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January 16, 2006

Judkins' versatility unmatched

By Tom Rock
This article originally appeared at: http://www.newsday.com/

The key, Nicole Judkins said, is the rhythm. You have to pay attention to your breathing while focusing on the target. It's all about routine and knowing your aim.

The senior forward on the Farmingdale State women's basketball team could easily be talking about a free throw, but she's not. She's talking about the skills learned in basic marksmanship, about firing a machine gun. Though, come to think of it ...

"They are sort of the same thing," Judkins said of the similarities in foul shooting and just plain shooting. "And if you think about either too much, it's not going to happen."

Judkins is one of very few who can accurately draw that comparison. The multi-tasker is not only a full-time student at Farmingdale playing hoops, she's also an Army reservist participating in the ROTC program. The daughter of a career Army officer, and the sister of a soldier who just returned from Iraq last week, Judkins always figured she would have a future in a green uniform. Now she switches between ensembles, from the emerald duds worn by the Rams to the camouflage fatigues worn during military training.

Judkins, 23, was one of four Farmingdale student-athletes who took part in an LTC (leadership training course) at Fort Knox, Ky., last summer. Kristen Tong (basketball and softball), Gina Moscato (volleyball and softball) and Devan Weber (softball) were also there and absorbed what they could. Perhaps nudged by her family history, Judkins took it one step further and enlisted.

"I grew up in military life, so I felt that's what I had to do," she said. "I realized if I didn't do this, I would regret it for the rest of my life. I knew even if I hated the LTC, there was something about the Army I would love. It's a very proud job."

And so far pretty hectic. Though ROTC training follows the school semester schedule, during the academic year Judkins is shuffling all around Nassau County. On Mondays and Wednesdays, she takes a full load of classes at Farmingdale. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, she trains with the ROTC, and on Thursdays, she also goes to Hofstra for leadership classes and labs in topics such as land navigation or basic marksmanship. Finding time for basketball practice isn't easy, which is why Judkins will sometimes show up wearing her fatigues.

"I've been running through the woods all day, and then I change into basketball clothes," she said.

Judkins said her parents have been supportive of her enlistment, but her brother has been hesitant to fully back the decision, and not just because Nicole would outrank him as an officer.

"My brother is real protective, and he just came back from a war zone and can't stand to think of me heading over there," she said. "He's seen it, he's smelled it, he's breathed the air over there. I think it is harder for him having done it than for me, who hasn't done it yet."

Judkins, who played two seasons at Southern Maine and is in her final year of basketball eligibility - she averages 2.9 points and 1.8 rebound per game off the bench for the Rams - will graduate from Farmingdale next spring.

"Then," she said, "it's off to wherever the Army sends me."