Breland on track to stardom

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 14, 2006

CHAPEL HILL – If there were any concerns about Jessica Breland making the transition from prep superstar to collegiate player, the first two games of her college career have eliminated any concern.

Breland, a member of the number two-ranked North Carolina Tar Heel’s women’s basketball team, has started her career at UNC with more than a little promise.

Breland followed up an 18-point, 14-rebound performance in her first collegiate game against East Tennessee State University with 13 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks and a steal Sunday against visiting Winston Salem State University.

The fact that Breland was the team’s leading scorer in her first game was downplayed because many of UNC’s starters sat for most of the 96 – 35 blowout.

Nevertheless, long time UNC head coach Sylvia Hatchell was not short on accolades for the former Bertie High School standout.

&uot;She’s eager to learn and very versatile,&uot; Hatchell said. &uot;She’s a dynamite rebounder and an excellent interior player.&uot;

Hatchell’s excitement about Breland is indicated by the coach’s assessment of the 6′-3&uot; forward in the UNC media guide.

Hatchell describes Breland as a player who can dunk, play every position on the floor and someone with the potential to be the best player to come through the program.

This coming from a coach with 700 wins, a national championship, six ACC championships and a spot in the Women’s Basketball Hall-of-Fame.

&uot;Last year she was one of the top five prep players in the country,&uot; Hatchell said. &uot;The veterans here are helping her get adjusted to the college game.&uot;

Breland is the first to admit that the jump from rural North Carolina high school to the number two collegiate team in the nation is not a piece of cake.

&uot;The practice sessions are so much more intense than anything I saw in high school,&uot; Breland said. &uot;It is good to play against the best players in the country every day.&uot;

Two Tar Heels, seniors Ivory Latta and Camille Little are being touted as candidates for the John R. Wooden Award.

The Wooden Award is given every year to the nation’s top player.

Hatchell said that Breland would probably play the small forward and power forward positions for most of the season, although Breland’s skill at ball handling and defense has seen her playing at the top quite a bit this season.

Breland said versatility is something that coach Hatchell expects from the entire team.

&uot;Everybody on the team should be able to hit shots from the outside,&uot;

Breland said. &uot;I’m just trying to fill in wherever the team needs me.&uot;

The lady Tar Heels play Elon University in Chapel Hill Thursday.