May 10, 2009
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
Jasmine Abrams has her eyes set on higher goals.
Her two seasons with the East Mississippi Community College women''s basketball team have made those aspirations more realistic.
Now the former Columbus High School standout plans to take her game to the Division I level in hopes of taking the next step toward realizing her goal to play professional basketball.
On Tuesday, Abrams, a 6-foot forward, signed a national letter of intent to play basketball in the fall at the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Kottia White, a 5-5 guard from Jackson, joined Abrams this week in moving on to the Division I level. White signed a letter of intent to play for Northwestern State (La.).
Abrams averaged 7.9 points and a team-best 8.0 rebounds per game as a 12-game starter for coach Sharon Thompson''s Lady Lions (25-7), who advanced to the 16-team NJCAA tournament.
The sophomore''s stock rose in the postseason as her rebounding numbers improved. Abrams averaged 10.7 rebounds a game in the team''s run through the NJCAA Region 23 tournament and the national tournament.
"It has been a personal goal of mine to play at a Division I school," Abrams said. "I knew I had the ability and the talent to play at a Division I college. I set my goal to go for a college that was in a strong conference and that played a schedule that would give me exposure to play at the next level."
Abrams, who also considered Atlanta Clark and Alabama A&M, said she hopes to play in the WNBA or in Europe. She knows the opportunity to play at a four-year school is the next step in her maturation as a player.
EMCC coach Sharon Thompson said Abrams was instrumental in the team''s success this season. Even though Abrams wasn''t known as a scorer (she scored in double digits seven times), Thompson said she has the attitude and the athleticism to succeed.
"She''s very athletic. She is a left-handed kid who jumps well," Thompson said. "She is very strong and she likes working out. She has a good body and a good, solid frame."
Thompson said Southeastern Louisiana and Northwestern State also contacted her about Abrams.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff coach Cary Shelton said he and his staff had been recruiting Abrams for a month and a half. He said he became really interested in Abrams once he saw how hard she worked rebounding the basketball.
"She is just a tremendous raw talent that was too good to pass up on," Shelton said. "We were most impressed with her athleticism and her determination crashing the boards. She is real strong, is a good rebounder, has a real good jump shot, a great, soft touch, and a real good spin move in the post. We''re really, really excited bringing her in."
Shelton said Abrams'' skills are only part of the reason he and his coaches are so excited. He said he loves Abrams'' attitude and desire to be the best she can be. He said she already has talked to him about helping the team win the conference and earn a bid to the NCAA tournament.
But Abrams won''t be satisfied just making the NCAA tournament. Shelton said she wants to help Arkansas-Pine Bluff win it.
"She is very ambitious. I like her mind-set," Shelton said. "She has a strong body and is a strong-minded young lady."
Rebounding is Abrams'' forte. She recorded double-figure rebounds 10 times this season, including a career-high 19 rebounds (12 offensive) in EMCC''s NJCAA tournament win against Sheridan. She also led the team with 31 blocked shots on the year.
She capped her junior college career by participating for the North squad in the 2009 MACJC All-Star Basketball Game.
As a freshman, Abrams averaged 6.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
Abrams said she stepped up her game this season, especially after the Christmas break. She said she wasn''t focused like she needed to be at the start of the season. She said she returned home and relaxed and gathered her confidence, which helped her return to Scooba to have a strong second half of the season.
"I got focused and played my game and worked on my plan for what I want to do at the next level," Abrams said.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff went 12-19 and 10-8 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference this season. The team set school records for conference victories and finished with a winning mark in the SWAC for the first time in school history.
The Lady Lions lost to Prairie View A&M Lady Panthers 71-60 in the semifinals of the SWAC tournament.
UAPB returns five players for the 2009-10 season, including three starters.
White was third on the team in scoring (9.2 points per game) this season. She averaged a team-high 3.2 assists per game and was second on the team with 66 steals and 17 made 3-pointers. She was chosen to the 2009 NJCAA Region 23 All-Tournament Team, and capped her junior college career by participating for the North squad in the 2009 MACJC All-Star Basketball Game.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.