St. Joe guard Jarrells signs with Chattanooga
HUNTINGTON — When Huntington St. Joe girls basketball guard Dena Jarrells looked at her college choices, an offer from Chattanooga caught her attention.
As she researched the university her interest grew. Still, for the southern Wayne County girl-turned-Irish sharpshooter, it wasn’t just about her comfort level. It was also about her family support through her high school career at Tolsia and the move to Huntington St. Joe.
On her visit to Chattanooga, Jarrells took along six or eight family members to share the experience.
Just as she loved everything about Chattanooga — from the basketball program to the downhome, outdoorsy feel — so did her family members. Then, on Thursday, the entire extended family of Jarrells made the trip to St. Joe’s gym when she signed a National Letter of Intent to become a member of the Chattanooga program.
“All my family, they always told me as I was growing up, ‘Go somewhere that you know you’re going to happy and where it feels right,’ ” Jarrells said. “When I got that first letter from Chatt, I was reading about the school and it intrigued me. I went on a visit and I almost immediately fell in love. It felt like home, in part because the country out there reminds me of our state, but also their program and the style.”
Jarrells said building something to share with family was pivotal in her decision, which makes joining an NCAA Division I program a proper fit.
The move had the total support of her family, who displayed it wearing navy blue and old gold Chattanooga shirts.
“My mom went out and bought everybody shirts and called to see who in all wanted a shirt and everybody wanted one, so I think we ended up buying 78 shirts altogether,” Jarrells said. “Obviously, they don’t care to drive an hour to come see me play here, so they’re obviously going to drive an extra three to see me there.”
Jarrells, who started at Tolsia before coming to St. Joe as a sophomore, said her game has improved since joining the Irish, but what she’s seen as the biggest advancement is how she’s grown as a person and teammate.
“It wasn’t all about me anymore, and I knew that when I was moving,” Jarrells said. “That’s what it’s about in college, too. It has prepared me and I think it was the best thing I could’ve done for myself because I grew as a person as well. When I left Tolsia, I knew I wasn’t going to average 30 points a game like I was before, and people were calling me crazy for moving, but it’s not all about points, it’s not being all about you. It’s about making yourself the best player you can as you prepare for college.”
St. Joe coach Shannon Lewis said Jarrells’ grit and determination to achieve a higher level are attributes that have helped her.
“She’s stayed focused on her goal to get better and the sky is the limit for her,” Lewis said. “She’s played her whole life and has been fabulous. She keeps doing things that amazes people. She should have a good (college) career. I’m sure she’ll go down there and be in the gym the whole time working on her craft and getting stronger in the weight room. I’m sure the coaches will love her.”
Last season, Jarrells was the Class A All-State captain after averaging 15.7 points and 3.2 assists for the Irish, who made it to the Class A Championship game.