By Silvia Rodriguez
To read story at the FIU Magazine’s website, click here
To say FIU junior guard Jerica Coley has had a good season would be putting it lightly.
The two-time Associated Press All-American leads the nation in scoring with an average of 26.3 points per game and she’s also FIU’s first-ever two time Sun Belt Conference (SBC) Player of the Year.
But despite the impressive personal statistics, Coley remains grounded and focused on teamwork and schoolwork.
“I think I’m more of a team player. I mean I just want to win the game. I want to win the tournament. It is a team sport so I play for the team,” Coley said.
Coley, who averages 26.3 points per game, played tennis throughout most of her life, but it wasn’t until middle school that she stepped onto the basketball court.
“I started playing basketball and eventually I played in a traveling AAU team [Amateur Athletic Union] and then I just kind of kept going from there,” Coley said.
As a high school student at St. Petersburg Catholic, Coley continued to play both sports, but eventually made the decision to stick to basketball in hopes of landing a scholarship to attend college.
“I saw other schools also in Florida, but when I came here I just felt more comfortable with the coaches and the school,” Coley said of FIU.
For Coley, whose academics are just as important as her games, a major winning point for FIU was the Student-Athlete Academic Center, also known as the SAAC.
“The academic support system that they have, the SAAC…I felt it was better here than in other schools,” she said.
Earlier this year, Coley achieved yet another milestone in her athletic and academic career, when she was named Capital One Academic All-District first team.
Academic All-District teams are made up of student athletes that are not only performing well in their sport, but also academically. For Coley, a dietetics and nutrition major, the recognition for her hard work in both the court and the classroom was a proud moment.
“I was excited about that because I really try to do well in school,” said Coley, who currently maintains a 3.34 GPA.
In January, FIU’s Athletic Media Relations Department launched www.HoleyColey.com in support of Coley’s 2013 All-America candidacy. The hashtag #HoleyColey is also used by fans throughout various social media outlets.
The campaign and her records have shot Coley into the spotlight, which one might think would be stressful. But Coley, responsible for 41.4 percent of the Panthers’ scoring in the 2012-2013 season so far, seems impervious to all the attention.
“It’s shocking at first, I guess it’s kind of exciting. My teammates are really good about it. They make it funny to me, and they’re nice about it,” Coley said. “It’s a lot at first to take in. I just do the best that I can do. I try not to let it get to my head.”
Her family, however, shows a little more excitement over her athletic and academic achievements.
“They’re excited about it. They like to look up the stuff and they like to see us do well and see me do well. They come to every home game here,” said the eight-time winner of the SBC Women’s Basketball Player of the Week.
With such thriving athletic success thus far, most would think a professional basketball career would be her next goal. However, Coley says that attaining a master’s and furthering her education is her prime objective.
“I want it [basketball] to be an option for me when I’m done. But school has always been the first choice and basketball second just because, I mean, basketball only lasts for so long,” Coley said.
But for now, Coley is keeping busy with her double life of full-time student and athlete.
“It just really comes down to managing your time, and schedule and energy. It could be hard some days but you kind of get used to it. You figure it out as you go along,” said Coley, whose short-term goal includes passing organic chemistry this spring semester.
And although free time is a rare commodity, when she does get a break, Coley hardly stays put.
“I like to watch movies, play tennis. When my family comes down or when I get to go home for the weekend, I like to hang out with them,” Coley said. “Oh, and I like to go go-kart racing,” she added.
There is no doubt that Coley has a natural talent and ease when it comes to basketball. But to her, it all comes down to hard work.
“I’m just gonna try to be the best that I can. If you work hard every day you’ll get better. Every year it’ll show. Pretty simple,” Coley said.
Photos courtesy of FIU News.