Wildwood junior on cusp of 1,000 points

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There is a quite impressive list of career 1,000-point scorers in girls basketball hanging on the wall in the northwest corner of the Wildwood High School gymnasium.

Most of the six have won at least one South Jersey championship. A handful won or played in state championship games. Some were named South Jersey all-stars multiple times. Some are considered among the best high school girls basketball players in county history. Three of them went on to play Division I college basketball.

And Jessica Freeman has a chance to finish ahead of all but one of them on that impressive scoring list.

Freeman, a 5-6 small forward, stood at 973 career points after Monday’s 54-38 Lady Warrior win at Penns Grove, a game in which Freeman posted game highs of 21 points and 15 rebounds. Still only a junior, she’s about to become just the third Wildwood player – 2002 graduate and recent South Jersey Hall of Fame selection Monica Johnson and 2008 graduate Latifah McNeal are the others – to surpass the magical milestone as a junior.

Wildwood is scheduled to play at Pennsville today (Thursday, Jan. 17) before playing five straight home games beginning early next week. Assuming nothing extraordinary occurs, Freeman will become the seventh female in school history to reach 1,000 career points very soon.

“Scoring 1,000 points has always been on my mind but once I start playing in the games it erases because I’m just focused on winning that game,” said Freeman, 17, a resident of North Wildwood. “But when we’re in practice I always look up at that board because I always wanted to get there. It’s always been my dream.

“I can’t describe how it’s going to be but I know it’s going to be great. It’ll be an honor to be up on that board with all those great players.”

While not necessarily a pure shooter, Freeman is certainly a great scorer. She finished with a career-high 34 points in a win over Salem earlier this month and is averaging 20.7 points per game for the season, one of the highest averages in South Jersey. She also leads the team in rebounding at 9.4 per game.

Should she remain healthy and score at or near her current pace through the rest of this and next season, Freeman has a chance to finish her career with more than 1,600 points, which would place her second in school history behind Johnson, who netted a South Jersey record 3,173 points.

“Jess is definitely one of the best scorers I’ve ever coached,” said Wildwood coach Dave Troiano. “She certainly has a knack for being around the ball. One thing a lot of people probably don’t know is that she’s our leading rebounder and she was probably our leading rebounder last year, too. She can get the ball off the rim and head right down court with it because she handles it fairly well. I’m very happy when the ball is in her hands.

“She’s worked hard. She loves to play and she’s worked on her game. She plays AAU in the spring and then she plays a lot in the summer. That hard work’s paying off for her.”

Freeman can make the occasional outside shot – she’s hit 12 three-pointers this season – but is most adept at driving to the basket. Her aggressiveness to the rim often leads to layups or regular trips to the foul line.

“She takes a lot of shots but a scorer has to take a lot of shots and we need her to take a lot of shots,” Troiano said. “But she is in no way a selfish ballplayer. And she’s a lot more competitive than people think. She has a burning desire to win that I think a lot of people don’t see.”

Monday’s win over Penns Grove was the team’s fifth in its last seven games.Serena Seijo registered 16 points and five assists and Leishly Reyes added 12 points for the Lady Warriors (8-5).

“I was pretty confident Jess was going to get her 1,000th point this season,” Troiano said. “But I didn’t think we’d be having a conversation about the team being where it is right now.”

Freeman, on the cusp of 1,000 career points, certainly is a big reason why.

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