December 3, 2004 - by
Sophomore Guard Alicia Gladden Is Doing It All This Season

Dec. 3, 2004

Alicia Gladden. The first thing you notice about her is her smile – that alone can light up a room. But she’s quiet and assuming, until you get to know her that is. The same is true on the court. Nicknamed “Ice,” it didn’t take Gladden long to heat things up on the basketball floor at Florida State. A member of a highly-touted recruiting class in 2003, Gladden came to FSU and did what she does best … worked hard. She quickly worked herself into the starting line up in her freshman year on a senior laden team. In fact, it was just nine games into the 2003-04 season that Gladden broke into the starting line up and she never left it.

“My main focus coming in was just to play really,” Gladden explained. “I didn’t expect to start or get a lot of playing time, but my main focus was to just learn as much as I could from the seniors and upperclassmen. The adjustment was very hard. It was totally different from high school offensively and defensively so mostly everything I learned was new. It was definitely hard but I think I am a quick learner. I’m mostly a visual learner so when you show me certain skills or plays I can learn easier than by someone just telling me.”

While Gladden contributed in many ways last season, averaging 5.2 points and 3.2 rebounds per game, it was her defense that got her noticed. When teammate LaQuinta Neely, a strong defensive player, was lost for the season just six games into the year, head coach Sue Semrau looked to Gladden to help fill that void. This season, Gladden’s defensive presence is expected and she’s comfortable with that and with a new system that better suits FSU’s personnel, Gladden has the opportunity to play several positions on the court depending on who is in the game.

“This year, I like the role (of defensive leader),” Gladden said. “Last year, I wasn’t expected to assume that role as a freshman, but obviously the coaches thought I could be a defensive threat and this year I’m more confident especially playing the post position. I think I contribute most on the defensive side. I am trying to be one of the best defenders on the team this year, but I also really try to run the lanes hard and get a lot of fast breaks.”

Gladden’s comfort level and the new system the team is running has allowed the Orange Park, Fla., native to become a more well-rounded player. Over the summer and in the preseason, she concentrated on her shooting and is working on her right hand dribbling. She meets on the basketball court with graduate assistant Jenny Roulier three times a week before practice and shoots at least 100 shots.

“I don’t really look at being well-rounded,” Gladden said, “but when I look at the stats, I am well-rounded and as I go game-by-game, I will try to get more versatile because that will help the team in the long run, having someone they can depend on to get the rebound, the assist and the steal. Offensively, the new system is working because, as you can see, we are getting a lot of three-pointers and lay ups. This system gives me more opportunity to penetrate. The defense creates turnovers and that’s how we get the ball to score.”

Gladden’s concentration on her offensive game has meant good things for the 4-0 Seminoles. This season, she is averaging 12.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game and has scored in double figures in three of FSU’s first four games. Against Eastern Kentucky in the first round of the Seminole Classic, Gladden recorded her first career double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. She also added four steals and five assists. In the championship game, she had eight points and eight rebounds. Her play in the Seminole Classic earned Gladden all-tournament team honors. It seems that this year in games, Gladden’s now looking for the shot instead of running from it like she did last year.

“Last year, I was really timid offensively,” Gladden said. ” A lot of teams left me open and I would just pass the ball even though it was a shot I would take in high school. This year, when I’m open, I’m going to shoot it regardless. I have more confidence in my shot. Last year, I was more focused on defense, but this year, I am working on dribbling, penetration and shooting anything. I enjoy playing basketball. It’s fun and it’s very exciting. I like to play for the fans and I love for them to see the way I play and I like to see my parents come and see me play. Winning is fun and when you’re scoring it’s fun. When you’re focused and doing the things you need to do, scoring, rebounding and doing all of the little things, that’s when it’s fun for everybody.”

With the adversity the team has had to deal with in recent months, Gladden’s focus on life is dfferent as well.

“I think more about life and how easy it can be taken from you by a blink of an eye or a snap of a finger,” Gladden said. “You just never know what’s going to happen tomorrow, or the next day or the day after that. I think the team, with the adversity, we took it kind of hard, but then everybody had to adapt to it and we are just getting closer and closer.”

For now, Gladden, a pre-physical therapy major, will continue to work hard and play the aggressive style of ball that has become her trademark and Coach Semrau will continue to put Gladden on the opponent’s best offensive player as she has in the first four games this season. In the season-opener, in fact, Gladden held Xavier’s top returning scorer Tara Boothe, an All-American candidate, to just nine points.

“She was a lot of hard work,” Gladden said in the post-game press conference.

Good thing Gladden’s used to that.

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