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Shooting past the fear

NORCROSS - There were 2.3 seconds on the clock when Erin Hall first checked into a varsity basketball game.

She went in with four other classmates in the final seconds of a lopsided win. She grew up with every one of her teammates on the court. Nothing could change the positive outcome of the game. And 2.3 seconds barely allows time to get a shot off or run a play.

Erin Hall was terrified.

"I remember (head coach Jan Azar) put in all the freshmen and we were all like, 'Oh man, we are all really playing varsity now,'" Hall said. "My heart was going 90 miles an hour. It wasn't long, but it was scary."

Hall worked her way into significant varsity playing time by the end of that season and slowly became more comfortable on the court. Then she went to Macon and the Class AA state Final Four.

"I remember stepping into Macon the first time and I was so scared. I had gotten used to the varsity level and I got to Macon and I was like, 'Wow,'" Hall said. "It intimidated me a little bit."

The next year she hit six 3-pointers in one game in Macon.

Hall's cousin Kelly helped her through the intimidation of her first year. Kelly Hall, a senior at the time, played with a fervor that did not allow time for fear. Erin Hall plays a more deliberate game. Azar wants her to be more reactive, but appreciates her contemplative style.

"She just does her thing," Azar said. "She leads by example.

"She is the best shooter I have ever seen."

Through two seasons, two state championship games and one state championship, Hall's fear subsided. Always a standout shooter, she now handles the ball, passes the ball and plays defense better.

"I am not as scared anymore," Hall said. "I remember getting on the court and I didn't want to make one mistake because they would pull me out. I am not afraid anymore to make mistakes. I am just going to play my game and I have a lot more confidence than I did my freshman year. I have gotten a lot more consistent. It's been nice."

Though Hall finished the regular season with 166 career 3-pointers, her offense is more than just long range. She averages 2.3 assists to go with her 13.9 points per game.

"Obviously when people think of her, they think of her 3-point shooting, but she just can put the ball on the floor and has a really nice pull-up jumper," Azar said. "A lot of kids can hit the 3, but not a lot can put it on the floor."

Hall's offense earned her a scholarship offer from Wake Forest and interest from other Division I programs like Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech, Princeton and Dartmouth. The college interest offers Hall a glimpse of the payoff of her love of practice. A love first greeted mockingly by her peers.

"In middle school everyone would make fun of me because I would look forward to practice and I would look forward to basketball camps," Hall said. "But I just realized that it was my true love."

Hall's soft voice seems to convey remaining uncertainty about her talents, but a clarity in her bright eyes trumps her quiet words. Her focus does not waver from its point. Confidence grows from her early fear.

"She is quietly confident, but she has confidence in herself," Azar said.

Her confidence grows from her teammates and her experience that started with 2.3 seconds as a freshman.

"This year is a lot more fun because I am used to stepping up now," Hall said.

SideBar: THE HALL FILE

Who: Erin Hall

Sport: Basketball

School: Wesleyan

Class: Junior

Favorite TV show: "Lost"

Favorite sports team: Vanderbilt women's basketball

Favorite food: Pepperoni pizza

What's your favorite thing to do on a basketball court?: "Alley-oop to Chantel (Kennedy) because she gets so fired up when she makes it. That and shooting."

Noteworthy:

· Division I basketball recruit with an offer from Wake Forest and interest from Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech, Princeton and Dartmouth

· Enjoys playing Manhunt with friends

· Reached 1,000 career points in first-round playoff game