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Ridgewood 3-point specialist to play D-I ball at FAU

By JAMAL THALJI, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 5, 2002

NEW PORT RICHEY -- With a 3.7 grade-point average, Joeyn Dearsman thought she had worked hard enough and deserved a lot more than to go to, no offense, a community college.

But Hillsborough Community College offered Dearsman a full ride, books and tuition, for two years if the Ridgewood shooting guard would suit up for HCC. The dream of playing college basketball was just too good for Dearsman to pass up.

But now Dearsman has a new dream: playing at a Division I-A school.

Pasco County's all-time 3-point ace, accepted an invitation this week to walk on at Florida Atlantic with the promise of a scholarship next season. She will be the first Ram to join a Division I-A program.

"I mean, it's unbelievable," Dearsman said. "I never thought that I'd be doing D-I, or even D-II. I can't even explain it."

Dearsman was a tough-minded, 5-foot-7 guard who averaged 12 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists a game for the two-time conference- and district-champion Rams. She was also a reliable defender, the kind of player who sacrificed her body to for a loose ball, and even ran the point when Crystal Ayers was on the bench.

But her specialty is the 3-pointer. She holds county records for 3's made in a game (8), season (80), and career (154).

She knows she faces a tough challenge to adjust to Division I ball. The Owls' offseason workout plan is on its way.

"I'll be living in the gym for a while," Dearsman said. "I'll definitely be hitting the weights."'

Ridgewood coach Gary Zimmerman said the Owls are getting a pure shooter, one who knows the game.

"Perimeter shooting, basketball smarts (is what Dearsman brings)," Zimmerman said. "I think she can add a lot of leadership to a team as she gets a little bit farther along in her career.

"She already realizes that (it will be a tough transition). She said her first goal is to try to get a few minutes of playing time. She understands she won't play much as a freshman."

FAU came within a game of reaching its first NCAA tournament last season but lost 64-63 to Georgia State on a putback with two seconds left in the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament final.

How Dearsman came to FAU's attention is a complicated story. Her sister knew someone in California on the school's board of directors, who passed Dearsman's name to the Owls coaching staff. They did some Internet research and liked what they saw.

But tryouts had come and gone, and FAU had signed four players to scholarships. So Dearsman will use her academics to pay for school the first year.

And she gets to realize another dream: to live on a college campus.

"The only way I would go to a community college would be to play basketball," she said. "But with community college, I felt I was going to be missing the whole college experience. I want to go away from home. I want to live in a dorm. I want to live on Rice-A-Roni and all that stuff.

"I don't want to miss out on that whole college thing."

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