When she arrived at IUP, Jacquie Negrelli had no idea who held the school’s single-season scoring record. She does now.
Negrelli, a senior point guard who transferred from Ohio University, made an indelible mark in her only season at IUP. Despite drawing as much attention from defenders as Madonna does from paparazzi, she averaged 20.7 points per game to eclipse the standard set nine years before by Cathy Torchia (20.0) and lead the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference.
“I didn’t even know what the record was,” said Negrelli, a PSAC West first-team all-star who hopes to play professionally overseas. “I didn’t really think about stuff like that until the announcers, the radio guys, would say something about it when I talked to them before games. I’m real proud I set the record. That was exciting.”
The same could be said for Negrelli’s breakneck style of play. Her mad dashes down the court, dauntless drives through the lane, hell-bent pursuit of loose balls, and ball-hawking brand of defense brought fans to their feet and opponents to their knees.
“I would hate to see where we might have been this year without Jacquie,” said coach Sandy Thomas, whose team was beset by injuries, illness, and academic casualties during a 12-14 season. “She was definitely fun to watch.”
And a nightmare to defend. Opponents cowered like the cornered characters in a slasher flick when Negrelli had the ball in her hands. Not only did she score at a record clip; she also set a school standard for assists per game (5.9), a figure that ranked her ninth nationally and led the conference. Negrelli thereby achieved a notable milestone as the first player to win PSAC scoring and assist titles in the same season.
About the only phase of the game she didn’t master was outside shooting. Negrelli pulled the trigger from long range about as often as Barney Fife fired his pistol.
“Most of her points came from what I call blue-collar work—getting down in the trenches and getting the basketball and then beating people to the basket,” Thomas said. “Anybody can step out and take an open shot someplace and not have to work very hard. She really worked hard for her points.”
All 537 of them, erasing another Torchia record. Negrelli might have topped Torchia’s school-record career total (1,722), too, had she only joined the program out of high school. Negrelli narrowed her choices to IUP and Ohio University, but the lure of Division I proved too strong to resist. She played well for the Bobcats, starting twenty-one games and scoring at an 11.2 clip, highlighted by a twenty-four-point performance against Oregon State. But not long after the school changed coaches, Negrelli changed schools.
“A new coach came in and we just did not get along very well,” she explained. “We clashed, I guess. I tried to stick it out, but I was just too unhappy.” Halfway through her junior season, Negrelli left the team. “I don’t regret quitting,” she said, “but at the same time, life without basketball was not fun. That was a huge part of me that was missing.”
Negrelli confided in IUP’s Sarah Zdesar, a good friend and former teammate at Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School in Cleveland, Ohio. Zdesar, an All-PSAC West second-team center who led the conference in rebounding (11.1) this season, suggested a solution: Come to IUP.
“Because we’re so close, we talk a lot,” Negrelli said. “So when I thought I might want to transfer, I asked her about the team here, about the coaching staff. She had nothing but positive things to say. She knew that I would fit in here. When I came for a visit, it just felt right. I never regretted a day of coming here because I loved it so much.”
Basketball was fun again. Negrelli got along with her teammates and her coaches. She put up dazzling numbers. What’s more, the experience proved educational. Specifically, Jacquie Negrelli learned all about the school’s single-season scoring record.
Then went out and shattered it.