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Happy being No. 2

A reluctant point guard, Jen Barrett makes the most of a transfer to Ridgewood.

By JAMAL THALJI, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 9, 2003

NEW PORT RICHEY -- Jen Barrett is averaging 5.7 fewer points a game this season compared to the last.

She has 2.6 fewer assists a game. She has .7 fewer steals, attempted 24 fewer 3-pointers and sunk 12 less.

Yet all that matters to Barrett is this: She couldn't be happier.

Because when Barrett transferred to Ridgewood from Hudson in the offseason, it was to get away from being the offensive focus, and from being the point guard as well.

Barrett had to do a lot for the Cobras as a sophomore, and she had to do it from a position on the floor she never felt comfortable assuming.

At Ridgewood, the junior is just another cog in the machine -- albeit a productive and talented one -- playing with the county's best team, which enters Tuesday's Class 4A, District 8 tournament at Mitchell as the No. 1 seed.

Membership with the Rams has its privileges.

For example, last season about this time, Barrett would have been preparing to play Ridgewood in the district tourney. As many teams have learned playing the five-time district champion, that is a daunting proposition.

"It's more competitive here," Barrett said. "Instead of practicing and preparing to play Ridgewood, we play to win.

"And the other good thing is you don't have to worry about preparing to play Ridgewood anymore."

Barrett has quickly adapted to her new role in the Rams' backcourt, making it the county's best. Barrett plays the second guard position alongside returning Sunshine Athletic Conference player of the year Crystal Ayers, who plays the point.

But Barrett had to adjust to a few changes. First, to the Ridgewood offense. Then to a new coach, when longtime coach Gary Zimmerman, who has known Barrett since her middle school days, abruptly resigned.

"She had to come into a situation where she was a new player, and first she had to learn a new system under one coach, and then she had to learn from a new coach," first-year coach Greg Bollinger said. "But despite all of those things she went through transferring, I think she's done very well."

Barrett gives the Rams yet another scoring option, one who can drop it from 3-point range and is unafraid to go inside despite her 5-foot-2 frame.

"She gives us another outside shooter (along with small forward Jamie Surmin)," Bollinger said. "When you have somebody on each side who can shoot, who do you guard? That's tough to defense and then we have Crystal who can penetrate and kick out so they can fire away.

"She's been an asset from the 3-point line and from the free-throw line. But she's not afraid to take it to the basket and she doesn't care how big they are, which is unusual for someone who is 5-2."

Barrett is second on the team with 9.7 points per game, behind Ayers' 16.7. She is second on the team in 3-point percentage, shooting 35 percent (29-of-82). She is shooting 46 percent from the field (49-of-107) and 68 percent from the line (38-of-58).

But Bollinger is most happy with Barrett's defense and her willingness to fight in the paint for rebounds, averaging 2.8 a game. As Barrett pointed out, at Ridgewood, she has to be ready to do those things.

"I can rebound now, I'm more determined now," she said. "You have to be on this team."

Said the coach: "She gets her share of rebounds, it's unbelievable. She's been great to have around and she's done everything I've asked her to do."

Even volunteer to play the point if need be, but Ridgewood hasn't. Yet.

She's even volunteered to do things she hasn't been asked to do, like being the team clown.

"I'm the fun one," Barrett said. "I get everyone else ready to play. I make all the jokes. I just know how to make everyone laugh."

To Barrett, though, her biggest contribution on the court doesn't show up on the stat sheet.

"I think I'm more of a team player now," she said, "and not just one who scores a lot anymore."

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