Women’s Basketball: Pablos emerges as threat on both sides of the ball

Women’s Basketball: Pablos emerges as threat on both sides of the ball

As a new coach evaluating her stock of players last spring, Daynia La-Force Mann could have been excused for overlooking Lucia Pablos.

After all, the 5-foot, 5-inch junior guard had missed the first eight games of the 2005-06 season with an injury. When healthy, she only started four games, posting 1.6 points per contest.

But La-Force Mann looked beyond the statistics and knew she had a valuable weapon in her arsenal for the upcoming season.

“When I first saw [Pablos], I knew she was going to be a good player,” she said.

Pablos hasn’t disappointed, and has been one of the bright spots in an otherwise rough season for the 4-22 (3-12 Colonial Athletic Association) Huskies.

After starting the Huskies’ opener against then-No. 6 Duke and scoring 11 points on a scintillating 9-9 from the free-throw line (sixth-best performance in Northeastern history), Pablos came off the bench to contribute for the next four games.

Ironically, it was an injury that gave Pablos a chance to crack the starting lineup full-time. When senior captain and point guard Jody Burrows went down with a torn ACL Dec. 2 at Massachusetts, Pablos took her place in the lineup and has never looked back.

Since that game, the native of Leon, Spain has embarked on a streak that would make Cal Ripken Jr. proud, starting all 21 games and playing a full 40 minutes in 14 of them. For the season, she leads the team and is seventh in the CAA with 903 minutes played.

She is one of only four Huskies to appear in all 26 games this season, and her 22 starts rank her second behind junior forward Stefanie Hodell and sophomore and backcourt mate Ashlee Feldman.

Always considered a strong defensive presence on the perimeter, Pablos worked hard to improve her offensive game in the offseason.

“[I] worked on my offensive skills [and got] in the gym shooting,” she said. “[I] worked on my moves. The coaches have given me a lot of confidence.”

After starting the season playing in the three-guard slot, Pablos took over at the point for Burrows after her injury.

“[When] all the other people got hurt, I had to step up,” she said.

Pablos has adjusted well at the point, showing her skill as the team’s distributor, ranking eighth in the league with 3.58 assists per game. But what sets her apart at the point is her ability to score. She is third on the team with 13.2 points per game, just a speck behind second leading scorer Feldman’s 13.3.

Her shot selection has been superb as well, reflected by her .461 mark from the floor, good for eighth in the CAA and second among players listed as guards.

“Most point guards are distributors, but [it is] effective when a point guard can step up and score,” La-Force Mann said.

Despite her small stature, Pablos can present mismatches on defense. Put a slower, taller player on her, and she’ll drive by them to the basket. Match her up against a quicker, more agile player and she’ll pull up for the jumper.

And fouling her won’t neutralize her threat as a scorer either. She is shooting .788 from the charity stripe, good for eighth in the conference.

Her efforts in the 16th annual Hawk Classic, held Dec. 28-29 in Philadelphia, earned her All Tournament honors. In the two games, both Husky losses, Pablos averaged 39 minutes, 20 points and seven rebounds while shooting .500 (14-28) from the floor.

However she hasn’t let her new-found offensive skills take away from her defensive play.

Pablos ranks second on the Huskies with 35 steals, eclipsing her career total of 24 entering the year. She has also continued to be a pesky presence on the perimeter, helping deny the opposing teams shooters from spotting up or driving to the basket.

Her importance to the defense was never more apparent than on Nov. 18 against Providence, when an injury limited her to just five minutes.

Providence took advantage, as guards Chelsea Marandola and Kendria Holmes combined to go 4-7 (57 percent) from beyond the arc as the Friars squeaked by NU 75-74.

But her contributions this year have gone far beyond the statistics she has posted on the floor.

With Burrows, the emotional leader of the team, sidelined for 15 games, Pablos emerged as a leader on the court, but it did not come easy for her.

“It doesn’t come naturally,” she said. “[But] with so many people hurt, [at] some point there’s no choice.”

Her energy has fit well with the Huskies’ up-tempo style of offense and La-Force Mann is looking forward to another season with No. 45.

“She has such a confidence, it’s radiant,” La-Force Mann said. “She never takes time off. As a coach, that’s the type of player you want on the team. She has all the tangibles of being a great player. I’m so happy she’s coming back next year.”

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