Just over 20 feet away from the basket is where you can normally find Ciara Gregory, a three-point specialist for the Charlotte 49ers women’s basketball team. This is her home. And now she is home to the most three-pointers made in Charlotte 49er history, hitting No. 204 on Feb. 4 against FIU, ultimately passing her ex-teammate, Hillary Sigmon, for No. 1 on the all-time list.
A native of Jeannette, Pennsylvania, the 5-foot-7 senior has made a name for herself around Conference USA for being “the one who shoots from anywhere on the court.” Just ask FIU.
Against FIU on a Sunday afternoon in Miami, Florida, Gregory broke four records for Charlotte, including single-season three-pointers made (75), single-season three-pointers attempted (208) and single-game three-pointers made (9).
But if you would have asked Gregory if she would have had one of the most decorated games in Charlotte history that day, she would have said you were crazy.
“Before the game, I looked over at Randi [Henderson] and was like, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with my shot,'” Gregory said. “She kept pumping me up and telling me ‘It’s right there and those are good misses.’ I was like, ‘No misses are good misses.’ And then in the first quarter, I think I missed my first shot and then I made like five in a row after that. And then I thought to myself, ‘This could be a really good day.'”
Gregory totally undersold it. It was a record-breaking day.
The senior finished with 32 points on 10-of-20 shooting from the field, including 9-of-16 from downtown, with the ninth make being one of the biggest shots of her life.
With eight three pointers already in the game (seven in the first half) and just under seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter, the 49ers were coming out of a timeout and coach Cara Consuegra was ready for Gregory to shine bright in the sunshine state.
“Coach had called a timeout and said she wanted to get me the record on that next possession,” Gregory said. “So she drew up a play for me to get it and it was just awesome. We ran the play a lot when Hillary was here and it’s just an elevator screen. So she drew it on the board and I was like ‘Oh God,’ but we drew it up perfectly on the court and I made the shot.”
Making such a monumental shot can be very emotional but Gregory kept her cool and looked over to the sideline and at the person who made all of it possible.
“After I made it, I just looked over at coach Cara [Consuegra] and she was just so happy,” Gregory said. “It was just a good feeling to know how much she truly cares about me. And it’s not just me; she wants everybody to succeed. It was just an awesome feeling.”
That awesome feeling was mutual with her and her coach, a young lady that Consuegra says is a “special talent.”
I have thoroughly enjoyed coaching Ciara throughout her career,” Consuegra said. “Some people may have heard me say this about her after the game but the thing is about C[iara], is that it wasn’t always easy for her. I think in this day in age, it is very easy for young people to want instant gratification all the time and if they don’t have that, it results in issues on teams and kids transferring. For C[iara], she didn’t play a whole lot as a freshman, played a little bit as a sophomore and as a junior, she was having a great year then got injured. So you look at all the adversity that she’s been through, and she’s still been one of our hardest workers, best kids in terms of leadership and being a great teammate. So I think anytime you have a young lady that has been through a lot and has always put the team first and you see her leave here as one of the all-time greats, that’s just a really really awesome thing.”
From one mentor in her life to another, Gregory got a hold of her Grandma after the game over the phone, only to get a laugh out of what her Grandma had to say about her hitting the big shot.
“When I called my Grandma, she said, ‘Ciara, you just did everything right today.’ She’s probably my biggest fan along with my mom and dad and although they couldn’t see the game, they listened to Josh [Feldman] and were super excited to hear it.”
While after the game was all fun and smiles and full of celebration, Gregory knows that the work that she puts in before games and after practices is the reason why she has been such a decorated athlete for the 49ers over her four-year career.
“I get shots up after practice because I am more fatigued and that’s more game-like for me,” Gregory said. “And before games, I come out and get my shots up early before warm-ups before anyone is out here.”
Although none of those extra shots count at the time, they help account for every big three she hits during each game, with none bigger than No. 204, which means more than just a number to her.
“It means that I am just a testament to hard work does pay off. Nothing came easy for me in my time here. To the younger kids who may not be playing right now, your time will come if you stay the course and you trust the process.”