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Sunday, Dec. 19, 2010
 

Former Slippery Rock high school standout Jence Rhoads has done a lot during her career at Vanderbilt — from being named to the All-SEC first team to playing in the NCAA Tournament.

One thing she hasn't been able to do: play a game back home in Western Pennsylvania.

That will change today when Vanderbilt visits Duquesne. Rhoads, a 5-foot-11 senior guard, will get to play in front of family and friends for the first time since high school.

"I'm really excited. I've been waiting for this for four years," she said. "I'm kind of happy that it is my senior year, because if it was my freshman year I might not have appreciated it as much."

Rhoads concluded a stellar high school career in 2007 and was named the Gatorade Pennsylvania Player of the Year, District 10 Player of the Year and Butler County Player of the Year. She finished with 2,170 points — the only player in Butler County history, male or female, to exceed the 2,000-point plateau.

She has had an equally impressive college run. She came in as a starter and was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team in 2007-08, then in her sophomore year helped the Commodores to the Sweet Sixteen. Last year, in addition to being named to the All-SEC first team, she was first in the conference in minutes and second in assist-to-turnover ratio and assists per game while averaging 13.8 points, 5.0 assists and 3.3 rebounds.

Rhoads was hampered by a hamstring injury early this season but said she's slowly returning to form. She is averaging 11.4 points and 4.1 rebounds and leads the team with 33 assists.

She also is a preseason first-team All-SEC selection, a candidate for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award and on the Naismith Award watch list.

Rhoads said she has no idea exactly how many people will be at Palumbo Center to see her, but she's expecting a nice crowd for her long-delayed homecoming. She's also expecting a challenge from Duquesne, which has won seven in a row and is 8-1 for the best start in program history.

"They're a really good team from what I hear," she said. "Hopefully, we'll be ready for them."

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