July 17, 2018 8:50:07 PM
It's easy to get excited about Jessika Carter after talking to those who have been close to her for the past four years.
Whether it is Carter's athletic frame, her work ethic, her drive to get better, or her all-around skill set, it is no wonder Mississippi State women's basketball coach Vic Schaefer targeted the 6-foot-5 post player from Harris County (Ga.) High School.
Those who have been around Carter for the last four years aren't surprised she ended up at MSU and in one of the nation's best conferences.
"Year to year, she worked her tail off and she got better," Harris County High girls basketball coach Steffanie Ramsey said. "I knew she was going to be a big-time player."
Ramsey said Carter's work ethic helped set her apart because she routinely was at the front of the line in whatever drill the team did. That mind-set helped Carter develop a versatile game Ramsey said includes a quick first step. She said Carter's ability to add a strong initial move to her game was important once she realized she was attracting a lot of attention from Power 5 conferences.
"She put the work in," Ramsey said. "She wanted to be a great player and wanted to do different things."
Ramsey coached Carter in basketball for the last four years. She also coached Carter in track and field in her final year at Harris County High. Carter competed in the 400 meters, the long jump, and on the 4x400 relay. Ramsey said Carter's willingness to work hard was there when she was a freshman. She said Carter moved "deeper into" her preparation when she learned what it would take for her to earn playing time at MSU. To realize that goal, Carter often would participate in multiple workouts -- at 5 a.m. and at 5 p.m. -- on the same day with Brad Hill and Corry Black at the Columbus Sports and Training Complex in Columbus, Georgia. That work would be in addition to what she did with the Harris County High girls basketball team.
Hill, who owns the facility, was a strength and conditioning coach for the men's and women's basketball teams at Columbus State. He also has worked as a trainer for numerous other Division I athletes.
Hill and Ramsey went to graduate school with Ramsey, which led to him meeting Carter. He said he attended a few of Harris County High's games when Carter was a freshman and a sophomore. After he opened his complex, Hill said Ramsey asked him to work with Carter to help get her ready for the next step in her career.
Hill said Carter would train with boys in a group of eight to 12 for an hour to an hour-and-a-half and that everyone would have to do the same work. He said Carter did two-a-day workouts starting in her junior year.
"That's when I knew the light turned on," Hill said. "Our first two years, basketball was kind of new to her, but once a kid starts getting recruited, and of course she is the tallest person in the school, she had a lot of attention on her. The light turned on because of her recruiting her sophomore year into her junior year."
Hill said the key for Carter was she found her "why." He believes Carter was and is driven to be better for her sisters, ZiKeyah and Ny'Azjha, who she played basketball with at Harris County High. Hill is confident Carter will bring that same work ethic and tenacity to the floor for the Bulldogs.
"At first (she was) just grinding and grinding and didn't understand why she was doing (all of the workouts)," Hill said. "Going into her junior season, she saw the game is easy because I put all of the work in before this. My body is conditioned, my skills are more polished. Sometimes she could take the game over by herself. At first they looked at her just as an inside player. But she developed into a player who could be dominant inside and step out and be just as effective. She was phenomenal at the high school level.
"Once everything sets in and as long as she can mix with that team concept, I know for a fact she is going to be a great help for the program (at MSU). I am looking forward to her playing a lot this year."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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