August 1, 2013 9:08:52 AM
Multiple sources confirmed to The Dispatch on Wednesday that former New Albany High School standout Jazmine Spears failed to qualify academically at Mississippi State University and will attend Trinity Valley (Texas) Community College this school year.
Spears, a three-time selection to The Clarion-Ledger's All-State team, gave a verbal commitment to play basketball at MSU in late March. She signed a National Letter of Intent on April 17, but the 5-foot-11 forward who averaged 30.6 points, 15.7 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 3.7 blocked shots per game for New Albany High last season won't be a part of MSU's Class of 2013.
"It is not going to impact them that much because she wasn't a super high-ranked kid," said Dan Olson, director and owner of Dan Olson's Collegiate Girls Basketball Report, a national scouting service. "She was ranked 180 or something like that. It may bode well for them in the long run that they are not taking her now."
Spears was the sixth commitment MSU received for the 2013-14 season. Without Spears, MSU will add 6-5 center Chinwe Okorie, of Nigeria, Breanna Richardson, a 6-2 forward from the state of Georgia, Ketara Chapel, a 6-1 forward from Texas, Dominique Dillingham, a 5-8 guard from Texas, Kiki Patterson, a 5-9 guard from Columbus High, and Savannah Carter, a 5-9 guard from Trinity Valley C.C., to a program that went 13-17 in 2012-13 in coach Vic Schaefer's first season as head coach.
Schaefer declined to comment about Spears, who was rated No. 177 in the top 300 players in the Class of 2013, according to Olson.
Olson, a former college basketball coach turned recruiting analyst, said the loss of Spears will knock MSU down a few notches from its spot at No. 35 in his rankings for the best recruiting classes for 2013.
Spears finished her career with 3,277 points and 2,149 rebounds. She was a first team All-State pick as a sophomore and as a senior and a second-team pick as a junior. Her next step will be with Trinity Valley C.C. coach Elena Lovato's squad that will try to defend its 2013 junior college national title.
"No doubt it will help her," Olson said of Spears' decision to go to Trinity Valley, which is regarded as one of the nation's top programs every year. "It ain't going to hurt her. Coach Lovato does a good job watching academics, and she will have a loaded team that is going to help Spears get better. She has no choice in the matter. She will get better or she isn't going to play."
All-Star Girls Report's Bret McCormick, another recruiting analyst, echoes Olson's thoughts about Trinity Valley C.C. He said senior college coaches often place players who don't qualify academically with familiar junior colleges. He said the player's development on and off the court after one or two years often dictates whether the senior college continues the relationship with the signee.
"Elena is really sharp," McCormick said. "She does a good job and stays on them and makes sure they graduate. She is a classy lady who does a great job."
McCormick feels Trinity Valley will challenge for a national title again this season with the top-rated junior college player, Adut Bulgak, a 6-4 center, and the No. 3 player, Sh'lonte Allen, a 5-8 shooting guard, as sophomores.
Spears didn't return a phone call or a text message in time for this edition. Lovato didn't return two phone messages, and New Albany High coach John Stroud didn't return an email.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.