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For one New Albany basketball standout, her storied career took the next step on Wednesday, signing to play at Mississippi State.
Jazmine Spears has entertained fans for the last five seasons, serving as the backbone for the Lady Bulldogs and leading her team to a 4A state title in 2011. The senior will keep the same colors and mascot as she heads to State in the fall.
“I’m excited and ready to go out and explore the world. What led me to State is just the love they gave me and the atmosphere was great,” Spears said. “There’s no doubt I’m in good hands, and they’re going to take care of me. I’m going to work hard, and they’re going to push me and make me into a better person and a player. I can’t wait.”
Spears led New Albany in all major statistical categories the last two seasons, finishing her senior year averaging 27.8 points and 14.9 rebounds per game along with 1.9 blocks, 4.4 assists and 4.2 steals per game. Spears is also a three-time selection to the Clarion Ledger’s Dandy Dozen team as well as a selection for both All-Division and All-State teams.
“It’s a great day for New Albany and our program,” New Albany coach John Stroud said. “Anytime you have a player that signs with a college, especially a Southeastern Conference School, it’s a big day. I’m real excited for Jazmine and proud of her and the career she’s had here. She’ll do well at Mississippi State, and we’ll be here to support her.”
Several colleges have heavily recruited Spears over the last three seasons, but it was a visit to State this year that made the difference and solidified her choice. Phone calls were made as late as Tuesday night from different schools, trying to sway Spears at the last minute.
“I went there to watch them play Georgia, and that game made me think,” she said. “They were very defense oriented, and they played like a family and a team. It made me want to get to know them better, and it’s closer to home, so my family and friends can watch me play.”
Added Stroud, “We’ve had hundreds of letters and phone calls, and it’s exciting for other players, too, because they can see how colleges work. I’m glad it’s behind us now, because she’s found a place where she wants to play, and I’ve had schools calling as late as last night, trying to get in on the hunt.”
Spears’ career at New Albany ended with an appearance in the 4A north half playoffs. Spears finished with over 3,000 points in her career and led the Lady Bulldogs to a regular season division title this season. Her final record for her five years at New Albany, 116-29.