Thursday, March 8, 2001 Volume 66, Issue 112



Lady Coogs' little player a big asset

By Crystal J. Doucette
Daily Cougar Staff

I don't know if they'll let a girl play.

Those words helped spark a career on the hardwood for one little girl from Baton Rouge, La.

There have been many who doubted Jessica Shanklin's ability to handle the rock, but her love for sports, her tenacity and her stats are a testimony to her talent.

Her first love was gymnastics, but after her mentors left Louisiana she was introduced to league basketball through the Recreation and Park Commission for the parish of East Baton Rouge.

"I was the only girl in the BREC league," Shanklin said. "I had a lot of people who doubted me, thought I couldn't play. I wound up starting for the first game and kept it up."

Senior point guard Jessica Shanklin is enjoying a winning season to close out her collegiate career.

Cougar File Photo

Shanklin graduated in 1997 from McKinley High School in Baton Rouge, La., with All-District and All-State honors in basketball. She also competed in track and volleyball.

"I'm a sports fanatic," Shanklin noted.

The quick guard headed to Pearl River Junior College in Poplarville, Miss., where she earned NJCAA honorable mention All-American honors and was named First Team All-State and All-Region 23.

Shanklin's performance on the court with the Lady Cougars has been solid. In her first year in Division I ball as a junior transfer, she was the starting point guard in every Conference USA game for UH.

This season, after taking a back seat to freshman Chandi Jones earlier in competition, Shanklin leads the league in assist-turnover ratio in Conference USA play. A threat from outside the arc, she also finished the regular season ranked third in three-point baskets per game (2.06). She hit a career-high seven against Detroit-Mercy for 27 points Dec. 19.

The 5-5 senior point grabbed 11 rebounds against Memphis on Saturday in the Lady Cougars' first quarterfinal victory, 80-74, in the C-USA Tournament. Shanklin posted a double-double in the contest with 10 assists. She followed with seven assists and 19 points against Tulane in the semifinal loss, 78-74, on Monday.

Shanklin, a psychology major, is set on finishing her degree. Her mother, Janice Shanklin, is retiring after 40 years of teaching. She also has a 17-year-old sister who will be graduating from McKinley.

As for pro competition, Shanklin hopes to get a trial to play in the WNBA or one of the European leagues.

"I'm just 21. I have a lot of life to go and I'm not in a rush for anything," Shanklin said. "I'm happy with what I've accomplished so far and I take that in stride."

What about the postseason?

"We're looking forward to going to the NCAA tournament," she said.

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