of mine, to be that high in the nation in scoring. I didn't even know it at first. I think I first heard about that from one of my coaches."

In high school, Coley thrived in the spotlight. She was the Times' All-Suncoast Player of the Year twice. In her senior season at St. Petersburg Catholic, she averaged 23 points, seven blocks, five steals and four assists. Her best game came in the playoffs when she scored 39 and was one assist from a quadruple double in a win over Lakeland Tenoroc.

Her performance prompted Tenoroc coach Vic Smith to say: "We didn't run out of gas. We ran into Coley. The scouting reports said she was the ice cream, cake and sliced bread. They didn't lie."

Still, no big-time program in the state wanted her because she is only 5 feet 7.

"I don't know the reason why some of the bigger schools passed on me because I never heard from them," Coley said. "They didn't recruit me. I did hear from my high school coaches that it was probably because of my size."

FIU offered her a scholarship and a chance to play right away.

"They told me we would all get an opportunity no matter what grade we were in," Coley said. "That was exciting to me and a big reason I wanted to go there."

As a freshman, Coley got significant playing time, averaging 14 points.

"I just loved the way she played and that's before I even knew her as a person," FIU coach Cindy Russo said. "And then after I started to know her, I became constantly amazed all the time."

Everyone knows Coley can score. But she has also had to provide leadership this season. She took on that role with the same determination she shows zig-zagging through defenders.

"When I first came in I had to adjust to players being bigger, stronger and faster," Coley said. "Now, I'm just trying to take on whatever role we need to help everyone on the team. I'm not going out there and trying to score every time with the ball.

"The points are nice, but the only thing I'm worried about, especially at this point in the season, is winning."

Bob Putnam can be reached at [email protected]

Comments

High school scoreboard for Jan. 22

Monday’s scoreboardBoys soccerPalm Harbor U. 3, Clearwater 0Boca Ciega 3, Indian Rocks Christian 1Girls soccerClass 4A, District 10: Countryside 7, Clearwater 0Class 3A, District 10: Osceola 14, Gibbs 0
Updated: 10 minutes ago

MELBOURNE, Australia — Back-to-back shockers have resulted in a most unexpected Australian Open men’s quarterfinal. The season-opening Grand Slam has a tendency to be unpredictable, but losing six-time champion Novak Djokovic and fifth-ranked Dominic...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Vikes’ Shurmur to lead Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur was hired as the Giants head coach Monday afternoon. The Giants announced the hiring less than 24 hours after Shurmur and the Vikings were beaten by the Eagles in the NFC title game. S...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Updated: 2 hours ago
HomeTeam Hot Shot winners: Misha O’Neal and Tyrick Brascom

HomeTeam Hot Shot winners: Misha O’Neal and Tyrick Brascom

Misha O’Neal, Countryside The Cougars’ 69-63 overtime win against Clearwater last week had a little extra meaning to O’Neal. The guard transferred from Clearwater after last season. O’Neal led all scorers with 23 points and added nine steals. "We al...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Oh Gahd, the Patriots are back in the Super Bowl! Don’t worry, lots of new story lines for LII vs. E-A-G-L-E-S

Oh Gahd, the Patriots are back in the Super Bowl! Don’t worry, lots of new story lines for LII vs. E-A-G-L-E-S

TAMPA – Unless you are a Chowd who drives the cah wicked fah and pahks in the yahd, you probably aren't all that jacked up about the Patriots returning to Super Bowl LII against the Philadelphia Eagles in Minneapolis. Anybody but Bill Belichick...
Updated: 4 hours ago
A top-heavy lineup for district girls soccer

A top-heavy lineup for district girls soccer

Girls soccer super seven1. Newsome (18-0): The Wolves have been completely dominant this season. They have outscored opponents 114-3. Let that sink in. They are ranked 44th nationally by MaxPreps and fifth in the state in Class 5A. Sophie Shrader has...
Updated: 4 hours ago
USF sets 2-game football series with N.C. State

USF sets 2-game football series with N.C. State

USF announced Monday it has reached a home-and-home football deal with North Carolina State, the second ACC team to be added to the Bulls' future football slate in less than a week.The Bulls announced Thursday they'll play a two-for-one deal with Lou...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Lightning’s Ondrej Palat to be out six to eight weeks

Lightning’s Ondrej Palat to be out six to eight weeks

The Lightning will be without Ondrej Palat six to eight weeks. And  Tampa Bay is still ticked by how Palat got hurt.The Wild's Jared Spurgeon slashed/speared the back of the Lightning wing's right ankle on a power play Saturday."It's a huge loss...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Jordan Miner, Isaiah Bolden shine in International Bowl

Jordan Miner, Isaiah Bolden shine in International Bowl

Four months ago, Wiregrass Ranch's Jordan Miner and Wesley Chapel's Isaiah Bolden squared off against each other in a highly anticipated matchup between two of the area's most heavily recruited players in the class of 2018.This past weekend, the two ...
Updated: 6 hours ago