A shooting star: Kouzan makes quantum leap up Bears all-time scorers list

02.14.14

Basketball's sharpest shooters will forever be tied to captivating storytelling of how repetition, flow and rhythm got them to be in the position that they are in today.

Natural good shooters can hone their craft and become great shooters through countless hours of practice.

Shoot.

Shoot again.

And, then shoot some more.

SUNY Potsdam women's basketball senior Jessica Kouzan is living proof of this and Bears' fans will have the opportunity to catch her in action this weekend as she seeks to shoot past some more of Potsdam's most prolific scorers in program history.

The 5-foot-10 captain from Webster, N.Y. has already bolted past Lorraine King's total of 756 points (1979-83), Katy Briedis' 779 (2010-13), Jody Heller's 816 (1984-88) and Hannah Fairchild's 817 (2005-09).

Kouzan currently rests in seventh place all-time in Bears scoring history with 938 career points and is now eyeing to run down Maureen Curley's total of 956 (2005-09) and Rachel Graf's career mark of 1,010 points (2006-10).

On Thursday, Kouzan reflected on how she acquired the magic touch.

A couple of her stories date back to her high school playing days.  During her freshman year at Webster Schroeder High School, she was playing for the junior varsity team and had missed two baseline layups.

Her coach told her that she now had to make 100 layups in a row to make up for it.

"He was always on my case, which I thought made me better," Kouzan said.

And, games such as Dr. Dish were common practice for Kouzan who said she was one of the few players who actually enjoyed it.

In patterned drills, a huge net is set up and balls are shot back out at the player.  The machine catches rebounds and it funnels them back to the player.  A player must adjust and make shots as the hoop rotates around the arc. It crafts a player into making skilled angled shots, improves hand-eye coordination and gets players into perfecting a quick release on their shots.

And, in the Webster, N.Y. area near Rochester, Kouzan said it was so heavily competitive for girls' basketball that the best team typically changed from season to season and parity reigned.

Kouzan has experienced success and setbacks.  During her freshman year in high school, her junior varsity team went 18-0.

She would become supremely tested when she would go on to suffer a torn ACL playing soccer during her junior year of high school and had to sit out the season.

But, Kouzan stuck to her rehabilitation plan and got back working again after six months.

Although no small feat, Kouzan admitted that she thinks she's a much tougher player now than she was in high school.

"I was softer in high school," Kouzan said.  "Now, I post up more.  I want the ball.  I'm more aggressive.  I try to take good shots that are open so that they have a high percentage of going in."

Part of that has to do with how Potsdam women's basketball coach Tara Ruckh believes in her.

"I definitely feel her confidence in me," Kouzan said.  "Even in practice if things don't go well, she tells me, 'Get in there.' It's definitely helping knowing that and I don't get nervous around her."

The journey to get to 1,000 career points appeared to be a daunting task at first for both Ruckh and Kouzan.

"It was one of her goals [to reach 1,000 points] and it's cool to see when you look at the list," said coach Ruckh. "It's just something that happens and it's a pretty good achievement.  I think the best part about this is seeing a good person climb up the ranks.  It's not like she's a person who is just looking to try to get her's.  I couldn't have asked to work with a better person.  She's fun to coach.  She accepts criticism and works to get better.  She's always striving to see how to make the team more successful."

Kouzan has steadily increased the number of 3-pointers she has made by season: 20 (in 2010-11), 27 (in 2011-12), 32 (in 2012-13) and has already connected on 48 thus far this season with five games to play in the regular season.

"As with any good shooter, the more shots you get, the more are going to go in," coach Ruckh added.  "You can feel the confidence off her.  I was excited about that potential [when I recruited her].  Now, we're asking for her to do what she can do."

In conjunction with that trend, her points have increased too.  After averaging 6.2 points a game in her freshman season, she jumped up to 9.2 points during her sophomore and junior seasons.

Now, as a senior, she's catapulted up to 16.1 points-per-game (good for fifth in the conference entering Friday, Feb. 14 games) and is shooting a lofty 39 percent from beyond-the-arc (tied for first for players with at least a minimum of two 3-pointers made per game).  Kouzan is also fourth in the conference in field goal percentage (.438) for players who have made a minimum of five field goals per game.

Consistency has been there all season with double-digit scoring efforts in every game but one so far (nine points against SUNY Fredonia on Jan. 24) and she has made at least one 3-pointer in every game this season.

"The great thing about Jess is her shot selection," said coach Ruckh.  "She has excellent foot work in the post and can step out in the perimeter.  You have to defend her.  If you don't step out, there goes a three.  I couldn't ask for more as far as being consistent and being a leader. She does have a quick release so it's a bang-bang play and it's already gone.  She is definitely a player that I want shooting the ball at the end of the game." 

Kouzan will attempt to pass Curley with a couple of chances this weekend starting with SUNY Oswego on Friday.  Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. from Jerry Welsh Gymnasium.  Then, SUNY Cortland will visit town on Saturday to play at 2 p.m.

Kouzan needs 19 points to pass Curley to move into sixth place all-time in Bears scoring history.

Graf would be the next player to potentially pass on the all-time list.  Kouzan would need 14.6 points per game over her last five games (1.5 points below her scoring average on the season) to move into fifth.