VU guard Foggie ready to hustle, contribute

New Jersey shooting guard Christina Foggie (rhymes with bogey), pursued by Big East schools and holding 13 offers when she verbally committed to Vanderbilt in her junior year, was destined to play in Memorial Gym. She admired the work ethic of the academically challenging school and the lure of a highly competitive conference; and those Jersey coaching connections made her feel right at home.

Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb and Assistant Coach Vicky Picott are both Jersey natives and graduates of Hightstown High School, an area where Christina's mother works. Coach Balcomb's parents Alan and Barbara also lived close enough to the guard's hometown to visit watch several of her games.

They undoubtedly sent a good scouting report to their daughter after witnessing Christina sink many of her career 2,137 points. The total was a record for Lenape High School, on boys' and girls' teams. Her season ended in pain however, with a torn knuckle in her non-shooting hand. She had a difficult choice to make - she could play with the torn ligament in the post season, or miss it to ensure contributions to the college team she was joining.

"It was tough," she recalls. "My team actually went on to make the semis. I was proud of them, but it would have been nice to help them more. I did not want to damage it further with Vanderbilt coming up, so, I had the surgery." An inch-long scar is a reminder of the metal anchor holding the ligament to the bone, and the joke her doctor shared with her: "It's the stronger hand now; if you get into a fight, use this knuckle."

The 5-9 guard, ranked by ESPN HoopGurlz as the No. 58 recruit in the 2010 class, once sank 41 points to help her team to a 75-73 overtime win. It's that type of "leave it all on the court" attitude that Coach Balcomb's staff saw in the youngster, who built up speed by running cross-country and developed mental and physical toughness by shooting hoops with her brother.

"Coach Balcomb said she wanted me to shoot the ball like I normally do and to attack the basket to draw fouls. Just take it to the hoop and be aggressive. She also wanted me to play the guard spot and play defense tight on the guards."

Maryland, Duke, Rutgers, Villanova – these programs all saw the promise in Christina, but there were other pulls that drew her to Nashville. Before she committed, she was friends with Philly native Stephanie Holzer, whose home is just 25 minutes from the Foggie residence. The 6-4 McDonald's High School All American sat out her freshman season to recover from ankle surgery, but she was able to answer questions Christina had about Vandy's program.

"She's very nice. She helped me through the process. I asked her questions and she had the answers, and we formed a bond. It was good to already have a friend when I got here," Christina said.

In another ironic twist, Christina played four years with Emily Leer on AAU team Fencor. Emily, who signed with Villanova after de-committing her verbal to Vanderbilt, has publicly stated she realized she couldn't play so far from home. But her decision meant good news from freshman Clair Watkins, who filled the scholarship slot after Duke left the North Carolina Prep Athlete of the Year hanging with their decision not to play her if she accepted their offer.

The excitement of the I-40 rivalry with Tennessee played a role as well.

"I came the weekend Vandy beat Tennessee in 2009. It was a big recruitment atmosphere and there were a lot of people coming. I got to know some of the girls and met the coaches and saw how hard they worked out in practice on Saturday. I saw their warm-ups on Sunday morning and I loved that. The academics on top of it just sealed the deal."

Christina told her parents on the plane home that Vanderbilt was where she wanted to be. There were calm in their response, telling her to wait to see where she fit academically and not be hasty; one week later, she verbally committed.

"I visited schools before Vandy, but after that visit, I didn't see any others. I went to a couple of college games after that, but I didn't feel the same. I really loved Vanderbilt. I had a different feeling there than I did at other places. I'm glad it was the right choice. It was a long time before the official signing and I felt stronger as the months went on about my decision."

The role she expects to play is a combo-guard, a utility player that will do anything asked of her.

"I definitely want to learn from some of the older guards like Jence (Rhoads) and Gabby (Smith). I want to come in as a nice role player and contribute in any way possible. If they need me to shoot the ball, I'll do that, or if they need to get someone in foul trouble and attack, I can do that as well."

Christina expects to learn a lot from Jence, the senior point guard who consistently ranks among the top in the nation in assist-to- turnover ratio. "I really look up to her. Watching her last year, I admired her court presence, her poise."

But the entire team is a model to emulate, she says. "It's a dream come true to get to play against girls in the SEC and with Vanderbilt-type players because it's such a high-level of basketball." Her enthusiasm is evident in the passion in her voice. "It doesn't get much better than this."



Christina Foggie eyes the ball movement during a pickup game.

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