Feb. 24, 2007
Alicia Gladden has a smile that lights up a room but that smile went away for awhile. Gladden, and the Seminole family, had one of the biggest shocks of their lives when on June 8, 2004, Gladden’s teammate and roommate Ronalda Pierce died of an aortic aneurism. Her death sparked an outpouring of sympathy from all parts of the Seminole Nation.
“It was an extreme shock,” Gladden said. “We were really starting to come together; we had just started summer workouts to get ready for the next season. It was hard to get through it being a freshman and all of a sudden being alone. I didn’t know if I could go though it with my best friend and roommate gone.”
But get through it she did. Gladden and the Seminoles placed their grief into their basketball. They played their hearts out for each other and for Ronalda in 2004-05. They also played with her literally every step of the way. On the back of each player’s shoe was Ronalda’s number 55. It was a little reminder that she would always be a part of the Florida State program; a vigil that Gladden continues even today.
Gladden has thrived on the inner strength that Ronalda provides her and her career has been much like that of the Seminole program the past four years … simply better and better with each season. As a freshman, Gladden broke into the starting line up in the 10th game of the season and has remained there ever since.
It was clear to Seminole fans early on that Gladden was something special. With Gladden’s help, Florida State has recorded 19 or more victories in three straight seasons which is the most successful span in program history. In the 2004-05 season, Gladden set an FSU single-season record with 101 steals and with 260 career steals, is just 10 steals shy of becoming the school’s all-time leader. Gladden is a two-time member of the ACC All-Defensive team but is also solid offensively, leading the Seminoles in scoring in two straight seasons.
This season, Gladden is the team-leader at 14.4 points per game and has scored in double figures a team-high 22 times, including the last 15 straight games. She became the 20th member of the 1,000 point club at FSU in the second game of the season and now has 1,333 career points which ranks 10th all-time at FSU. In her career, she has led Florida State in scoring 20 times and in rebounding 24 times.
With a 3.37 grade point average in sport management, Gladden is also a star in the classroom. Earlier this month, she garnered second team District 3 Academic All-American honors and has earned Dean’s List status five times. A three-time member of the ACC Academic Honor Roll, Gladden was named to the ACC All-Academic Team for 2005-06.
Together, Gladden and her teammates and coaches have fought through the adversity, but Gladden is quick to say that she couldn’t have fought the fight without the support of her parents. For the last four years, Gladden has been able to look up in the stands just behind the Florida State bench and see her parents, David and Frances Gladden.
“It’s always comforting when your family is in the stands,” Gladden said. “I was the only one in my family to play sports and get a scholarship. They are very proud of me, and provide a big lift for me.”
Gladden, herself, has provided a big lift to the Florida State program by sharing her strength and there is nothing she would like more than to conclude her career with a third straight trip to the NCAA Tournament.
“We committed to be a good team each year and over the last three years we have succeeded,” Gladden said.
Tonight as Florida State celebrates Senior Night, there will undoubtedly be a smile on Gladden’s face and that smile will include the memory of Ronalda Pierce, who may not be alongside her on the court but will always be in her heart.