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Basketball 'Summer Jam' motivates teams, players during the off-season
jasmine mikell
Bryan County basketball player Jasmine Mikell (center, #1) during a 'Summer Jam' game hosted at Bryan County High School. Mike Brown photo.

By today’s standards it’s hard to visualize what girls' basketball was like 17 years ago.


Other than playing on the school team there were few opportunities, especially for players in rural south Georgia, during the off-season which was just that: the off-season.


Once the regular season ended balls were put away and players went their merry way until the following October when practice for the upcoming season began. However, then new Bryan County girls coach Mario Mincey decided there could be a better way and thus the berth of the Summer Jam.


This past Monday and Tuesday the Redskins hosted 30 girls' teams from 23 schools – seven brought their No. 2 team --who played 50 games in three gyms. Play started at 9:15 a.m. each day with the final game of the day starting as late as 6:15 p.m. Games were played at the high school, middle school and elementary school.  


Schools ranged in size from Class 7A Richmond Hill and Camden County to Class A-DII Portal. Out of state teams included San Jose Prep of Jacksonville, Fl., and Hilton Head High School.


“The concept of it was to get girls playing in the summertime,” Mincey said. “The only games played in the summer were AAU [Amateur Athletic Union] and not everyone got a chance to play AAU.


“There would be team camps but for a lot of schools that was a budget buster,” Mincey said. “My thought process, too, was to get a few college coaches to come and see kids, not just the kids playing AAU.”


Mincey said his first Summer Jam had six or seven teams but now it has become a regular staple for many schools. It has become a regular stopping off point for college coaches, especially those from small schools whose recruiting budgets are stretched. A trip to Pembroke lets them see more than 300 players in a two-day period.


“I kind of felt if we put the work into it it would go,” said Mincey who is a tireless worker when it comes to promoting the game. “I just knew the situation and felt people would want to come here.”


The event gives small schools an opportunity to test themselves against larger schools who they would never see in the regular season. A player from Portal, for example, can see how she matches up against players from Camden.


June has evolved into a big month for summer basketball with schools playing upwards of 20 games and it provides an opportunity for coaches to get a glimpse on how this year’s team is going to shape up with different combinations on the floor, players working at different positions and rising newcomers.


Bryan County won the Region 3A-D1 championship last year with only one senior in the starting lineup but she was a good one:  Kayley Wedlow was the Region Player of the Year the last two years as she led the team in scoring and was the leader on and off the floor.


Junior point guard Jasmine Mikell is expected to step into the vacuum created by Wedlow’s absence both as a scorer and leader as the Redskins will again be young with Soniya Whitaker, Katelyn King and Anna Hills the only seniors on the current roster.


Mikell has started every game for the Redskins the last two years and she said she is ready to take on the new role.


“I’ve been calling the plays for two years,” said Mikell who averaged nine points per game while earning all-region honors. “I play hard for my team…I’m a team player.


“I know I’m going to have to do a lot more this next season,” Mikell said. “I’m going to have to motivate everyone up…take more of a leadership role. I’ll need to score more, too. I know I can score but I didn’t have to with Kayley.


“I’ve got a little bit of skill but I have to get better with my left hand and I’m getting better at my 3-point shooting. We’ll play 15-20 games this month and I know what I’ve got to work on.”


Mikell said she looks forward to the Summer Jam because it gives her and her teammates an opportunity to play teams and players they would not otherwise face.


“It’s good to see more different competition,” Mikell said. “We get to play bigger schools, bigger people, there’s more contact.”


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Bryan County High School basketball player Jasmine Mikell.
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