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BVA's Slagus commits to Seton Hill

| Monday, April 8, 2013, 12:21 a.m.
BVA's Jessica Slagus is one of the top girls scorers in the mid-Mon Valley area. Rich Downer photo

Even though Jessica Slagus has turned in her sneakers for track spikes, the honors keep pouring in for her work on the hardwood.

Slagus, the 6-foot senior from Belle Vernon Area, was named Sunday to The Tribune Review's Terrific Ten team. The honor comes a week after she was named to the 2013 Pennsylvania Girls All-State third team in Class AAA.

“She's a special girl and it's so wonderful to see her receive those honors because I know how much work she's put in to improve her game,” BVA girls basketball coach Lisa Fairman said. “She's still so humble and appreciative and I think that's going to do nothing but help her success in college.”

Slagus will continue her basketball career next year at Division II Seton Hill University. Slagus has verbally committed to the Greensburg school and is planning to sign her letter of intent April 17.

Seton Hill will join nearby California University of Pennsylvania in the PSAC next season.

“I chose Seton Hill because I went to a lot of their games I liked camaraderie of the team and the coaching staff reminded me a lot of my high school coaches,” she said. “I'm very tight with my family and I have two younger sisters. I'd like to be as close to them as I am now and come back and support them.”

Fairman, for one, is pleased Slagus committed as the coach was being bombarded with recruiting calls from other schools.

“Some of these schools I haven't even heard of were calling constantly,” she said, laughing. “I said ‘Jess, can I finally delete all these numbers?'”

This past winter, Slagus was a double-double machine for one of the better Lady Leopard teams in school history, averaging 19.6 points and 14 rebounds per game. She also blocked three shots per contest.

The power forward finished with 1,133 points, ranking third all-time at the school, and 865 rebounds. She was one of four players in program history to surpass the 1,000-point crest while guiding BVA to the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals.

“You've got to earn respect, it's not given, and Jess has been the nucleus of the success that we had,” Fairman said. I'm already feeling the pressure of ‘How am I going to replace her?' Kids like that don't come around that often.

“She's just one of those people who doesn't mind working hard to get what they want. And that's one thing Seton Hill will find as well.”

Slagus was usually one of the first players to arrive at practices and would often stay after for an hour, Fairman said.

A certified personal trainer, Fairman is currently putting her star player through lifting and plyometric drills four days a week to strengthen her for the college game.

“When you hit college, weight lifting is going to be a big part of your game and she's taken to it,” Fairman said. “I don't know if there are too many seniors working at their game like she is. She's been doing it since the season ended.”

Although her high school hoops career technically hasn't ended – Slagus will be playing in the 2013 Roundball Classic on April 20 at Geneva College – it was a bitter end to BVA's season that still torments her.

When Elizabeth Forward upset previously undefeated Blackhawk in the WPIAL Class AAA girls' basketball semifinals, it eliminated Belle Vernon Area's chance to compete in the state playoffs.

Had the heavily-favored Lady Cougars been victorious, BVA would have picked up only the second PIAA playoff berth in the school's history by virtue of losing to top-seeded Blackhawk in the quarterfinals.

“I don't think I'm ever going to get over that. I give credit to EF, but that just shouldn't have happened,” Slagus said. “I was at that game sitting in front of all the EF parents and just going, ‘Uhhhhhhhh!' I just think the toughest part is we didn't get to decide when our season ended. Last year, we knew it was over. This year, there was still that chance, but it was out of our hands.”

Slagus will now turn her attention to BVA's track and field team. She already owns the girls' school record in the javelin, and missed qualifying for the PIAA meet by 2 feet last season. Slagus also competes in the high jump and shot put.

“We just had our first meet last Thursday and I hit 118-feet, right about where I was last year,” she said. “My best was 121 and I'm right around the same area. Plus I think lifting is really helping because I didn't lift that much last year.”

She also plans to compete in javelin for Seton Hill.

“Change is always the fear of the unknown, but I think I'm up for the challenge,” she said.

And as for the awards and accolades for basketball?

“I think they're all significant in their own way,” Slagus said. “I know I've worked hard and so has the rest of my team, so it's kind of cool to get recognized.

“My parents are proud, but they treat me like any other parent would and that's probably what kept me modest. No matter what I win, I still have those chores to do.”

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-684-2635.

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