Gara Beth Self has seized the chance to prove herself at the Division I level.
The former Ingomar standout recently completed her freshman season at Louisiana-Monroe, averaging 9.9 points and 2.1 assists per game. Last week, she was named the Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year.
It’s been just 10 months since Self signed with ULM. She originally signed with Itawamba Community College, but when a late Division I offer came along, she couldn’t pass it up.
I can’t remember who, but someone mentioned to me once that Self would be better off at a junior college. They were wrong.
“The first D-I offer I had, I took it to see what I could do with it,” she said.
Self has done well with it, which isn’t surprising if you saw her play at Ingomar. She led the Lady Falcons to three-straight Class 2A state championships and was named the 2019 Daily Journal Player of the Year.
Once Self got to Monroe, she said there was an adjustment period, made tougher by the fact she’s a point guard.
“At first I was freaking out; I was nervous about it,” she said. “But after the first few games it was just normal, because I’ve been doing this my whole life at Ingomar, so it was nothing different.”
Self’s minutes and production fluctuated over the first third of the season, but she started settling in once conference play began. In Sun Belt play, Self averaged 12.8 points and 2.5 assists per game.
She ended up starting 24 of ULM’s 29 games.
“High school level and college, the speed at which we play is so different. The first few games for me was just learning to play really fast and keep up with Division I players,” Self said.
As good as her season was, it wasn’t so great for the Lady Warhawks. They finished 3-26 overall, 1-17 in the conference.
Losing is a foreign concept to Self. During her six seasons as a varsity high school player, Ingomar had a record of 192-34.
But she’s not discouraged. ULM loses just three seniors, and Self is high on the incoming signing class.
“Nobody likes to lose. That’s something I’m not used to, don’t want to get used to,” she said. “This year we had a lot of challenges. We had two seniors tear their ACLs.
“It was a year of growth, and I think we did that. I think we grew, and next year with our class coming in, I’m super excited because I know we’re going to shock some people.”