Keeara Jackson and Hannah Riley were cornerstones of the Richmond Hill High School girls’ basketball team last season.
The forwards were the leading scorers and rebounders for first-year coach Sarah Brown’s squad that finished 19-11 and advanced to the Sweet 16 in the state Class AAAAA tournament.
Perhaps it was fitting then that both players signed to play collegiate basketball within a day of one another.
Riley was first, inking May 23 with Northeast Community College. Jackson followed that up May 24 by signing with Erskine (S.C.) College. Their high school coach may have had the two players for only one year, but she sounded like a fan when discussing their twin roles on the team.
“Keeara and Hannah both played vital roles for us this year,” Brown said. “Keeara was a force down low and Hannah was able to play inside out for us. Their hard work helped lead our team to the Sweet 16.”
Jackson finished with a team high 13.7 points per game, pouring in more than 20 several times during the season. She also pulled down 7.9 rebounds a contest. Riley averaged 9.7 points per game with a season-high of 21 points, while contributing 5.4 rebounds per contest.
Both hope to contribute at the next level. Riley expects to spend a year or perhaps two at the Nebraska JUCO before moving to a four-year school, but she’s not sure where that will be.
“I’m not looking anywhere particular,” she said. I’m just focusing on that first year.”
On the other hand, Jackson’s college future is set,
Though a dominating player in the paint at the prep level, at 5-foot-9, she’ll probably be one of the smaller inside players in the college ranks.
“I’m excited to learn. In high school I was pretty dominant, at Erskine I’m not. I’m excited to see how I can improve and I’ve been working on my shot a lot this summer,” she said. “I might be able to jump out to guard a little bit.”
Jackson said she fell in love with the Erskine campus when she visited the school, which is located in Due West, S.C.
“The campus was so beautiful and the team was so welcoming to me, it was like a home away from home,” she said.
“When I played basketball with the team it was like I’ve known them a long time, and that’s what I look for in a team, one that’s most like a home.”
Both players said they’ll miss their teammates and coaches at RHHS, and Riley, who’s played since she was a fourth grader, thanked every coach she’s had.
“From high school to AAU, I’ve learned from each and every one of them and they’ve gotten me to where I’ve gotten today, so, thanks,” Riley said.
Jackson thanked God, her family and teammates and Brown.
“I wish I had her for more than one year,” said Jackson, who intends to major in psychology and theater with minors in chemistry and biology as she pursues a career in forensic psychology. “I’m gong to miss her and my team the most. When I say we’re literally like family, we’re literally like family.”
Riley, in the meantime, is making her first trip west of the Mississippi River.
“I’m excited,” she said.