Francesca Pan becomes the 31st Yellow Jacket to reach the 1,000-point club
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
Francesca Pan felt like she was in paradise when she and her teammates arrived in Cancun, Mexico, for the Cancun Challenge last week.
“It was amazing,” said Pan. “The villas where we were, it looked like paradise.”
Pan knew she was in paradise with 2:02 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Nov. 23 game against Idaho State, Georgia Tech’s farewell game of the Challenge, when her jumper from the lane swished through nets and she was mobbed by her teammates.
The jumper didn’t affect the game. That was well in hand as the Yellow Jackets led, 70-47.
What was so magnificent about this ‘J’ was that it gave her 1,000-career points.
“I hugged my teammates and I was just happy that everybody was around me, smiling and cheering for me,” she recalled of becoming the 31st member of the program’s elite club. “It was just amazing. We were all hugging each other.”
While the milestone gave her joy, she admitted the part that gave her the most joy was that the team could stop focusing on her getting that final basket.
“I knew I was close, but not that close,” she said. “So when I was sitting on the bench, ‘AT’, (graduate manager, former Jackets teammate and countryman Antonia Peresson), came to me and was like, ‘You are two points away from your 1,000th point. Coach Jo wants to put you in so you can score your 1,000th point.’ When ‘AT’ told me that I felt a little bit of pressure.
“We kept running plays for me until I scored my 1,000th point. I took four shots to score two points,” she added with a laugh. “I just did a jump shot in the middle of the paint.
It was like, ‘Finally!’”
That it took so long for Pan to convert a play made for her was about the only thing “Un-Pan-like” about points Nos. 999 and 1,000. The basket was signature, a jump shot. The smile and pure joy afterward were as well.
“I hugged my teammates and I was just happy that everybody was around me, smiling and cheering for me,” she said. “It was just amazing. We were all hugging each other.”
It was much like last Nov. 12, when Zaire O’Neal scored her 1,000th point against South Carolina State at McCamish Pavilion, only with her as part of the welcoming committee.
“When Zaire scored her 1,000th point I was so happy for her, as all the team was happy for her. I was full of emotion. It was great,” she recalled. “It was a great experience because when she scored, all the team ran to her, Coach Jo called a timeout, everybody was hugging each other, everybody was happy for her. I saw the same thing when I scored my 1,000th point. Everybody was cheering for me, happy for me. That was the most amazing part.”
The response was amazing on social media, as well.
“A lot of my friends and ex-teammates from home in Italy texted me or posted a picture on Instagram,” she said. “A lot of people reached out to me to say, ‘Congratulations!’ Even my national team coach. I was really happy about it.”
Pan should be happy about getting to 1,000 and her play this season.
A scoring machine since arriving in Atlanta — she led the team in scoring and three-point field goals last season after finishing second in both while winning ACC Freshman of the Year two seasons ago — she has actually turned her game up this season.
Pan sets the bar for the Jackets in scoring (16.7 ppg), assists (2.2), steals (2.8), field goals made (36), three-point field goals made (14) and minutes (33.8) while averaging career-bests in minutes, scoring, rebounding, field goal-, three-point field goal-, and free throw-shooting percentage, assists and steals.
In addition to reaching the 1,000-point club, Pan was recognized for a tremendous tournament, earning a place on the All-Tournament Team’s Riviera Division at the Challenge, after leading the Jackets with 33 points (16.5 ppg in Cancun), adding four assists, two steals and a block.
While all the accolades are great, she is looking to the next challenge.
That comes tonight in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, when she leads Georgia Tech onto the floor of the Xfiniti Center to face No. 7, Maryland (6-0). Tipoff is at 6:30 p.m. Tech is 7-4 all-time against the Big Ten in the Challenge.
The Jackets have won five straight — including wins in Cancun over George Washington (70-55) and Idaho State (74-51) — since an opening night double-overtime loss at Houston and would like to break a six-game losing streak to Maryland, dating back to when the Terrapins were part of the ACC.
“We had two great wins in Cancun,” Pan said. “That means a lot for this team and helps us get ready for Maryland. That is a top-10 team.
“I scored my 1,000th point. I was so happy and to see my teammates that happy makes me more happy,” she added. “It was a great personal achievement but I think it was also a great contribution for my team and that’s all I want. I want to help my team to win games and grow every day to be the best version that we can be.”
Pan also will try to continue her growth, be the best she can be and keep moving up in GT’s 1,000-point club. She’s set a goal to challenge the top name from the club she just joined.
“I know that Ty Marshall has the record for scoring points in Georgia Tech history and is over 2,100 points,” Pan said. “That is going to be part of my next goal and we’ll see.”
She and the entire team would like to see their way to a win over Maryland. That not only would be a signature win for the program but also No. 300 for Coach MaChelle Joseph. Being part of such a historic win has the entire team fired up.
“It means a lot,” said Pan. “Coach Jo always gives everything for us so we need to give her something back. If we win at Maryland, they’re a top-10 team in the country, that would be super special. So we’re trying to do everything we can do to win that game and, of course, dedicate it to her.”