"I actually do enjoy playing defense," said the Blue Demons' 6'3" senior forward.
Felicia Chester, who honed her basketball skills at St. Louis Incarnate Word Academy, has had plenty of time to develop into the defensive stalwart she is at DePaul.
"I have been playing basketball since I was in third grade," Chester said. "I wasn't interested in playing, but my best friend once played, so I did it because she wanted to. I liked it once I started playing, so I kept with it."
And she kept with it long enough and became good enough to help lead IWA to the 2006 Missouri state title her senior year. She became IWA's all-time blocked shots leader after her junior year. IWA head coach Dan Rolfes said this about her play at IWA.
"She was a great defender and excellent on our press. The best thing about Felicia was her leadership. She was not an in your face type person. She led by example. Felicia never took days off and was very smart. The rest of our team followed her lead and she made everyone better."
Her first year at DePaul was spent on the bench as she redshirted due to a stress fracture in her left foot, but in the classroom she earned Big East Academic honors.
She soon became a consistent contributor to the Blue Demons, averaging 4.9 ppg, 3.1 rebounds and blocking 24 shots during the 2007-08 campaign. Her scoring, rebounding and blocked shot totals have increased every year.
"Since she has got here she has been anchoring the rebounding side of the ball and the defensive side of the ball," said DePaul head coach Doug Bruno.
Going into today's game against Villanova, Chester is #5 on DePaul's all-time blocked shots list with 114, needing three more blocks to move into a tie with Diana Vines for the fourth spot.
"Whenever I am defending I try to think one step ahead of the offense, so I think that helps, and I am always trying to have my teammates' back," said Chester. " Also, just being competitive. I am a competitive person and I think that helps on defense."
And as good as she has been defensively at DePaul, the 2010-11 season has seen Chester emerge as a potent offensive threat.
She is averaging 11.4 ppg this year, tied for second on the team. Her recognition that she needed to be more of an offensive threat is something she focused on this past summer, and it is something that she is reminded of daily.
"Coach [Bruno] is definitely on me [about playing better offensively] every day. I know for our team to be our best I have to play good in the post and we have to have a post presence on our team, so every game I am really trying to focus on bringing [offense] to our team."
And that offensive improvement manifested itself best when DePaul played #3 Stanford earlier this year.
Chester scored a career high 24 points on 8-9 shooting from the field including 2-2 from behind the arc and 6-7 from the line. She also grabbed seven rebounds and had a team-high four steals in leading DePaul to a 91-71 win.
"One of the huge keys to beating Stanford was Felicia in the post," said Bruno. "If she can do that against Nnemkadi Ogwumike and the strength of the Stanford post play, then we have to start expecting it from her every night out."
And with DePaul now at 17-2, and for the first time since joining the Big East in 2005 5-0 in conference play, the team will need Chester's continued offensive contributions and solid defense for the Blue Demons to reach their ninth consecutive NCAA tournament.
Chester Digging the "D" at DePaul
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