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Tech's Higgs feeling comfortable at new position

One of the reasons Stephanie Higgs became one of the best players in Gwinnett County history is because she was never satisfied. She was never content with where she was at or how she was playing, even if she was quite obviously the best player on the team.

It turns out not much has changed since her playing days at Central Gwinnett.

Right now the talented junior is the leading scorer on the Georgia Tech women's team, but she readily admits she was expecting a little more out of herself when the season began.

During her freshman year Higgs had trouble at times adjusting to the college game and the practice habits that were expected from her.

That changed last year, when Higgs averaged a team-best 13.3 points per game for the Yellow Jackets.

Coming off that breakthrough performance Higgs was selected to the preseason All-ACC team in November, and she expected to be averaging 16 or 17 points per contest.

Instead, she's averaging 12.4.

Not terrible by any means, but not where she was hoping to be at this point of the season.

"Last year she was kind of a secret," Georgia Tech head coach MaChelle Joseph said. "She improved so much from her freshman year, coaches weren't really sure what she was capable of.

"Well now she's no longer a secret weapon and teams are setting their defense to stop her."

Higgs has a different theory.

"I was missing a lot of shots (early in the year)," Higgs said. "One game I was 2 of 14, another game I was 3 of 13. Coach never told me not to shoot though. It's just my shots were off balance and I went into a slump.

"I was still shooting 14 or 15 shots a game, but it's hard to score a lot when you only make 2 or 3. I was struggling."

Higgs isn't struggling anymore.

She had perhaps the best game of her career against then-No. 2 Duke (21 points and 10 rebounds), followed that up recently with a team-high 19 points in the Jackets' first ACC win of the year vs. Wake Forest and then scored 19 points again on Thursday in a loss to Maryland.

And the former Daily Post Player of the Year is doing it at a different position. Early in the season, Higgs was moved from her customary 2-guard spot to point guard when the Jackets' starter went down with an injury.

She says the transition has been a major adjustment for her.

"It completely changed my role on the team," Higgs said. "I have to be more of a vocal leader ... I've never been a consistent point guard before. Now, I'm playing 25 minutes a game there and maybe 5 or 10 on the wing. It's real different.

"When you're running the team, especially in the ACC, you have to constantly make decisions."

Said Joseph: "She's a very unselfish player. She'll play any position we'll ask her to play."

The way Higgs has taken to rebounding, maybe the Jackets will try her out at center.

Despite being just 5-foot-8, Higgs is one of the top rebounders on the team, averaging 5.4 boards per contest. Consistently during the course of a game, she'll snake inside the paint to pick off an offensive rebound or leap to snare a defensive rebound from a taller player.

It's something she takes great pride in.

"I've had three double-doubles, two in ACC play," Higgs said. "It's the first year I've done that. Hopefully I can keep getting in that category.

"I think I got stronger (in the offseason). Since I was a freshman, I've increased my strength tremendously. The little things, like working on my legs, has helped me a lot in being able to rebound against some of the best players in the world."

Higgs is also tied for second on the team in steals, averaging almost two thefts per game, and is one of the Jackets' best defenders.

"She has a great work ethic," Joseph said. "She has a great nose for the ball and that's why we signed her at Georgia Tech. She's a great defender and a great rebounder."

Now, she's ready to be a great scorer as well.

"My confidence right now is pretty good," Higgs said. "I just think if I can find a way to be consistent, I can get my average back up where I want it."

But if that happens, don't expect her to be satisfied.

"The one thing about her is she has this desire to get better," Joseph said. "She wants to improve and she works on her game every day."