Freeman leads girls all-county team
Zada Freeman is heading into her senior season at Fernandina Beach High School, and she’s ready to get back to breaking records – even if they are her own.
The most valuable player on the 2018-19 all Nassau County girls basketball team holds the school records for rebounds in a game and career rebounds.
“She broke the old school record of 20 rebounds in a game seven different times and holds the record of 29 now,” said Jacob Nantz, head girls basketball coach at FBHS. “She is already the school’s all-time leading rebounder with 700, and only a junior.”
Freeman, who pulled down 29 boards against Terry Parker, is also second all-time in blocked shots at FBHS.
At nearly 6-foot-2, the center is a formidable force under the basket.
“There are not a lot of tall people, especially in the county,” Freeman said. “But, when we play teams from Duval County, there are some games when I meet my match. But, I just do what I need to do to get my team the win.”
She’s come a long way in the five years since her sister, former Lady Pirate Erica Foote, suggested a drive.
“She said, ‘Let’s go somewhere.’ She gave me a pair of her shorts. She’s a medium, and I’m an extra large,” Freeman laughed. “We ended up at the gym.
“Coach Nantz asked, ‘Are you here to play basketball?’ And, I was like, ‘What’s basketball?’ I didn’t know what it was, at all. I ended up liking it, and I’ve been with Coach Nantz ever since.”
“Zada grew so much from the beginning of the season until the end,” Nantz said. “She started getting more confident in herself as a player. You could see it when we would play good teams with a good center; she would take it right to them and was not afraid to battle them under the basket.
“She sparked us to several big wins, including a strong game against University Christian. She has made incredible accomplishments on the court this past season.”
Nantz added, “She is like a daughter to me. Every year, we keep producing the county player of the year and sending kids to college. Zada will be the next one to make it to college.”
She has two northern colleges pursuing her now, but the Florida native said, “Negative 40 is a little too much.”
Freeman’s career at FBHS began with dual roles. She played junior varsity and varsity as a freshman.
“Every championship we went to, we ended up losing,” Freeman said.
Her sophomore season was different. The Lady Pirates won district and region to advance to the Final Four.
“Starting out that season, we lost two games in a row,” Freeman said. “We all said, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get this together.’”
They did and played in the Class 5A state semifinal.
“Even though we did lose, it was a very exciting, life changing moment,” Freeman said. “All of our students were in the cafeteria, watching our game. I didn’t think they even cared that much about our basketball team. I was like, ‘Wow.’”
Freeman also experienced it with her sister, one of five seniors.
“It was really special. She’s the one who started me at basketball,” Freeman said.
After losing five seniors, all now playing on the college level, the Lady Pirates had to regroup last season.
“I was kind of surprised we did as well as we did, because they were most of our starting five,” Freeman said. “I was really shocked at how well we did. Right at the start, I thought we were going to have a few bumps in the road, but we came out kicking and won a bunch of our summer league games.
“During our first month of sch-ool, we worked harder than we could have worked, and everybody put in the time and energy. With all the new people on the team, I feel like we did a great job, melding together as a team.”
There is little offseason for the Lady Pirates, who condition three days a week, practice two and play in a summer league.
The 2019-20 Lady Pirates will once again be replacing seniors – three this time.
“Hopefully we’ll keep winning,” Freeman said.
She is an honor student and was recently accepted into the certified nursing assistance program.
“My major goal is to be a pediatric surgeon,” she said.
Freeman won the rebound award at the postseason banquet for the second year in a row and, along with teammate Talia Hamilton, shared the team MVP honor.
Hamilton and Cartaleyiah Basnight join Freeman on the all-county team. The three rising seniors also play on the same travel team, the Nightmares.
The 2018-19 all-Nassau County girls basketball team roster includes:
• Zada Freeman, junior center, Fernandina Beach High School. The county’s most valuable player broke a school record with 20 rebounds in a game on seven different occasions. She now holds the record with 29. She’s FBHS’s all-time leading rebounder with 700 and is second all-time in blocked shots. Freeman averaged 15.6 rebounds, 9.8 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.9 blocks last season for the Lady Pirates. She was an honorable mention on the all-First Coast team.
• Brealyn Holley, senior, Hilliard. Holley averaged 12 points, two steals and four rebounds per game. She shot 70 percent from the free-throw line. This is her second appearance on the all-county team.
• Kaleigh Clay, sophomore, West Nassau. Clay averaged 9.6 points per game and 2.1 assists for the Lady Warriors.
• Talia Hamilton, junior guard, Fernandina Beach High School. She scored 398 points for the Lady Pirates last season for a 14.7 average. She averaged 6.2 rebounds per game and shot 46 percent from the free-throw line. She was also an honorable mention for the all-First Coast team.
• Alley Dortch, senior, Hilliard. Dortch averaged six points and six rebounds per game. She shot 50 percent from the free-throw line.
• Cartaleyiah Basnight, junior guard and forward, Fernandina Beach. She averaged 13.3 points per game and 8.5 rebounds for the Lady Pirates.
Honorable mention: Sidney Hayworth, Amani Butler, Yulee; Yoleimy Diaz, Riley Webber and Jayla Floyd, Fernandina Beach; Amaya Williams, Hilliard; Kendell Poppell, Jisela West and Anna O’Shields, West Nassau.