It wasn’t supposed to go down the way it did for Monarch graduate Jasmine Jeffcoat.
In fact, the whole reason why she had signed a national letter of intent during the 2016-17 early signing period to play basketball for Missouri-Kansas City was because it was so clear in her mind that was the place for her to be.
As it turned out, the past couple months have been more of a rocky road than she ever had when she was going through the initial recruiting process.
“I feel like I got pushed out of my scholarship,” Jeffcoat said in a recent phone conversation.
Everything changed for Jeffcoat — whose family is well-versed in college athletics — when UMKC fired its coach of the past five years, Marsha Frese, after the Kangaroos went a disappointing 10-19 this past season. Frese had been in direct and indirect conversation with Jeffcoat since she was in eighth grade, so there was certainly an established relationship that helped make Jeffcoat’s decision a little bit easier.
Even after Frese was dismissed, Jeffcoat still had plans to attend UMKC and play Division I basketball. Her NLI was still very much valid and she didn’t want to break that commitment. As Monarch’s season came to a close, though, Jeffcoat started hearing some things about her future school itself that started to bother her. She decided to be the wiser and start asking questions — or at least she tried to.
“I had heard a lot of things about the school cutting budgets and that most of that was going to come out of athletics, and I had also heard of the possibility of them going (Division) II which was not what I had signed up to do,” Jeffcoat said. “But I called and called and called the athletic director and never heard back. It also took them more than two months to hire a coach when they said they would hire one by the Final Four.
“It was just frustrating not getting answers.”
When new coach Jaycie Hoyt made a home visit to Jeffcoat, there was a level of comfort in the conversation that eased Jeffcoat’s mind a little bit, but before the visit was over Jeffcoat was given 48 hours to decide if she still wanted to play for the ‘Roos. That caused her to pause once again.
“I thought and I prayed almost that whole time, but that was just too short a time to make that big of a decision,” Jeffcoat said. “We asked for more time and were denied, and essentially the coach said they’d be willing to let me attend the school in 2017-18 but that I wouldn’t be considered a part of the basketball team or anything. Basically she was kicking me off the team at that point.”
Thus began the sequence of gaining a partial release of her NLI and eventually a full release — and the groundwork for her now in-state stay with the Denver Pioneers.
The partial release allowed Jeffcoat to officially still be a UMKC player but granted her the opportunity to talk with other schools. That was on April 25th, and though it was just a few weeks after Jim Turgeon had just been hired as the new coach at DU the wheels were in motion.
After several conversations, Turgeon granted Jeffcoat the chance to walk on to the Pioneers as a freshman. Jeffcoat hopes that quickly turns into a scholarship opportunity.
“I loved the atmosphere of the school, but I really loved what coach Turgeon is trying to build — he wants a winning program, yes, but he wants to build an atmosphere of winners,” Jeffcoat said. “People that go out and work hard, give it their all in every practice, and that’s what I’m all about.”
Yes, things did not go the way Jeffcoat envisioned way back before she began her senior season at MHS began. While she is still fulfilling her dream of playing major college hoops, she knows other student-athletes in similar situations might not be as fortunate.
“If I could turn back time, I wouldn’t have done the early signing day — I did it because the recruiting game, every day it felt like blocks were being put on my shoulders and it just felt so stressful,” she said. “Who’s to say if I would have known some more about the school if I would have waited, but I would just tell anyone to really take your time and just know that it’s going to be a hard process.”
Adam Dunivan: firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/AdamDunivan24