Four years ago, before Jessica Diamond, Jazimen Gordon or Chynna Turner had put on a Shocker uniform or the Wichita State women’s basketball program had accomplished anything of significance, Jody Adams was selling a dream.
It was incredible for anyone to think Wichita State, one of only two programs to never win a Missouri Valley championship, could ever win and win big. But Adams told Diamond, Gordon and Turner they could be difference-makers, they could be trailblazers.
They bought into that dream.
Four years later, after a particularly efficient afternoon of practice, Adams has her players cracking up in a huddle around midcourt, and they laugh even harder when Turner swoops in from behind, picks Adams up and parades her around to the amusement of Adams.
Wichita State women’s basketball wasn’t always like this.
Before they won a share of their first conference championship this season, these seniors had to endure the stories, tears, heartache, trials and pain to make this dream possible.
Adams had to choose her first recruiting class at WSU wisely. These players would be the foundation, the rock for the next four years.
Diamond, Gordon and Turner were not prepared to immediately become team leaders their first seasons. But when Adams looked at them, she saw WSU’s future.
“They loved basketball and they were competitors,” Adams said.
Gordon can remember wandering in from West Memphis, Ark., and wondering what she had gotten herself into. Adams seemed like a drill instructor that first season.
“I can remember Jody telling me, ‘Follow my lead and I’ll show you the way,’ ” Gordon said. “I didn’t really know what that meant at the time, but now I can see what she’s talking about.”
Not only did Adams groom them to become leaders of a basketball team, all three say she taught them how to have discipline in their personal lives.
“I’ve blossomed in the classroom and in my personal life,” said Diamond, who this week was named to the MVC’s Scholar-Athlete team for the second year in a row. “I’ve made better decisions on and off the court. (Adams) staying after us groomed us to be better players and better people.”
That first season there wasn’t a better conditioned team in the Missouri Valley.
Diamond, Gordon and Turner all can laugh about it now, but there was nothing fun when Adams would blow her whistle and put the entire team on the line.
“We used to run a lot,” Diamond said, “because we would mess up a lot.”
That wasn’t the only thing that bothered Adams.
“Jessy didn’t talk, Chynna stood and Jaz was overly focused,” Adams said.
It was a culture shock walking into a Division I program after being the top player on a high school team.
“You think you know everything because you got this far,” Turner said. “You think that’s good enough and then you find out it’s not.”
Adams laughs now when asked to compare the freshmen version with how the seniors are now. The players agree it’s almost like comparing different people.
“I had to step into a role that I wasn’t really comfortable with to begin,” Diamond said. “They got me out of my comfort zone and now that kind of stuff comes second nature to me.”
Nothing satisfies the seniors more than thinking back on those beatdowns they took in their first year.
They figure they probably went through more adversity than most college seniors, but they would never trade those experiences away.
“All the hard work, all the stuff that no one sees, all those struggles we went through every day in practice,” Diamond said, “it means everything to us now to be successful.”
While the entire team will be able to claim ownership of the first MVC title in WSU historyafter finishing league play 15-3 and tied with Creighton, there was no question who valued it most.
“We all wanted to win for them,” said Jasmine Jones, who transferred in last year. “They started from the bottom and they brought us all the way here. I definitely feel like they deserve this the most.”
The trio of seniors says it’s hard to believe four years at WSU is coming to an end, but they know they will always be linked — through the banner in Koch Arena and their experiences together.
“This is a memory that will last a lifetime,” Gordon said. “It’s the ultimate bond between us.”
It all started with a dream sold to them by Adams four years ago.
Now that it has materialized, Adams says the new challenge is proving WSU has staying power.
But now when Adams sells her idea to future Shockers, she will always be able to refer back to that first recruiting class. The trailblazers, the difference-makers.
“It truly shows what you can do if you invest in something and you outwork the competition,” Adams said. “If you do those things, then, at some point, you’re going to be successful. I believe they will leave that legacy here.”