DCSPTS 2-21 MERCER (main).jpg

Special Photo/ Fran Ruchalski Christin Mercer is averaging 10.9 points per game at Jacksonville, where she is a top reserve in her first season.

Fran Ruchalski

When Christin Mercer pondered the question for a little while, she came up with a honest answer.

In the Jacksonville University redshirt junior and Douglas County native’s mind, she was sort of surprised to get a second chance to play Div. I basketball.

But she did, and the 6-foot-1 forward is making the most of it.

She is the team’s third-leading scorer as a top reserve for a team that competes in the Atlantic Sun Conference.

“I’ve had my ups and downs this season,” Mercer said. “The beginning of the season was rough but I’ve made progress.”

And such could be said about Mercer’s young life as a college student.

After graduating from Douglas County High in 2012, Mercer was all set as a signee to Florida. She played in all 37 games for the Gators as a freshman, and was prepared for another solid sophomore year.

The 2013-14 season started out great for Mercer as she was thriving on the court for the SEC school.

But that all changed with a bad off-the-court decision. Mercer was suspended indefinitely, as she was arrested in a weekend incident and faced robbery charges.

After cooperating with investigators, Mercer accepted a plea deal and probation.

But the damage had already been done to an otherwise clean repetition and a promising basketball career in the SEC, one of the top women’s basketball conferences in the nation.

Mercer’s future in basketball, but more importantly her life, was heading in the wrong direction.

But in stepped her AAU coach and Douglas County High assistant Tonya Jackson, who advocated on Mercer’s behalf.

Jacksonville coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin looked beyond Mercer’s one-time mistake and wanted to give her a second chance in life and basketball.

“With Christin, it wasn’t a basketball decision,” McCuin said. “It was a chance to help a young lady get her life back together. It was a matter of getting her to trust me and my staff and being acceptable of her actions.”

When McCuin was an assistant at Clemson, she helped recruit her and had a history with Mercer.

“I knew she wasn’t a bad person,” McCuin said. “I wouldn’t have jeopardized anything if I though she was a bad person. She needed another opportunity.”

And Mercer is proving McCuin right.

She is a double major academically and a big contributor to the basketball team.

“I’ve learned that it sucks sitting out of basketball,” Mercer said. You leave and learn from your mistakes. I’m certainly appreciative of this chance. I’m thankful, blessed and honored for this chance.”

After sitting out last season under NCAA transfer rules, Mercer has found her spot as a top reserve. McCuin and Mercer agree that coming off the bench has been a good fit.

“I’m a straight shooter and she didn’t come in as great of shape as I would have liked,” McCuin said. “But coming off the bench seems to work, and I’m one if it isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it.”

But the reserve role is nothing new for her on the college level.

Mercer, who has come off the bench in 12 games for the Gators her season,averaged 11.8 points per game and 5.8 rebounds per game, making her a solid contributor in the Gators’ rotation before the suspension.

A double major is sociology and criminology, Mercer would like a chance at professional basketball, and McCuin thinks that could be possible.

“She has one more season get work in the offseason,” McCuin said. “I think the sky is the limit with a possibility of the WNBA or overseas. She will leave with two degrees and a chance to give back to other people.”

If a pro career doesn’t work out, Mercer wants to put her degrees to work.

“Right now, I keep them in my back pocket and give professional basketball a shot,” Mercer said. “I want to use my degrees to advocate for young people. I want to use it to keep them out of trouble.”

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