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Diamond in the rough
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Georgia Southern guard MiMi DuBose pumps her fists after hitting a 3-pointer as the Lady Eagles work to maintain their lead against Appalachian State in the final minutes of Monday's game at Hanner Fieldhouse.

When MiMi DuBose tore her ACL as a junior in a 2007 prep basketball Christmas tournament, a lot of the big-time programs that were recruiting her took a step back.

When she tore her MCL playing softball the following fall, all of the schools that were after her — Wake Forest, St. John’s and East Carolina among others — ran away.

Well, almost all of them.

Georgia Southern coach Rusty Cram wasn’t about to let her slip through the cracks. He called DuBose in 2008, her senior year at Jefferson High School, immediately after the softball injury to let her know she still had a spot with the Lady Eagles.

"He just said, ‘We know you’re hurt.’ I said, ‘Yes sir.’ He said, ‘Well, you know we’re not backing off of you, right?’ At that point I was speechless," said DuBose, now a redshirt freshman at GSU. "I didn’t really know what to say. To me that was the biggest thing, that they were going to stick to their word. There were so many coaches that said, ‘Yeah, we’re going to offer you,’ but right when I got hurt they didn’t call me ever again. That day when he said he was still going to offer me, I said, ‘That’s it. I’m coming.’ And here I am."

DuBose, a 5-foot-9 shooting guard, comes from a basketball family. Her father Bolling played for Wake Forest from 1967-69 and has been a prep coach for 34 years. His Jefferson Dragons made it to the GHSA Class AA Final Four last season. Her sister Lee played her college ball right here in Statesboro from 2002 until 2005.

In fact, that’s what put GSU on her radar at a young age.

"The first time I met coach Cram, I was in the fifth grade," said DuBose, "so I’ve known him and [assistant coaches] Regina [Days-Bryan] and Mary Perry for a long time."

"We got to know MiMi through Lee playing here, so we knew she could play," added Cram. "It’s in her bloodline. Her dad was an excellent player in high school and in college and has coached forever. We watched MiMi and knew she was going to be bigger than Lee and have a different game. The best thing about her in the days to come is she’s a natural-born leader. She’s a coach on the floor, and that’s what intrigued me most about her."

You don’t have to look to the future to see the impact DuBose will have as an Eagle. So far in her freshman campaign, she has averaged 10.5 points per game and shoots 38.7 percent from behind the 3-point line — No. 92 in the country individually out of all 346 Division I programs. In Monday’s 73-65 win over Appalachian State, she dropped a career-high 25 points, including four 3-pointers.

As a team, the Eagles are the No. 14 program in the country in 3-point shooting percentage, and senior point guard Jamie Navarro ranks No. 9 individually, shooting 46.2 percent from long distance.

Having so much talent around DuBose makes life easier on her, and more importantly helps her appreciate the fact that between her first knee injury in 2007, to her redshirt season a year go, up until the tipoff of the 2010-11 campaign, she went almost three years without setting foot onto the court competitively.

"That’s why she’s so passionate about the game," said Cram. "It was taken away from her — something she had all her life growing up. It was taken away from her and she couldn’t do anything about it."

"It was awful because I love the game so much," added DuBose about the injuries, "but in a way it was good to see everything from the sidelines. I learned so much in high school and especially watching the other girls last year."

DuBose and the Eagles (7-10, 4-4 Southern Conference) will face Western Carolina (5-10, 3-3) today at 7 p.m. in Hanner Fieldhouse.

Incidentally, the Lady Catamounts also hung around in the recruiting battle for DuBose. At the end of the day, she made the easy choice.

"Georgia Southern and Western Carolina were the two that were really still recruiting me hard [after the injuries]," said DuBose. "That was an easy decision for me. I felt like there was not one aspect of Western Carolina that I liked more than I do Georgia Southern."

Both teams got off to a slow start this season, but both are riding a two-game, conference winning streak heading into tonight.

"They’ve played the toughest schedule in the country," Cram said about WCU, which has already faced No. 14 North Carolina, No. 15 Florida State and East Carolina among a long list of high-majors. "I always brag about our hard schedule, but theirs is even tougher than ours, so don’t go by their record. They’ve won two in a row, they’re quick and they’ve got great shooters."


Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.