Genco evolves from unheralded recruit into 1,000-point scorer

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Genco evolves from unheralded recruit into 1,000-point scorer

Senior guard Jess Genco looks for a pass during a game last season. / File photo by Alex Melagrano.

Senior guard Jess Genco looks for a pass during a game last season. / File photo by Alex Melagrano.

Alex Melagrano

Senior guard Jess Genco looks for a pass during a game last season. / File photo by Alex Melagrano.

Alex Melagrano

Alex Melagrano

Senior guard Jess Genco looks for a pass during a game last season. / File photo by Alex Melagrano.

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By Irvin Zhang, news staff

Down by 10 with 4:49 left in the fourth quarter of an invitational tournament game against Yale University, third-year point guard Jess Genco runs past a screen her teammate set to the left wing. She catches the ball off an inbound pass, knocks down a 3-pointer and becomes the 20th player in program history to eclipse 1,000 career points.

Genco has evolved from an overlooked recruit who received just one offer to play collegiate basketball to Northeastern’s starting point guard and leading scorer. Now, she is a 1,000 career point scorer of a Division I program.

The 5-foot-5 guard said her competitive spirit and knack for scoring started on a paved court in her driveway in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

“I come from a basketball playing family,” said Genco, a business administration major. “There’s definitely sibling rivalry, you know, one-on-one games in the driveway. I always say I have my sister to thank because she’s one of the better defenders that I’ve faced. Always playing with her and against her really helped me develop as a player.”

Genco said she grew up emulating her mother, Catherine Genco, who played collegiate basketball at Fordham University.

“Something she ingrained in me was that if you work hard enough, you can [be a college basketball player], but you’re going to have to put in the work because it’s not going to be easy,” Genco said.

Like her mother, Genco played high school basketball at Scranton Preparatory School.

Her high school career was not picture perfect, and she went into her senior season unsure if any school was going to give her the chance to play collegiate basketball.

During the same time period, the Northeastern women’s basketball program had a coaching change. New head coach Kelly Cole had just one player who stayed through the transition. Through a mutual connection, Cole heard about Genco and gave her a chance.

“We were trying to locate players and one of my ex-players from Boston College when I was over there [Amber Jacobs] called me when I got the job and told me about this young lady in Scranton that she was working with,” Cole said. “[Jacobs] said, ‘I think she’s got what it takes. I think everyone is overlooking her.’ Amber was a great player for me and so I said, ‘Let’s take a look.’”

When Cole invited Genco to campus to evaluate her game in person, she loved Genco’s “court vision and court sense,” she said, and envisioned her fitting well in the program. When she joined the Huskies, Genco came in with low expectations of what her role would be but said she had a chip on her shoulder and wanted to work as hard as she could.

Despite being a first-year, Genco had a huge role on the team and finished second in the nation in minutes per game at 38.9. She was named to the CAA All-Rookie Team, averaging 9.4 points, 4.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game. Genco was surprised by her playing time but said former Northeastern forward Samantha DeFreese helped her transition to the college game.

“I didn’t realize ‘til preseason that I’d be getting a lot of time [on the court],” Genco said. “I guess there were a couple little hints like Sam DeFreese, who was a great player and a senior during my freshman year, would always be very encouraging and help build up my confidence. I can’t thank her enough for it.”

DeFreese, who was also a 1,000 career point scorer, said she was drawn to Genco because of the high level of maturity she showed. She wanted to give Genco the blueprints to a successful collegiate career.

“You don’t see that in a lot of freshmen,” DeFreese said. “That maturity off the court translates into a maturity on the court as well. If you have that, you can take all of the things that are thrown at you on the next level. For me, it was ‘this kid has so much skill.’ If I could try to help guide her and make her more confident in herself, I knew she was going to be great.”

While Genco had similar success her sophomore year, she vastly improved this year. During the offseason, she worked on increasing her offensive repertoire, improving her shooting off the catch and off the dribble. During her junior season, she set career-highs in points, assists and shooting percentages and earned a spot on the All-CAA First Team.

“She’s improved the way scores and improved her shot even more,” fourth-year forward Loren Lassiter said. “She’s continued to study the game and learn from her teammates. You can always find her in the gym working on her shot or on situations that might happen in the game. She always watches film and is always trying to improve herself.”

On top of her increased production, her teammates have noticed how she takes command of the team, becoming more vocal on the court and more involved off the court.

“Her leadership is contagious,” said third-year forward Gabby Giacone, who has been Genco’s roommate since freshman year. “This year, she’s done an absolute great job of making connections with everybody.”

Upon hitting the 3-pointer that would be her 1,000th point, Genco did not celebrate; she immediately focused on defense and began pressuring the ball. That is who she is, her teammates say.

“She’s so humble,” Giacone said. “She can walk into a gym and put up 20 points and have a great game and the next day, she’s at the gym like nothing happened. She’s all about a team-first mentality.”

After Northeastern’s season-ending loss to Yale, Genco said in tears that she would rather have more wins than points. Just like when she was younger on the paved court with her sister, Genco’s goal is to win. Only this time, she’s chasing a bigger stage.

“I’m always thinking about the conference championship,” Genco said of her hopes for her senior season. “It’s always on my mind throughout the year. That’s the ultimate goal. Getting that berth, it’s what you dream of as a kid: getting to play in the NCAA tournament and winning championships.”