Sara Bejedi grew up in Finland, where she forsook the popular winter outdoor sports and gravitated toward tennis and singing before plunging into basketball as her full-time interest at the age of 13.
Although Bejedi got a late start in basketball compared to other girls, she soon found opportunities to play for her youth national teams. When she was 15 she was in the Finland under-16 team and when she was 17 she played in the senior national team. The opportunity to play college basketball in the United States was appealing, and Bejedi narrowed her choices down to Arizona State, Florida State, and Baylor.
“I decided to go to the state of Arizona first, but after the first year things didn’t quite go the way I wanted,” said Bejedi.
Bejedi transferred from ASU and quickly found a home in Tallahassee and at FSU. She made steady progress and began to impress in 2021-2022, averaging 6.4 points and 2.1 assists while playing a career-high 16.9 minutes. But she was also better known as a defensive player covering fast guards and making fouls or forcing turnovers.
She still does this season, but Bejedi has taken her offensive game to a new level. Bejedi has averaged 21.2 points over her last five games, including an upset of No. 11 NC State a few weeks ago and a win over Virginia last week.
Next up for Bejedi and the No. 24 Seminoles is a trip to No. 7 Notre Dame on Thursday (7 p.m. on Bally Sports Florida or Regional Sports Networks). The Seminoles are also ranked No. 15 in the NCAA’s NET rankings – positioning themselves as a potential regional host in the NCAA Tournament.
Bejedi is as competitive as can be, embracing a role as a point guard and leader on the field, while juggling ambitions off the field as she pursues a criminology degree and also envisions law school in the future.
“They all go together, hand in hand,” Bejedi said. “I struggled in the beginning. As a criminology major, it takes a lot and being so passionate about basketball. I kind of let my performance in basketball dictate how much effort I put in in school. And that’s like saying on the field that you shouldn’t let a missed shot dictate your defense. And I just had to separate them. I have grown when it comes to my mindset and practicing positive reinforcement for myself because I am very hard on myself. So it’s been a journey, but I’ve loved every bit of it.
Bejedi has been a valuable part of the Seminoles this season, and she’s part of a formidable 1-2 scoring threat with freshman Ta’Niya Latson (23.6 points per game). Both are aggressive in driving to the edge and creating shots, with Bejedi making 31 of 62 (50 percent) of her shots from the floor and 15 of 32 (46.9 percent) of her three-point attempts in the last five matches.
“I’m very proud of her,” said FSU coach Brooke Wyckoff. “She has a great job. She has to set the tone for us defensively, which she does over and over again. It’s not on the statistics sheet. To see that she can really influence our team on the offensive end, she always has, but she’s a fighter.
“She has that grit about her that we need in ACC play on the offensive end. She is willing to attack the basket again and again whether she gets fouled or not. I’m very proud of her for focusing first and foremost on what we need and then letting the rest of the game come to her.
With the Seminoles’ dramatic off-season overhaul, on the field with the departure of so many veterans and a new coach in Wyckoff, there was uncertainty about what to expect. They were voted ninth in the ACC’s preseason poll, but FSU (18-4, 7-2 ACC) is among the top three teams in the league going into the final nine games.
Bejedi saw cohesion form in the summer as veterans engaged in transfers like Jazmine Massengill and Taylor O’Brien and Latson.
“It just gets better and better after every game,” said Bejedi. “And even fighting through adversity, even against Virginia not playing our best basketball and then just getting together in the fourth quarter, taking care of business and getting a win out of a road game is huge. It’s scary to see how good we can be. … If we stay in our concept for 40 minutes, there are not many teams that can beat us, so sky is the limit.”
Bejedi is also seeing more success this season, in part due to the Seminoles’ new pace-and-space offense brought in by Wyckoff and first-year assistant coach Bill Ferrara. The attack matches Bejedi’s skills very well.
“It’s just a fast pace I’m used to since playing at home,” said Bejedi. “My high school national team is very similar. … Now I have become the player I feel I was recruited to come for. It has certainly been a journey. I’ve known I’ve always been an extremely talented athlete, but I think it’s just been mental for me. Just giving myself more positive reinforcement and being confident and not doubting myself and feeling comfortable.
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