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Fierce focus on future

There's no such thing as downtime in the world of Holy Names standout Gianna Messina.

By BRYAN BURNS
Published March 5, 2006

TAMPA - Want to congratulate Gianna Messina - the Times Hillsborough Player of the Year - but don't know where to find her?

Ask Academy of the Holy Names coach Casey Higgins.

"She's easy to find because she's always in the gym," Higgins said. "She doesn't take any time off. I called her the other day, and she was in the weight room. I told her it's okay to take a week off and rest, but she doesn't want to."

Messina, a junior guard, explains her drive is fueled by the Jaguars' 48-43 region final loss to St. Petersburg Catholic.

"I felt kind of empty walking off the court after the regional final," Messina said. "I'm using that loss as motivation."

Almost immediately after the loss - "I took about two days off," Messina admitted - she began training daily for next season. She'll typically begin shooting for an hour. That's followed by almost two hours in the workout room with weights and cardiovascular exercises.

"I'm not really pushing it that much right now," she said, leaving one to wonder what really pushing it would be like.

Messina certainly has nothing left to prove to her coach or teammates.

She has steadily improved from 10 points as a freshman, to 16 as a sophomore. This season, it was 21.2 a game during the regular season, but that number jumped to 25 once the playoffs started. "The pressure's on in the playoffs" she said. "I consider myself a big-time player, so I felt like I needed to step up."

Messina also averaged almost eight rebounds a game, impressive when considering she is 5 feet 5.

"When I was younger, I was always the scrappy player. I still have that mentality," she said. "I get a lot of my points on putbacks. I'm not afraid to throw my body around to get a rebound."

Messina will be expected to step up again in her senior season. Academy was small this season; no player was taller than 5-7. Losing seniors Kristina Darby and Dana Esposito will make the Jaguars even smaller next year.

"My role is probably going to change. I'm going to have to play some forward," she said. "Every game, I just want to go full out."

"Gianna will have to carry us next year," Higgins said.

Judging from her offseason work ethic, Messina seems ready to shoulder that load.

[Last modified March 5, 2006, 00:53:19]


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