Archive for Thursday, March 15, 2007

A&M’s Franklin big contributor

March 15, 2007

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— A'Quonesia Franklin was really under the radar as a high school player.

Ranked the 248th player in the country out of high school, she's 5-foot-3 and from sparsely recruited East Texas.

Franklin, who goes by "Aqua," had gone to a summer camp at Texas A&M; and really loved it, but the only schools that were giving her any attention to play basketball were a couple of mid-level schools and her hometown Tyler Junior College.

Then Aggies coach Gary Blair, who likes to pick out his teams' point guard himself, finally got a chance to see the diminutive, but powerful, player in person.

"When you're 5-foot-3, unless you're a star, people aren't going to look too hard at you," Blair said. "The size of a point guard doesn't bother me. It's the intensity, the leadership, the ability to say she's got at least 50 percent more improvement in her."

In Franklin, Blair has gotten that and more. Franklin, now a junior for the fourth-seeded Aggies, who play No. 13 UT-Arlington in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday in Los Angeles, immediately became the Aggies' starting point guard. She's started 86 of 93 career games.

She's also upped her scoring average each of the last two seasons, averaging 10.0 points and 4.7 assists this season. She went from an All-Big 12 honorable mention player last season to a first-teamer this year.

"We got a combo guard that could score, distribute and lead," Blair said. "She can read the defense, make everybody around her better and play the pressure defense that we play."

With the injury struggles teammate Morenike Atunrase has gone through this season, Franklin has been called on to do more, and she's elevated her game in A&M;'s biggest contests.

In A&M;'s second win over Oklahoma, Franklin had 25 points and 10 assists with only one turnover. When the Aggies clinched a share of the Big 12 regular-season title against Texas, Franklin poured in a career-high 27 points.

"This year, (teammate) Takia Starks had a big load on her with Morenike going down, and I just had to give what I could when I could," Franklin said. "I told my teammates when I have an open shot, I'll take it rather than pass it up."

Franklin might be the shortest player in the Big 12, but Blair's taking a chance on her is paying big dividends.

Franklin said her mother told her she'd go through a growth spurt in high school and college, but she gave up that dream years ago since she doesn't remember growing since middle school.

"But being short has its advantages," Franklin said. "It's hard for people to keep up, and I can move around a lot."

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