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Published: Wednesday, 2/29/2012

New assignment proves successful for Owens recruit

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
owens community collegeEmma-Jean Rickets is second on the Express team in scoring and rebounding. owens community collegeEmma-Jean Rickets is second on the Express team in scoring and rebounding.
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Coach Michael Llanas laughs when he says he used the Star Trek approach to recruit Emma-Jean Ricketts to Owens Community College's women's basketball program.

"I challenged her to go where she had not gone before," Llanas said of the Waterville native.

That meant the 6-foot-tall Ricketts, a two-time All-Northern Lakes League performer at Anthony Wayne High School, would spend less time in the post and more time at other spots on the floor.

Ricketts laughed when she heard the pitch, but she also was quick to agree that it was the right plan for her. "I had predominantly played in the post in high school, but Coach Llanas guaranteed we would spend time on my outside game," she said. "We would work on my outside shot and my ball-handling to make me more versatile. This was the next step I needed to take [in my basketball development]."

She now is second on the team in scoring (13.4) and rebounding (5.9), and she is shooting better than 45 percent from the field, a good percentage for someone not taking a majority of her shots close to the basket.

Llanas said he wasn't surprised that Ricketts has performed well. "She's very intelligent, and at Anthony Wayne she was willing to perform a role that would help her team the most. But we also knew she would be motivated when she came to play for us, because this would give her a new lease on her basketball life."

That doesn't mean the transition didn't hit some bumps along the way.

"Once in practice I said to her, 'When you bring the ball up the floor,' and she looked at me as if I was crazy," Llanas said. "But I quickly reminded her that this was what I was talking about when I talked about expanding her game. With all freshmen there are times of trial and error, but she has done very well."

Ricketts also thinks the transition has gone smoothly, adding, "Some games I have to play in the post, and sometimes I struggle to guard smaller guards. But my outside shot also has gotten better, and being able to shoot the 3-pointer has been a big addition to my game."

Ricketts said the transition from high school, where she received All-Ohio honorable mention in Division I as a senior, to the college game has gone relatively well.

"It's definitely a longer season, considering we started conditioning in August and the season isn't over yet," she said. "It's also a little more intense, both in practices and games. And when you have classes, a two-hour study table, and a two-hour practice, that's a long day."

Although Ricketts is hoping her team's season is far from over -- the Express is 25-5 and ranked seventh in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II poll -- she already knows what she will work on this summer.

" … I need to get stronger, and I need to work on my ball-handling," she said. "I know that if I want to be a guard at a four-year college, those are the things I need to do well."

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.



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