Jan 18, 2013 (The Modesto Bee - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Modesto Junior College's last line of defense stands 6-foot-2 with long arms, jumping ability and a serious need to swat shots into the third row.
Every night is a block party for Jamie Beck, the Pirates' defender deluxe. She enjoys the rejection she dishes out against both attempted kills in volleyball and 10-foot jump shots in the paint.
You want defense Call Beck, a two-sport star at MJC since she arrived from Ceres two years ago.
"I love defense because of my height obviously," she said. "(Blocking shots) is a mixture of volleyball and basketball skills. The timing is the same. Last year, I figured it out."
Did she ever.
As an MJC freshman, Beck blocked a school-record 78 shots for a basketball team depleted by injury. Opponents drove confidently, only to watch Beck bat their attempts sideways.
Last fall, she drew more attention in volleyball by leading California in blocks-per-game (1.49). If she's close to the net -- volleyball or basketball -- she's lethal.
"With being the tallest, I feel like I have to use it," Beck said. "This is how I help my team."
The demands on multi-sport collegiate athletes are nonstop. One sport usually is enough. Two sports spin much of the year into a low-grade frenzy. Each day requires organization and discipline to fit in the classload, practices and games.
But Beck brought the commitment with her. At Ceres, she was a three-sport athlete -- volleyball, basketball and softball for three years. She subbed soccer for basketball as a senior, so she never stopped.
Volleyball always was her favorite -- she grew up competing on club teams -- but there was always time for the rest.
"Jamie has not reached her full potential," MJC first-year volleyball coach Tevani Liotard said. "She hasn't been challenged. She could be extremely good."
What's distinctive about Beck are all those seasonal changes. They agree with her. After the end of the volleyball season, Beck practiced one day with the basketball team and walked onto the court with the Pirates the next day at the Las Positas Tournament.
Let's summarize: Tuesday, volleyball; Wednesday, hoops practice; Thursday, game time.
All Beck did was score 24 points and block eight shots during MJC's overtime win over Cuesta. Her free throw with 2 seconds left in regulation forced the overtime.
"I surprised myself," she said. "I was dying during that first practice."
Unlike former MJC baseball-basketball star Austin Keaton, Beck has juggled her volleyball-basketball duties during the same two-year period.
"I love being on teams and getting to know new people all the time," she said. "And I love the competition."
Her career has been sidetracked only by asthma, detected as a senior at Ceres, and some foot injuries. She appears to have both in check this season, however, and the results are seen on the court.
Last week's win over Cosumnes River was punctuated by Beck's 11 blocked shots. Modesto, which welcomes Sacramento to MJC Gym on Saturday night, fell to San Joaquin Delta earlier this week despite 22 points by Beck.
The center entertains her teammates occasionally by touching the rim with a leap. She can dunk a tennis ball but can't palm a basketball enough to throw it down.
"She has improved incredibly this year," sophomore guard Lexy Posz said. "For her to join the team after the season started can be a hard bond, but she meshed right in."
Beck's mere presence alters shots. The Pirates held American River scoreless last week for more than 11 minutes while they rallied from a 16-point deficit to a 63-50 win. Part of that shutout streak was built by Beck's looming threat near the hoop.
"She has the knack for knowing when to jump," MJC coach Mike Girardi said. "She doesn't foul much at all. We'll tell some players not to try to block shots for fear of fouling. With what Jamie brings, I encourage her. If she gets a few fouls, no problem."
Beck is not necessarily physical, but she covers with a wide wingspan and all that timing.
Off the court, she dotes on her two dogs and a rabbit. An animal lover all her life, she hopes to become a veterinarian. Last summer, she volunteered at the Stanislaus Animal Shelter.
"I feel that most people don't have an affection for pets that I think they should," Beck said. "You should care for them as you would if they were people."
She has not enjoyed much team success at MJC until now. The basketball team, fortified by sophomores and balanced scoring, is an improved 13-4 overall and 2-1 in the Big 8 Conference despite a constant bout with injuries.
Beck averages 9.5 points, 6.9 rebounds and three blocked shots per game for a team that -- until Briona Fontenot's season-ending Achilles tendon tear -- boasted six players between 9.5 and 14 points per game.
"Her stats would be bigger this year if we weren't so balanced," Girardi said.
Beck is almost on pace to match her numbers from a year ago, which means she'll leave MJC as the school's all-time leading shot-blocker.
Maybe the Pirates will throw her a block party.
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2302.
Jamie Beck File
--Basketball this season: 9.5 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3 blocks
--Basketball last season: 78 blocks*
--Volleyball last fall: 1.49 blocks per set**
--school record; *--state leader
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