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Free and easy from line

Remmerde close to automatic at stripe

ORANGE CITY, Iowa -- Deb Remmerde had a reputation for hitting free throws in any situation, but this was ridiculous.

Remmerde, a sophomore guard for Northwestern College, stood at the line last Monday morning, as she had done thousands of times in her life. But she never performed her standard routine -- clear the mind, dribble twice, and shoot -- at 6 a.m. in front of 600 fans and a CBS camera crew while wearing an earpiece that constantly squawked.

Flanked by such a surreal setting, Remmerde did the unthinkable.

She missed.

That's when Remmerde, whose streak of 133 made free throws earlier this season set a record unmatched in the history of organized basketball, put on what her teammates jokingly call her ''mad face."

''It's stepping to the line with confidence, and having no doubt in your mind that you're not going to miss," Remmerde said. ''I block everything else out. It's you, the ball, and the rim, and that's where the ball's gotta go."

It did after that first one. She made 75 straight before missing again, then made 65 more in a row. She missed again, then made 167 straight.

If that wasn't enough, Remmerde capped her moment in the national spotlight with 256 consecutive free throws, sending the crowd into a frenzy.

''I was a little nervous at first, but once I got rolling, it was good," Remmerde said of her televised feat.

If there was ever a player who could get people out of bed before sunrise to watch free throws, it's Remmerde. Her recent run of 133 drew national attention to Northwestern, an NAIA school of 1,300 students 20 miles east of the South Dakota border.

But in Iowa, Remmerde has been in the spotlight since high school. She holds the state's career record for points, free throw percentage, and 3-point percentage, and was named Iowa's Miss Basketball as a senior at Rock Valley High in 2003.

Remmerde committed to play for the University of Iowa while in high school, and it appeared to be a match made in basketball heaven. She had dreamed of playing at the Division 1 level for as long as she could remember, and as the all-time leading scorer in state history, the Hawkeyes' coaching staff had recruited her hard.

But the fairy tale ended quickly. Three weeks into her first semester in Iowa City, Remmerde found out she had a stress fracture in her foot. She had never been hurt before, and she didn't take it well.

Homesick and hurt, Remmerde decided to transfer to Northwestern -- a short drive from Rock Valley -- after one semester.

''It was hard on me, especially not being able to play, and you put being away from home on top of that," Remmerde said.

Northwestern coach Earl Woudstra had known Remmerde since the sixth grade, and even then he thought she was the best shooter he'd seen -- boy or girl. He followed her progress throughout high school, but held out little hope that she'd ever play for him.

But when Remmerde left Iowa City, Woudstra was thrilled to offer her a place on his team.

''She came back to a place where she knew people would care about her and she'd have an opportunity to be successful," Woudstra said. ''It was a level of comfort for her to come here."

After sitting out a season, Remmerde emerged as one of the nation's best small-college talents last season. She led the NAIA in scoring at 28.2 points per game, and shot 93 percent from the free throw line.

Remmerde upped her points total to 30.7 a game this season, most of which come from a somewhat unorthodox shot. Unlike most pure shooters, Remmerde starts her shot from the middle of her body and lines her release up with the center of her eyes instead of her shoulder.

But Woudstra says her finish is her secret. It's as textbook as they come.

''When you walk in the gym, you don't say, 'Oh, there's the All-American.' You have to watch her shoot for a while," he said.

Remmerde doesn't have any regrets about leaving Iowa, but she still has one mission left in Division 1 basketball.

She's a bit tired of hearing sportscasters call Duke's J.J. Redick the best college shooter when she's the one with the all-time free throw record.

Her solution? A game of ''Horse," in which players have to match each other's shots.

''That's the next thing I'd like to do," Remmerde joked. ''I'd like to give him a run for his money sometime."

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