Jenna Brown emerged from the visitors’ locker room Tuesday after Lovett’s game at Westminster with a bag of ice wrapped around her right ankle.
There was no major injury, just a tweak of an ankle that she rolled a couple of weeks ago. And it was certainly nothing compared to what she has had to deal with over the past year and half.
The 5-foot-10 senior guard was a starter as a freshman and a first-team all-state selection the next year, but a torn ACL suffered in the summer of 2016 caused her to miss her entire junior season. She’s back as strong as ever now, helping lead Lovett to a 13-4 record and the No. 7 ranking in Class AAA.
“That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, by a mile,” Brown said of sitting out last season. “It’s hard enough sitting out one or two games, but to sit out for that duration was tough.”
When asked how big of a hole Brown’s absence left on last year’s team, Lovett coach Liz Kennedy said, “Oh gosh … I’m my heart on in the book? Huge. The positive is … I always try to look at the positive. It was devastating for her to tear her ACL, but the positive was this team learned to play without her and these young players had to go through a whole year without her, and they got better. The other positive is, a player like that puts so much time and energy into basketball 24-7-365. It gave her a chance to rest. Mentally and physically, it gave her a break. I think that really did a lot for her.”
Brown is listed by ESPN’s HoopGurlz Recruiting Rankings as the nation’s No. 20 senior prospect and the No. 3 player in Georgia, behind only Winder-Barrow’s Olivia Nelson-Ododa (No. 5) and Greater Atlanta Christian’s Robyn Benton (No. 17), both of whom also have suffered season-ending knee injuries at some point in their high school careers.
Brown had 22 points and six rebounds in the Lions’ 53-25 victory against Westminster this week and is averaging 24 points and eight rebounds for the season. She has signed with Stanford.
“It’s a combination, really, of the fact that she works so hard all the time, and she’s not perfect but she’s always learning,” Kennedy said. “That’s the other part … she’s always learning, and she’s willing to learn and listen. She just tries to take in everything she can. Combine that with trying to work hard all the time. She knew coming into this season that she was going to have to take a lot onto her shoulders for this team, more rebounding, more scoring than she’s used to, running the point as well as the 2 and the 3 and the 4 and the 5. So she knew she was going to have to do more for this team, and she’s done that and has been more than willing to do that.”
Lovett is 7-0 in Region 5-AAA and holds a one-game lead over Pace Academy, which the Lions beat 59-28 last week.
“It’s a great feeling,” Brown said. “Sitting out last year really gave me some perspective as to how much basketball really means to me. It’s been great coming back, as a senior especially.”