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Florida State women's basketball star Jacinta Monroe improves confidence, consistency

Junior forward Jacinta Monroe, left, saw her game take off in the NCAA Tournament and worked harder than ever this summer.

Courtesy of Florida State University

Junior forward Jacinta Monroe, left, saw her game take off in the NCAA Tournament and worked harder than ever this summer.

TALLAHASSEE

It wasn't your typical self-evaluation. Shoot: For Florida State forward Jacinta Monroe, it sounded more like a confession.

"Last year, my confidence level was fluctuating," said the 2006 Gatorade Florida girls player of the year out of Fort Lauderdale. "It was high one day and then low the next day. It had nothing to do with the opponents. It was me. I just had confidence issues."

Injuries and academic issues forced coach Sue Semrau to use 18 different starting lineups in FSU's 33 games, and the lack of continuity affected Monroe more than any other player.

But that wasn't the whole story.

"There were some games where a couple bad plays or whatever and you'd lose her," senior guard Mara Freshour said. "And it was hard to get her back."

Not so these days. Monroe, a 6-foot-4 junior, worked harder than ever in the offseason on her game and exudes a palpable assuredness that each and every night, she will play well. Very well.

That sure bodes well for the No. 21 Seminoles, who begin their quest for a fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament berth Sunday against visiting Florida Gulf Coast.

"She comes with a maturity to practice. She doesn't let things bother her; the circumstances outside no longer dictate how hard she's going to go," Semrau said. "Her mind is made up that she is going to be a dominant player regardless of who's on the floor."

If so, look out. Despite her admitted up-and-down season, Monroe still averaged 10.2 points (third on the team behind now senior guard Tanae Davis-Cain and Freshour), 6.2 rebounds (team high) and 2.4 blocks (to give her 141, 69 shy of breaking the school record set by Brooke Wyckoff).

Monroe will tell you that the turning point came in last year's postseason. After a lackluster performance in FSU's loss to Duke in the ACC tournament (she had two points and one rebound in 16 minutes), she had eight points and nine rebounds in an upset of Ohio State in the NCAA Tournament and followed that with 14 points (4-of-9 shooting from the floor and 6-of-7 from the line) and a game-high 13 rebounds in a 73-72 overtime loss to Oklahoma State.

"The light switched on for me," she said.

Her coaches and teammates sure have noticed a difference.

Monroe had 29 points and 15 rebounds in FSU's first exhibition game, but Semrau said the most impressive thing that night was that she was steady and sure, even in how she boxed out and directed her teammates — things that don't show up in a box score; things that didn't always show up in Monroe's game.

"She's bringing a confidence that I've never seen, and she's also bringing a consistency," Freshour said.

The presence of freshman center Cierra Bravard should help Monroe maintain both traits. The 6-4 Bravard is powerfully built and will demand double teams in the post. That should create more space for everyone and help stabilize everyone's role at both ends of the court.

"Last year, I knew I was needed, but, as far as my niche and what I was good at, I wasn't too sure, I was just all over the place," Monroe said. "Because of the work I put in over the summer, my confidence has skyrocketed. Not to the point where I'm going to be boastful about it, but where I can go in, night in and night out, and play hard and score."

Brian Landman can be reached at landman@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3347.

Florida State women's basketball star Jacinta Monroe improves confidence, consistency 11/10/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 13, 2008 5:04pm]

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