By Rory Sharrock
Former Riverdale hoopster KaDeidra Freeland has found success on every level of competition from the hardwood gyms in the Southern Crescent to the collegiate level as a member of the Fort Valley State University Lady Wildcats.
Last season, she created a buzz after being named the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) Women's Freshman Player of the Year.
Now, as a sophomore, that buzz has turned into a swarm as she has been selected on the preseason All-SIAC Second Team for the 2008-09 campaign.
"I feel very blessed. The Lord has really helped me a lot. Winning Freshman of the Year was a great accomplishment and being chosen preseason Second Team All-SIAC is another big accomplishment," said Freeland. "It makes me feel good and I'm proud to go to Fort Valley State."
As a freshman, Freeland started in 20 of 28 games and ranked third on the team in scoring, averaging 8.1 points per contest. She also led the Lady Wildcats in scoring on three different occasions, including a career-high 18 points in a 69-55 win over Benedict College on Jan 19.
Freeland's 5-foot, 11-inch frame and long wingspan helped her dominate the paint as she averaged six rebounds a night, which ranked first on the team and 19th in the SIAC. She was the top rebounder in eight games, including collecting double digit boards four times with a career-high of 14 in Fort Valley State's 70-34 rout over LeMoyne-Owen College on Jan. 31.
"She can post up, go outside and handle the ball. She does a lot of things well at 5'11". She plays up strong around the rim," said Fort Valley State women's head coach Lonnie Bartley. "She's just a phenomenal athlete. We're just very blessed to have someone like her and the dividends are starting to pay off already."
With so much talent at such a young age, she's quickly become one of coach Bartley's prized pupils. Bartley and his staff see the untapped potential in her game and they plan to increase her roll throughout the upcoming season.
"She won the respect of a lot of coaches as a freshman. We expect her to have a stellar career here and she's going to pick off where she left off heading into this season," said Bartley. "She has a chip on her shoulder because she thinks she should be playing Division I. So she thinks she has a lot to prove and I like her playing like that. I told her if she thinks she's D-I, she should stick out at a Division II school like a sore thumb."
While last year's individual marks were outstanding, Freeland has her eyes set on a bigger goals and a trip to the NCAA Division II Tournament. With a a full year under her belt, combined with an intense summer workout of weightlifting and playing streetball against men, Freeland is set to take the court with a no hold's barred attitude for the 2008-09 season.
"I have a lot of goals in mind and I'm excited this year. Fort Valley has taught me to work hard. I've never worked this hard before and I feel I'm going to be prepared for the season. I'm more experienced and I know what to expect," Feeland said.
Last year, Fort Valley State went 18-10 and 15-5 in conference play. The Lady Wildcats clinched a No. 2 seed in the SIAC Tournament, but were upset by the No. 7-seeded Stillman Lady Tigers 63-57 in the second round.
Although she's far from home and plays on courts all over the region, Freeland's heart belongs to the city of Riverdale and Clayton County.
Like many current and former students, she's upset over the controversies surrounding the school district, especially with her having a younger brother who plays basketball for the Riverdale Raiders.
"It's rough because I have a brother still there. It's a big mess and I hope they get it under control," she said.