Feb. 6, 2006
By: Derick Thornton, FSU Sports Information
You would think Alicia Gladden would be suffering from the `middle child' syndrome on the FSU women's basketball team. Gladden, the only junior on the team, does not receive the recognition of one of the four senior captains, nor is she one of the six freshmen on the roster. She is, however, one of the most influential players on the team. The guard from Orange Park, Fla., is quietly putting up numbers that will give her all of the attention she deserves.
"Ice," the nickname affectionately used by her teammates, can be defined in a couple of ways when referring to Gladden.
Her frozen, solid defense has earned her awards. She was a member of the ACC All-Defensive team and an All-ACC honorable mention selection last year. She led the ACC in steals and ranked among the top 15 in rebounds and blocked shots per game. Gladden's cool demeanor under pressure will be a key attribute as she will be the only senior on the squad next year. She understands her responsibilities.
"I'm learning to be a leader because next year I will be the only senior," Gladden said. "When we are down, I have to pick us up. I know it is hard as freshmen when you are down, but I have to talk to them and be there for them. I know I have to bring them up to my level and lead by example."
Gladden is well on her way of being the team leader. As a sophomore in 2004-05, Gladden led the team in field goal percentage, was second in rebounding and third in free throw percentage. Her name is also etched in the record book. Gladden set a new school single-season record by snatching 101 steals, breaking a 12-year record held by Florida State's Hall of Famer Tia Paschal, who had 96 steals in the 1992-93 season.
"It's an honor (setting the record)," Gladden said. " I met Tia (Paschal) at the Georgia Tech game last year in Atlanta. She told me to `keep going, keep playing hard and get those steals' and it was a real honor to meet her and to set that record last year."
Gladden's intricate knowledge of the game is one of the reasons why she can reach such accomplishments.
"I anticipate a lot of their (opponents) passes and read their offenses really well," Gladden explained. "We scout our opponents really well, so we know their plays a little bit and that helps a lot."
Gladden's tenacious defense has been overshadowed by an impressive offensive output this season. Second on the team in points last year to All-ACC first team performer Roneeka Hodges, Gladden now sits first in scoring, netting 12.2 points per game.
"Alicia has really come into her own now in this part of the season," FSU Head Coach Sue Semrau said. "She played great for us in Italy and that was when she was with people she was very familiar with. With our new players, she had to get familiar and you can see now that familiarity is coming in and she's really stepped up her game. She's a special player."
She has scored in double figures in six of eight ACC games, 11 of the last 13 games overall, recorded four double-doubles, and even made her first career three-pointer in the season-opener.
"Last year I wasn't much of a scorer, but this year I'm more of a scorer," she said. "During the summer, I was working a lot on my mid-range jumper. I feel that I can be very versatile with the penetration and the jump shot. Last year I was more of the penetrator, but this year our opponents have to play me more straight up."
The Seminoles are looking to make another run in the NCAA Tournament after last year's dramatic and emotional trip ended in the second round to powerhouse Connecticut. The team overcame personal tragedy and a brutal schedule to finish fourth in the ACC and receive a No. 6 seed in the 2005 NCAA Tournament. This year's team has some work to do if it wants to repeat last year's success, but Gladden trusts that her team can do it.
"If we set our mind to it we can go very far," Gladden said. "With the games we have left, I believe we can win all of them if we go hard and play the way we played in North Carolina."