March 21, 2009
By Jay Posner, Union-Tribune Staff Writer
San Diego State's players aren't the only ones excited about playing their first NCAA Tournament game in Cox Arena.
Meet Jordan Franey of UC Santa Barbara.
A San Diego native who grew up in La Mesa and starred at Santana High, Franey could not have been more thrilled Monday when the NCAA bracket showed the Gauchos playing in San Diego.
"I was just super excited," Franey said yesterday before UCSB practiced for tonight's game against No. 2-seeded Stanford.
Franey, a 6-foot junior forward, has never played at Cox Arena, even in high school. Of course, she could have played all her home games there had she chosen to play collegiately at SDSU. Franey said she was recruited by Aztecs coach Beth Burns and that she has "a lot of respect for her and everything she's done for this program. But staying local wasn't something I was planning to do and I was pretty interested in UCSB since my sophomore year of high school."
Franey said she has no regrets. She was the Big West Freshman of the Year two years ago when she averaged 8.6 points and 4.0 rebounds a game, and while she slipped last year in terms of playing time and stats, she bounced back with a solid junior season (6.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg).
"I think the Freshman of the Year was kind of a blessing and a curse," she said. "It was a huge honor, and it wasn't intentional, but I didn't feel I needed to work as hard because I had my spot on the team. I didn't work as hard and that was really obvious.
"Last year was just a huge year to grow. The Sophomore Slump is common in every college and it was especially common in my sophomore year. But I really took that to grow and learn and this year has been huge strides for me."
Stats don't tell the whole story for Franey, who is a classic role player known for her willingness to do anything.
"We love her energy and her tenacity coming off the bench," UCSB coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. "She's a versatile small forward. She can shoot from outside, she can go hard to the basket, but I think what you really notice about her when you see her play is her toughness. She leads us probably in floor burns and she sets screens and does all the little things."