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You couldn't find a more excited girl around Streamwood High School right now than Jessica Cerda.
Cerda, the Sabres' 5-foot-10 do-it-all senior forward/guard committed recently to accept a basketball scholarship from Division I Chicago State University.
"Finally, I have it off my back and now I can just focus on the season," Cerda said Tuesday night.
Cerda is a comeback story anyone would smile about. She recovered quickly from an ACL injury that cost her the better part of two AAU seasons, she had to switch positions midway through last season when Amanda Patterson, the Sabres' point guard, went down with an ACL, and through it all she still caught coaches' eyes.
But none more so than Chicago State, where head coach Angela Jackson is now in her 10th season at the helm of the program. The Cougars were just 6-24 last season and 4-6 in the Great West Conference but in 2010-11 had their best season ever, going 24-10 and winning the conference title.
"Right after AAU ended they called right away and said they wanted me to come for an unofficial visit," said Cerda, a returning all-area and all-Upstate Eight River player. "Right away I loved the campus. The coaches showed us around and they were so comforting and funny -- it was like I had known them forever. The offered me a scholarship on that visit but I wanted to wait a little. I made my official visit about three weeks ago and met the team and the entire coaching staff. I stayed for the weekend and the girls were so nice and welcoming. I got to sit in on a practice and it was everything I was looking for. I know this coaching staff will push me and make me a better player. They'll give me the extra push I need."
Cerda, who will major in psychology, was also happy to commit to a school not far from home.
"It's close to home and my family can come and see my games," she said. "That was important to me."
Cerda is Streamwood's all-time leader in 3-point shooting. She made 48 last year while averaging 14.1 points per game, 3.5 assists and 3.2 rebounds. She has scored over 800 career points, ninth on Streamwood's all-time list, and was a fourth team IBCA all-state selection last season. After moving to the point guard position, she averaged over 16 points per game.
"It's well deserved," said Streamwood coach George Rosner. "She's worked hard for four years to get there. She plays year round and puts in a lot of time and effort. She's come from a shy and quiet player as a freshman to a force on the basketball court. She had an ACL and came back quicker than ever. She can really take it to the basket as well as shoot the 3. She's not a vocal leader but she leads by example and she's gotten more vocal."
Cerda, who becomes the sixth Streamwood girls basketball player to earn a Division I scholarship and the first since Rita Castans went to Western Illinois in 2000, is seeing her dream come true.
"It's a tremendous accomplishment for me," she said. "I'm so blessed, especially with everything that happened with my knee. I had to sit out one summer and play with a brace another summer. I'm just so thankful. It's been my dream to play Division I."
Streamwood opens the season Nov. 14 at the Dundee-Crown tournament against the host Chargers.