Success Doesn't Go To Basketball Star's Head
The consensus on Jessica Dickson goes like this: She will score more points than any other player at USF. Dickson will leave school with a truckload of awards. Then she will go pro, most likely as a high pick in the WNBA.
But the thing is, if you were to meet her, you wouldn't know this. She's quiet -even shy. For example, at a team photo shoot this past December, she seeks out the back row. Even during the on-a-whim caroling that broke out, 'The 12 days of Christmas.'
There was Dickson in the back, singing with her team, but shying away form standing out.
POWELL: She still was a silent captain. She let her leadership speak on the court in scoring baskets and plays and things of that nature. She never really chastised players or anything of that nature she just developed her game.
That's Annette Powell. She coached Dickson in high school, and she says Dickson earned her skills, shooting 500 shots a day.
POWELL: After basketball games, if her shot was off, her mother and her stepfather would take her out to a local park and make her shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot.
Dickson is the top female scorer at Ocala Vanguard High School. During high school, she turned down spots on the track and volleyball teams to focus on basketball. But Dickson wasn't sure where to go, she went to her Coach Powell, looking for advice.
POWELL: I said, if your're going to be a superstar, why not go to a program and work hard at building a program, being part of a program.
Dickson wanted to stay close to home, so her family could watch her play. USF was close and a young program wanting to do big things.
You know one of the reasons why I came here you know help build this program and put this program on the map.
SOUND: practice sounds
In the practice gym at the Sun Dome, Coach Fernandez stands at half court watching closely as his team practices;' young athletes running past him in groups of threes weaving their way down the court with the basketball.
USF head coach Jose Fernandez saw Dickson's talent and started her for every game as a freshman. But he made some changes - the biggest one being he moved the 5'11' Dickson from the power to the small forward position. Dickson thrived in her new position, earning Conference USA Freshman of the Year honors. Teammate, Senior Tristen Webb, says Dickson's performances were captivating.
WEBB: It's just that she is really exciting to watch especially when she is hot and everything she shoots is in.
Last year, she was the third-highest scorer in the nation. Yet Coach Fernandez says the success doesn't go to Dickson's head.
FERNANDEZ: You know those accomplishments she's the type of player she'd trade them all in for our team winning a big east title or going to the NCAA tournament. Jessica's got a tremendous work ethic. I think she is very humble it is very easy as a coach to motivate the rest of your team when your best player is one of your hardest workers.
Sports Writer Mel Greenberg, creator of the women's college basketball AP poll, has been covering Big East women's basketball since its conception. Greenberg says that Dickson has the tools needed to play professionally.
GREENBERG: Poise, confidence, makes other people around them better players;'. she's all that. She's got that certain pizzazz got a lot of speed a lot of quickness and certainly when your looking for offense in a game and things like that. You know people are always going to look at scorers.
He expects Dickson to be drafted in the first round of the WNBA draft.
And when she hits the hardwood as a pro, she'll be hitting it with a degree. Coach Fernandez appreciates her hard work both on the court and in the classroom.
FERNANDEZ: She's gonna graduate on time she's gonna graduate in four years and i think she will be one of the first kids selected in the WNBA draft.
Dickson would like to play at the professional level whether it is in the WNBA or overseas, where the female players can make more money. But her long term goal is to use her communications degree to be a commentator for ESPN when her playing days are over. But for now, Dickson is still working on her game. Looking back she says the practices, the sacrifices, the hard work -- all of it was worth it.
DICKSON: Because doing that got me here doing that is what got me a scholarship you know a free education by playing basketball. And I think its just that work ethic that was instilled in me and I carry it with me still.
Dickson and the rest of the Bulls wrap up the season at the end of February. The team is hoping to make the NCAA women's tournament in March.
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