Until this week Southeast Bulloch’s Coretta Brown was Bulloch County’s only female basketball player to reach the highest level of baseketball. This week former Statesboro standout Alisia Jenkins joined her, as she signed a contract with the WNBA’s Indiana Fever.
“It’s a dream come true,” Jenkins said. “I’ve been training with DeAnthony Stevens, and my agent Orlando Castano called us and told us that the Fever had a player get hurt and they wanted to talk to me. They asked some questions about what I have been working on, and that they liked what they saw in my game. I then got a call from Fever head coach Marianne Stanley, and then Orlando called me and said they wanted to sign me. It was an amazing feeling.”
“I have gotten so many texts and messages from people back home,” Jenkins said. “I feel like the entire Statesboro community is behind me. I’m just a small town girl who grew up playing on dirt courts with the boys, and now I’m in the WNBA.”
Jenkins was an All-State selection at Statesboro High, and went on to star at the University of South Florida from 2012-16. Jenkins left South Florida as the all-time leader in career rebounds, and left as the Bulls third all-time leader in blocked shots.
“USF was a great experience,” Jenkins said. “I was known for my defense and my rebounding, and got a chance to play against some really good players, and I feel like my game really improved.”
After college Jenkins had a tryout with the WNBA. She said it was a great experience, and rather than be discouraged by not making a WNBA team, Jenkins took her talents overseas.
“I got a chance at a tryout in the WNBA which was a great learning experience,” Jenkins said. “It didn’t work out, but it just made me want to try harder because I love basketball and that’s what I wanted to do with my life.”
Her first overseas gig was in Spain, and then to Prague, but Jenkins said something finally clicked when she played in Australia, and her game really took off.
“I was known for my defense and rebounding, but I knew I had to do something offensively to make it to the next level,” Jenkins said. “When I got to Australia I really put in extra work to improve my overall game, and I think I made that next step.”
From Australia Jenkins went on to Hungary where she starred for TFSE-MTK. Jenkins was voted the All-Hungarian League Defensive Player of the Year. She also averaged a career best 22.4 points per game and 12.3 rebounds per contest.
“I was able to maintain my defense and rebounding, but improved by offense,” Jenkins said, “That was the part of my game that had been lacking, and I think averaging over 20 points per game really helped me stand out even more.”
Jenkins held out hope that her numbers may catch the eye of someone in the WNBA, and her hard work paid off. Sunday she got the call from Indiana Vice President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Tamika Catchings who played 15 years in the WNBA for the Fever winning league MVP in 2012.
“I was actually working at Lowes and was on the cash register when Tamika Catchings called me,” Jenkins said. “It was so crazy. She warned me that everything was going to go pretty fast.”
It was a bit of a whirlwind after signing, as Jenkins flew to Indiana for testing and then to the WNBA bubble which is located at the IMG Academy in Bradenton Florida.
“I flew from Savannah to Indiana,” Jenkins said. “I got my testing done, they gave me a physical and checked my heart. The next day I flew from Indiana to Tampa. A driver took me from Tampa to Bradenton where I am currently in quarantine awaiting clearance to play.”
Jenkins grew up idolizing Brown, and turned to fellow Bulloch Countian for advice on making the big move to the WNBA.
“We have talked and text together since I was in college,” Jenkins said. “I always heard about her growing up, and knew she had made it to the WNBA. I asked her what it would be like, and she was able to help calm my nerves a bit.”
Brown was drafted by the San Antonio Stars with the 11th pick in the 2003 WNBA draft, and has developed a friendship with Jenkins whom she was happy to give advice.
“She told me she was nervous and asked me if I was nervous when I played,” Brown said. “I told her that I did not, and she shouldn’t be. I told her they signed her for a reason, and to just go do what she knows she can do. I have been cheering for her since the USF days.”
Another cheerleader is Jenkins former high school coach Jeff Seier who was thrilled by the news. Seier feels Jenkins' work ethic played a huge role in her making her dreams come true.
“Our entire program is proud and happy for Jenks,” Seier said. “She is a coach's player. She has always taken pride in doing the hard work in rebounding and playing defense. She has never given up on her dream to reach the WNBA.”
As soon as Jenkins clears quarantine she will join the team for games, and is anxiously anticipating her WNBA debut. She has been able to practice with the team, and knows plenty of her teammates from playing against them in college.
“I am able to go to the IMG Academy and practice with the girls, but then I have to come back to quarantine,” Jenkins said. “I played against Teaira McCowan when she was at Mississippi State and Tiffany Mitchell at South Carolina so I know some of them. My old teammate Courtney Williams plays for the Atlanta Dream, so I’m just so excited to get to really playing.”
For those interested in watching Jenkins and the Fever play you can go to FeverBasketball.com Next up the Fever play the Chicago Sky at 5:00 Saturday, and then play the Seattle Storm Tuesday at 10 p.m.