Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

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

Jerica Coley is third in Division I with 24 ppg.

Courtesy of FIU

Jerica Coley is third in Division I with 24 ppg.

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

Ex-St. Petersburg Catholic star Jerica Coley scores big at Florida International 02/28/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 10:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Red state: Yes, Bill O'Reilly is a Bucs fan


    TAMPA -- The question was simple enough for Bucs fans: Why is former Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly wearing a red Bucs polo?

    O'Reilly was wearing the polo during a few video clips from his "No Spin News" podcast posted on his website Monday, which was exciting news for some Bucs fans and not-so-exciting …

    Former Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly was sporting a red Bucs polo during his "No Spin News" video podcast Monday. An assistant said the shirt was given to him by former Bucs tight end Dave Moore.
  2. For starters: Slumping LoMo, Dickerson not in Rays lineup tonight vs LHP


    1B Logan Morrison and LF Corey Dickerson, two of the main slumpers in the Rays lineup, are not in tonight's lineup with the Orioles throwing LHP Wade Miley.

    Logan Morrison is 0-for-12 on this homestand.
  3. Ex-Buc Booger McFarland becomes ABC college football analyst


    Former Bucs defensive lineman Booger McFarland is continuing his broadcasting rise by joining ABC's studio coverage for the upcoming college football season, ESPN announced Tuesday.

    Former Bucs lineman Booger McFarland (No. 92) will become an ABC studio analyst this college football season.
  4. Rank the top 10 Bucs players? Here's what fans said


    We mentioned this morning that is was a fun challenge, in response to Sports Illustrated's ranking of the NFL's top 400 players, to ask fans to rank their top 10 Bucs players.

    Bucs receiver Mike Evans celebrates with quarterback Jameis Winston during last year's Bucs win against the Seahawks. Evans and Winston finished 1-2 in an informal Twitter poll of fans ranking their top Bucs players.
  5. Brain study examined 111 former NFL players. Only one didn't have CTE.


    Researchers studying the link between football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy found that 99 percent of the brains donated by families of former NFL players showed signs of the neurodegenerative disease, according to a new study published Tuesday.

    This combination of photos provided by Boston University shows sections from a normal brain, top, and from the brain of former University of Texas football player Greg Ploetz, bottom, in stage IV of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. According to a report released on Tuesday by the Journal of the American Medical Association, research on the brains of 202 former football players has confirmed what many feared in life -- evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a devastating disease in nearly all the samples, from athletes in the NFL, college and even high school. [Dr. Ann McKee | BU via AP]