By TREY WILLIAMS
It was a given that Jaycie Jenkins would play sports in college. As for which one and how many, well, that caused the Daniel Boone three-sport standout to lose some sleep.
But Jenkins is resting easy now after signing last week to play basketball at Milligan College. Her mother Tonya and older sister Jacyln played softball at Milligan, but basketball will be her gig.
“It was a pretty tough decision for me, especially since corona hit and took away our senior softball season,” Jenkins said. “It was kind of a hard way going out, not having that season. It kind of made it a little bit tougher to let softball go, but I think basketball was the right decision.”
Jenkins was a standout in volleyball too, although she never played it with a travel-ball team. Some coaches said they thought her highest ceiling beyond high school might be volleyball. Of course, others said the same thing about basketball and softball.
“Everyone always asks me what my favorite is,” Jenkins said. “It’s just whatever season it is, because they’re all equally fun to me. They all kind of give me different joy.”
Boone advanced to the state tournament in volleyball last year thanks to a sectional win at Farragut.
“Traveling two hours and we lose the first set,” Jenkins said, “and they had a big crowd that night –they had a football game that night and let the students in for free – they had a home-court advantage. And we came back and won the second set, they won the third and we won the fourth, and then we had enough momentum and just pushed through and won the fifth. That was one of my favorite memories, making it to the state by playing all the way down at Farragut against a good volleyball team in the substate.”
Boone volleyball coach Chelsea Baker said Jenkins was an integral part of ‘Blazers attack.
“Jaycie is a phenomenal athlete,” Baker said. “There aren’t many players that we get to coach that are All-State or even MVPs in three different sports. She was definitely one of our leaders on the volleyball court. We leaned on her many times to get us out of a hole.
“She has a strong work ethic and will be a standout in basketball. Maybe she will miss volleyball a little and will have the opportunity to play that in college, too.
Jenkins considered trying to play volleyball and basketball at Milligan, but decided the overlap would be too taxing and put her too far behind in basketball.
A shortstop, Jenkins was the district tournament MVP in softball as a junior. Boone also won a tournament at Gibbs in 2019, part of a 44-7 season that concluded with a hard-fought loss to eventual state champion Jefferson County. High hopes abounded for 2020.
“In that (Gibbs) tournament we really played our best,” Jenkins said. “We beat a lot of good teams. That was fun, and that gave us confidence, like, down the road we can beat these teams. …
“That (district tournament) will always stick out to me. When I miss softball and think back I’ll think of that tournament, because we had a lot of fun that tournament and we played good.”
Jenkins was part of a state tournament basketball team as a sophomore during Travis Mains’ final season as a head coach. She scored 44 points in a triple-overtime win against Jefferson County to get Boone to the sectional as a senior, and was perhaps happiest for coach Beau Hauldren after the thrilling team victory capped what was supposed to be somewhat of a rebuilding season.
“My favorite memory was probably the game against Jeff County,” Jenkins said, “not because I scored that many, but because of how our team came together there when we needed it. At the beginning of the game I’m wanting to say we were down, like, 11-nothing or something like that. And we come back and end up going three overtimes.
“And it wasn’t me who put us in those overtimes. I threw it to Kayla Gibson and she made a 3-pointer to send us into overtime. For the second one (OT), I went up for a layup and kind of lost the ball and Savannah Jessee picked it up and shot a layup. And in that third overtime we came together and pushed through.”
A jubilant locker room awaited.
“When Coach Hauldren came back in the locker room after the game, we got all our water bottles and were squirting him with water,” Jenkins said. “He was super-excited. I give it to Coach Hauldren. He gave a lot of effort and he never gave up on us, even though this year people thought, ‘They’ve lost some players. They might not make it far.’ No one expected us to make it far and we made it all the way to substate.”
Jenkins finished her career with 1,710 points, 833 rebounds, 355 steals, 313 assists and 86 blocks. As a senior she had 646 points, 230 rebounds and 103 steals.
“Jaycie saved her best for the biggest game of the year,” Hauldren said. “She’s a special player. It’s gonna be hard, man. I’m just in my second year, but I don’t know if I’ll get the opportunity to coach a player like Jaycie again. And it’s not just skill wise. It’s everything. It’s her being so humble, playing hard every second of the game. That’s hard to find.
“I’ve been extremely lucky to coach her the last two years. You see somebody hit three straight threes in the regional semifinals and they’re doing something back down the court – either shooting a bow and arrow or throwing up a three. She makes a shot and runs back and plays defense. She’s just a great person, a high-character person.”
Milligan had a high-character coach in Rich Aubrey for at least parts of four decades. He retired at season’s end, handing the reins to Kylie Russell. Jenkins was comfortable with each of them.
“Coach Aubrey had contacted me before he announced he was stepping down,” Jenkins said. “Coach Kylie (Russell) had come to several of the games there at the end. So I had been in contact with them and they’d showed me they were interested. I kind of knew her because during the season she’d text me after games.”
Jenkins said growing up with an older sister helped her maturation, as did her parents.
“Growing up, I think even when I was four and she was doing coach-pitch, I wanted to be right there with ‘em on the team,” Jenkins said. “I think I was playing right field as a 4-year-old just because I wanted to be on the team. I always wanted to be there and compete against her. She kind of pushed me, because I wanted to do better than her.
“My parents were my coaches throughout middle school and they always pushed me and tried to make me the best I could be, and always told me to give all I had and nothing less.”
Jenkins was quick to credit her basketball coaches, Baker and softball coach Jeremy Jenkins as well.
“Coach Mains, my basketball coach my freshman and sophomore years – he helped me a lot,” she said. “Growing up he coached Jaclyn, so we would always go to those little kids’ camps and he pushed me my freshman and sophomore years. And then Coach Hauldren came in my junior year and pushed me.
“I didn’t know if I wanted to play volleyball my freshman year because I didn’t play travel volleyball like the other girls and I didn’t really know much about it. But my friends talked me into it and I’m so glad I did, because I would’ve regretted not playing. And Coach Baker helped me. She taught me a lot about volleyball.
“Coach Jenkins in softball, and my mom, of course, they pushed me. I can’t count the times they’d take me to work on my hitting or anything like that. They always pushed all of us to do our best.”
Jenkins was seemingly always clutch and consistent. And always in the lineup – lineups, that is.
“I want to thank the Lord for giving me good health,” she said. “Over the four years I think I maybe had one injury the whole time. … I just want to give him the glory for that.”
Certainly, Jenkins left deep footprints.
“She will be missed on our court this year,” Baker said. “She has left us with big shoes to fill – athletically and with her leadership.”