Karlie Bearden patiently waited her chance to be in the everyday lineup for Lenoir-Rhyne. It has paid off for the Bears’ junior forward, who is putting up her best numbers yet since leaving Dawson County (c/o 2016).
“The starters for our team are never set in stone,” says Bearden. We push every day to earn our spot on the court. It is an honor each time to start the game, but it is also a great feeling knowing the impact I have with the team.”
Through the first two seasons at LR for the former 1,000-point scorer for the Lady Tigers, Bearden appeared in 35 games, earning just two starts. She tallied 1.6 points per game and 0.8 boards per game in her 2016-17 freshman season, playing only 51 minutes. In that short sample though, she made good on half of her shot attempts.
The following season, Bearden’s playing time significantly increased to the tune of 16 minutes per game. She rewarded her coaches with 5.1 points , 3.6 boards, and 0.7 assists per contest, along with 18 total blocks and 10 steals.
Those numbers continue to rise in her junior campaign through the first 14 games, in which she is now a full-time starter. Bearden is averaging career-highs in points (5.6), rebounds (5.4), assists (1.6), and free throw percentage (.833).
Among Bearden’s top performances this season includes a double-double effort on November 20 against Newberry (10 pts, 10 reb), and a 14-point, 8-rebound performance on December 5 at Carson-Newman. The 14-point total is her collegiate career high.
Bearden might make it look easy, but she’ll be the first to tell you it’s not that simple.
“I think the biggest difference for me was the pace of the game,” says Bearden on the leap from high school to college ball. “College is an entirely different level of play even from travel ball.”
Bearden was a stellar hybrid player for Dawson County under coach Steve Sweat. She was a second coach on the floor, and easily surpassed 1,000 career points and could score from anywhere on the floor.
“My role on the floor has changed since high school,” she adds. “At Dawson, I played mainly a guard for most of my career but then switched to a post some. I have improved by being able to focus on being the best 4 on the floor in college. My midrange game has gotten extremely better.”
Bearden helped lead the Lady Tigers to exactly 100 wins in her four seasons against just 22 losses, as well as two region titles (regular season and/or tournament). This included a State Finals appearance in ’12-13, an Elite 8 run (’14-15), and a pair of Sweet 16 runs (’13-14; ’15-16). She was part of the historic State Finals team, as well as the 29-1 record-setting ’14-15 group who’s only loss came in the quarterfinals.
On why she chose Lenoir-Rhyne, Bearden doesn’t hesitate in offering an answer.
“What I love most about LR is the people and community there. From my teammates, coaches, professors, and friends, it is definitely a second home for me and reminds me of Dawsonville with the close community that is here.”
Feature Photo by LRBears.com