High school basketball: Special athlete Jamecia Huntley finds new home in West Virginia

Published 12:01 am Thursday, May 25, 2023

By Mike London

MOUNT ULLA — Concord University signee Jamecia Huntley finished her high school career on a 58-game winning streak and with two state championship rings.

Salisbury won its last 27 games her junior season. West Rowan won all 31 games her senior year.

As she heads to Division II basketball in West Virginia, where she will be a Mountain Lion, Huntley’s place in Rowan County girls basketball history is secure and unique.

The high school teams Huntley played for went 102-5 — 29-2, 14-2, 28-1 and 31-0. She missed four full games during her career with injuries, but even in those, she was part of it.

Obviously, Huntley had the benefit of outstanding coaches and a number of stellar teammates, but don’t underestimate her part in all that winning.

Finding players with star ability who are willing to play roles is no easy thing. Everyone wants to score. Everyone wants to shine. But there’s only one ball. Huntley was willing to rebound and defend and to score when needed, a mindset that helped make strong teams even stronger.

Huntley has never been a fantastic shooter, but at an athletic 5-foot-10, she easily could have averaged 15 points per game in high school. But she never minded averaging 8 points and 8 rebounds as long as the wins kept piling up.

“I’m big on defense and my favorite part of basketball is getting stops,” Huntley said. “I played on great teams in winning programs, and I always bring a winner’s mindset to the game and I always bring energy. I think my passing is a strength and my versatility may be my biggest strength.  I feel I can play with anybody and make a positive impact. I can adjust to any style of play. I showed that  playing at both Salisbury and West.”

Two great teams. Two different styles. She fit in smoothly both places. She scored more than 800 points while fitting in.

“Jamecia was a key for us this season,” West Rowan coach Ashley Poole said. “Her toughness, her experience were huge in the biggest games.”

There’s a difficult transition awaiting most high school standouts when they get to college, no matter what level. Just about everyone good enough to be recruited was a scorer for their high school team. Huntley won’t have much of a transition to make. She’s always done the hard stuff, the little stuff, always has accepted the toughest defensive challenges to help her teams. She actually may score more points in college. She was the perfect power forward in high school and she could become a perfect Division II small forward in the mountains of West Virginia.

Huntley has had quite a journey to get to where she is today. She’s beaten some adversity.

Even at Knox Middle School, it was clear Huntley had a basketball future. She and Kyla Bryant and Mary Morgan were going to be quite a trio when they got to Salisbury High.

“Kyla and I started talking about state championships when we were still in middle school,” Huntley said. “That’s all we talked about — and then we got one together. But I was never  playing for a scholarship. I was playing for the love of the game and to win championships.”

While she did some eye-popping things on the court as a freshman for a youthful Salisbury team that made a run to the regional final, Huntley was going through a lot mentally and emotionally that year.

“I actually got my first college offer as a freshman — from Catawba,” Huntley said. “But then Coach (Terrence Baxter) left the program and I assumed that offer was no longer on the table. Then my father died unexpectedly and I was suddenly dealing with a lot.  I had never lost anyone close to me and I didn’t know how to juggle school and basketball. I put everything I had into basketball — that was my outlet — and got behind in school.”

Huntley’s sophomore year  things didn’t improve. That was the delayed half-season (Salisbury played only 16 games) due to the COVID pandemic.

“School went virtual, and there was no catching up for me,” Huntley said. “And then I suffered a stress fracture. I was playing at about 30 percent.”

The turning point for Huntley, the first ray of sunshine in a long while came on Sept. 1, early in her junior year. She had played ball that summer in Atlanta with Lady Attack AAU and a Division I coach saw her and made a call to her.

“That conversation changed everything for me,” Huntley said. “That call changed my life. I knew I couldn’t get an offer from that school, but still,  that coach gave me hope. That phone call confirmed that I could get noticed on the court. Maybe I was good enough to keep playing basketball in college.”

More coaches called. Huntley leveled with them. She told them her grades weren’t where they needed to be, but she was working hard to get it together.

She’s gotten it together now, as she graduates from West, and she’s a student of the game, among other things.

“Love to watch game film — that’s my favorite pastime,” Huntley said. “I scout a team’s best players and give feedback to my teammates. And you have to know your own teammates, as well. You have to know their strengths and weaknesses because that can really impact the outcome of a game.  As a teammate I’m going to encourage and hold my team accountable. Also by being unselfish and keeping my teammates involved, that helps build their confidence. Sometimes we see things in others they don’t see in themselves.”

Huntley is tough. She badly sprained an ankle in Round 2 of the 3A state playoffs. She played the rest of the way in an ankle brace and wore a boot when she wasn’t playing or practicing.

“I’d tweak the ankle and have to come out for a while, but I’m a trooper and then I would go right back in,” Huntley said. “It was all worth it, winning the state championship and feeling that love from the Falcon community when we returned from Raleigh as state champions. They supported me all season, and I will cherish that forever.”

Her favorite game of her senior season was the playoff game against (Greensboro) Ben L. Smith.

“We’d played them in the summer, very tough game, only won by two or three points,” Huntley said. “So even our parents were nervous about that game. But then we blew them out, and the crowd was wild and the celebration was crazy.”

Huntley eventually was recruited by a lot of people. Concord called her for the first time back in November. They invited her to tour the campus. They really needed her and wanted her. She was a priority recruit. She was offered on March 16.

“My mother and Coach Poole went with me to visit Concord on April 21,” Huntley said. “What I really liked about Concord is it’s not a place where everyone is. Small classes and a professor knowing my name is important to me and not just because I play basketball. This year more than ever I realized I needed support, especially with my passion. I want my family at my games and Concord checked all my boxes.”

The toughest part of the recruiting game for Huntley was calling disappointed coaches and telling them she was going to Concord and not their school. She enjoyed every visit she took, and it was hard turning schools down.

Her ankle has healed with rest and she’s ready to get to work to get even better. She’ll need to keep improving her ball-handling and shooting as she moves further from the rim, but the confidence is there, the work ethic is there, the head for the game is there, and athletically, she’s special.

 ” I just want every student-athlete to know whether you want to  play at the next level or not, whether you average 8 points or 25 points, no matter what you go through or experience,  find some balance and stay on top of your grades,” Huntley said.  “Not very many get this opportunity I’m getting and I am grateful, honored, blessed and fortunate to be one of the chosen few. Who would have thought that a player like me only averaging about 8 points a game could get a full-ride scholarship.”

 She has not chosen a major yet, but a college degree and a secure future are her priorities now.