2014-15 HTPreps Player of the Year was the go-to player on a 25-5 Florida Southern team last season
Sure, there have been times when Camille Giardina questioned her decision to play women’s college basketball at the Division II level rather than Division I.
But not anymore.
“My decision has worked out fantastically. I’ve been very successful,” she said.
The 5-foot-7 Giardina, a former guard at Cardinal Mooney and then Sarasota High, is the go-to player at Florida Southern in Lakeland, one of the most successful Division II schools in the country.
After last season, her junior year, Giardina was named to the All-America honorable mention list by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association.
“I know deep down I’m the best player in the conference," she said. "There’s no one I don’t think I can take on. I have obstacles, but nothing can stop me.”
After averaging 8.6 points as a freshman and 13.4 as a sophomore, opponents began scheming to stop Giardina, as her name became a staple on scouting reports. Some of the teams in the Sunshine State Conference have players she played with and against in high school and on the AAU circuit, which led to even more familiarity.
“It’s fun. It makes me even more competitive, because you don’t want to lose to that person,” Giardina said.
Opposing teams began picking her up at midcourt, and Giardina found more hands-in-her-face defense.
“My reputation caught up with me,” she said. “That made it much more difficult to get off my shot this year. They were denying me the ball, so it would be hard for me to get my hands on the ball. It took me a few games to get to learn how to handle that challenge."
She worked on more combination moves, along with more go-to moves to quickly get off a shot when there’s a few seconds left on the clock.
"I found a way to get off my shot and get open even more," she said. "Now I have no issue.”
Giardina averaged 19.9 points, 3 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.4 assists this past season for the 25-5 Moccasins. Included was a 33-point performance against Embry-Riddle in the Sunshine State Conference championship game. She scored 21 points in Florida Southern's season-ending loss to Valdosta State in an opening-round game of the NCAA tournament, her 19th game with 20 or more points.
“I can pretty much score any time, anywhere,” Giardina said.
That has pretty much always has been the case. While playing for Ken Stokes for two years at Cardinal Mooney or Rob Jutras for two more at Sarasota, the 2014-15 HTPreps Player of the Year finished her career with 2,077 points.
And as much time as she put into her game in high school, that workload increased in college. It was essential Giardina learned to balance her time along with school studies and her social life.
“Basketball in college is a lifestyle,” she said. “Everything you do revolves around practice, your schedule, workout, film, anything coach pretty much plans.
“At first it was an adjustment. But as you progress, and your course loads change, more games on the road, it became a lot more difficult to balance the social life, the academics, the sleep and schoolwork.”
With the help of Mocs coach Betsy Harris, who arrived at the school the same time as Giardina, and her boyfriend Chris Burgess, a former Division 1 player at Appalachian State now working for Florida Southern women’s basketball in analytics, Giardina goes into her senior season with plenty of options.
She could continue playing and get her Master’s Degree in England, playing professionally overseas or she could get a start on a career in the advertising field with relevance to sports.
“That’s the big question,” said Giardina, who is working for Sun Graphic Technologies in Sarasota this summer. “I have not decided which path.”
For now, Giardina’s primary focus is helping the Mocs have a successful season in her senior year.
“I work hard consistently,” said Giardina, who practices and trains at the Frank Berlin YMCA behind Sarasota High and plays on any available playground court. “I don’t ever change how hard I work. It’s the same and never changes.
“In the end, I’m happy where I am and very successful, so I cannot complain."