Jazmine Massengill, a 6-foot-1 senior guard that helped the Hamilton Heights girls reach the Dick’s Sports Goods national championship last season, made basketball history Wednesday afternoon.
Massengill became the first player from Chattanooga to sign with Tennessee’s Lady Vols.
“I know this is a dream come true for Jazmine,” Lady Hawks coach Keisha Hunt said. “For our program, we’ve had girls sign with Division I schools, but never one with a major Division I team. It’s a testament to how hard Jazmine has worked the last few years.”
It’s expected that Massengill will play point guard or shooting guard with the Lady Vols.
And she’ll have at least one friend when she arrives in Knoxville next fall. Massengill and Anastasia Hayes, a Lady Vols freshman who played at Riverdale, have been friends for some time.
“It’s going to be nice they’ll be playing on the same time for a while,” Hunt said.
How did Massengill, whose brother C.J. played at Hamilton Heights and is now at Tennessee-Chattanooga?
She was watching the Hawks play last season and texting back-and-forth with Lady Vols assistant coach Shanona Reaves. The conversation quickly turned to why Massengill hadn’t committed to the Lady Vols.
“I thought that’s a legitimate question,” Massengill said prior to her signing party Wednesday in the Hamilton Heights gym. “I really didn’t know why I hadn’t committed because I pretty much knew where I wanted to go.”
So, the Lady Hawks standout texted back to Reaves: “You’re right, what am I waiting on and I told her I was committing to Tennessee.”
Then, Massengill called Lady Vols coach Holly Warlick.
“She thought I was playing with her,” Massengill said. “I told her I wasn’t playing with her, that I was committing to Tennessee.”
Now, Massengill has turned her commitment into a signing and she’s now a Lady Vol.
There have been four players from Cleveland play at UT – Jody Adams (1989-93), Brittany Jackson (2001-05), Zandra Montgomery (1977-79) and Joy Scruggs (1971-75). A fifth player, Diane Brady (1973-75), hailed from Calhoun, Tennessee.
Massengill, who had scholarship offers from national champion South Carolina, Florida, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Western Kentucky and 30 other schools. She narrowed the list to five finalists – Tennessee, South Carolina, Florida State, Kentucky and Baylor. Massengill chose not to whittle the list to two or three schools, decided from the top five.
“I kept going up to Tennessee and it always felt like home,” Massengill said. “That felt like the best place for me. The pressure to choose and sign is off of me now. It was a relief to me because if I have a good game or a bad game, I’ve already signed with Tennessee and I don’t have to worry about it anymore.
“I used to get texts or calls from 20 to 30 coaches all the time. Now, I get texts from Tennessee. It kind of got aggravating, but it was a good problem to have.”
With no recruiting anxiety left, Massengill can concentrate on making her final season at Hamilton Heights an enjoyable and, hopefully, one that could end with a national championship in New York.
“We have a lot of potential to be number one,” she said. “We have four starters returning and know what it takes to get there. We almost won it last year and we pretty much have our chemistry down this season. Our expectations for this team are high.
“The main thing we had to do to win the Dick’s tournament is to focus on our team goals, not individual goals, and play as a team.”
Massengill, who started 78 of 82 games the last three seasons, averaged 13.1 points, 4.0 assists and 2.7 rebounds as a freshman. As a sophomore, her averages were 11.8 points, 3.8 assists and 3.4 rebounds.
While leading the Lady Hawks to a 28-2 record her junior season, she averaged 10 points, 7.1 assists and 4.8 assists.
Hamilton Heights defeated Christ The King 56-50 in the Dick’s National semifinals and lost to Miami Country Day 81-56 in the title game.
Hunt, in her 13th year leading the Lady Hawks’ program (she was an assistant for five years), has high hopes for the team this season.
“This is the best team we’ve ever had,” she said, “but we’re also playing the toughest schedule we’ve ever had as well. In fact, I’ve heard from people that we’re playing the toughest high school schedule in the country.
“We want to win every single game and go back to the Dick’s tournament and win there.”
Hunt coaches several of her Lady Hawks in travel ball and the team was ranked No. 1 squad this past summer.
Senior Elizabeth Balogun, who is from Nigeria, has committed to Georgia Tech, but has not signed a national letter of intent as of Wednesday.
Those two players deserve a lot of credit for improving Hamilton Heights’ national reputation.
“Jazmine and Elizabeth were like stepping stones that moved us from one level to the next,” Hunt said.
Note: Zach Ferrell, the school’s boys’ coach, said former Hawks Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Nickeil Alexander-Walker, part of Hamilton Heights’ three-player Canadian connection last season, are being projected as one-and-done players at Kentucky and Virginia Tech. Both are freshmen this coming season.
The other former Canadian player, Therren Shelton-Szmidt, is now a freshman at Middle Tennessee State.
(Contact Larry Fleming at email@example.com and on Twitter @larryfleming44)