Jenna Giacone sat the in the stands with her mom Karin at the Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y., on March 30, 2015, with a UConn hat on her head.
When the Dayton Flyers took a 44-43 halftime lead against No. 1 Connecticut that day in the Elite Eight, Giacone remembers thinking, “Who are these people?”
At that point, Dayton wasn’t recruiting Giacone, who was then a junior at Bethlehem Central High School in Delmar, N.Y., a suburb of Albany. Giacone was a UConn fan because she grew up watching the Huskies dominate college basketball. She saw UConn dominate the second half that day and beat Dayton 91-70.
A couple weeks later, though, then UD coach Jim Jabir started recruiting Giacone.
“The rest is history,” Giacone said Monday.
Giacone, a 6-foot-1 guard, picked Dayton over Virginia and Virginia Tech five months later, joining a 2016 recruiting class that included Jayla Scaife, Jordan Wilmoth and walk-on Christine Szabo. The other three players finished their careers last March. Scaife scored 1,476 points, the ninth-highest total in school history.
Giacone, the last remaining player in the program recruited by former coach Jim Jabir and his staff, remains with the Flyers because she received a medical redshirt in the 2017-18 season. A foot injury that cut her season short after 12 games in her freshman season caused her to miss her entire sophomore season.
“I’ve definitely battled several injuries,” Giacone said. “Some that people don’t even know about. Sitting out my redshirt year, I was able to see basketball through a different perspective and different lens. It built my basketball IQ. When I was able to physically return, it really just strengthened me and brought me a different love for the game. I don’t take it for granted anymore.”
Now in her fifth year, Giacone said, “I feel good, knock on wood. I’ve been able to stay out of the training room and just keep rolling.”
Giacone has seen her role increase the last three seasons. When she returned to action after the foot injury, she averaged 3.1 points in 9.9 minutes in 29 games in 2018-19. Last season, she played an even more valuable role off the bench, averaging 6.4 points in 17.9 minutes per game and appearing in all 33 games.
Through six games this season, Giacone was averaging a career-high 10.8 points and 4.3 rebounds in 27.8 minutes per game. She earned her first career start in the season opener and has remained in the starting lineup. In Dayton’s first two A-10 road games against George Mason and George Washington, Giacone led the team in scoring in each game with a total of 30 points.
“It was good for my confidence getting two solid games under my belt early in conference,” Giacone said. “It will definitely boost my confidence going forward. For the team, we have a lot of young guys. It kind of shows them what road wins mean to us and how difficult they are to get in the A-10. It was great to show them what the A-10 is all about.”
The Flyers started 4-0 in the A-10 for the fifth time in coach Shauna Green’s five seasons. All those came after a long December that saw the team cancel five non-conference because of COVID-19 issues.
“It was definitely a battle,” Giacone said. “It was a different type of territory that no one had been in. We just put an emphasis on staying together and doing what we could to get better.”
The team held Zoom meetings during that period when they couldn’t see each other in person. They held “virtual lift sessions,” in which dumbbells were delivered to players’ apartments and everyone worked out separate but apart on Zoom. They watched film together the same way.
When the Flyers returned to action Jan. 1, it was almost a brand-new season, but the team didn’t miss a beat.
“It was definitely a different feeling walking into conference play having only two games under our belt,” Giacone said. “We had to rely on our leadership.”
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