Though volleyball is Corinne Jemison’s best sport, basketball remains an important part of the East Kentwood senior’s life
Kentwood – While she has no second thoughts over her ultimate decision, there was a confusing time when Corinne Jemison considered ending her basketball career.
Now it appears that decision, which had much to do with Jemison’s heredity, could have a profound effect on East Kentwood’s chances of winning a state championship.
After committing to Miami (OH) for volleyball, the 6-foot-2 senior put her basketball career on hold, opting not to play in the first six games last season, a season in which East Kentwood finished 26-2 and reached the Class A final for the first time in school history. There is no doubt that while volleyball is Jemison’s No. 1 sport, she also admits that following in her parents’ steps also weighed in her decision to continue playing basketball.
This season the Falcons are 10-0 after defeating Caledonia on Tuesday, 52-45, in a O-K Conference Red Division game. East Kentwood entered the game ranked No. 2 in Class A. Caledonia (7-1) is currently ranked No. 6.
"I wondered what it would be like," Jemison said of giving up basketball to focus entirely on volleyball. "But it was hard to picture not playing basketball. I’ve played since I was 5 and have watched it forever, so it was something I wanted to do."
Jemison comes by her passion for basketball naturally. Her parents, Erica Westbrooks-Jemison and Darin Jemison, both played at Louisiana Tech. In fact, her mother helped the Bulldogs to a runner-up finish in the 1987 NCAA tournament and a national championship the next season. She was the team’s MVP as a senior when she averaged 14 point per game and the Bulldogs’ record over those two seasons was 53-4.
Jemison’s parents say while basketball was their priority, athletically, in college, they took great pains to expose their children to all sports. Jemison’s older brother Xavier played three sports and her younger sister Raven, a 15-year-old sophomore, has played softball, soccer, basketball and track as well as being on the cheer team.
Erica said her daughter has enjoyed the diversity athletics has offered. Corinne’s No. 1 sport growing up was softball where she was a power-hitting infielder. She switched priorities to volleyball by her freshman season and also played varsity basketball as a freshman and sophomore. Jemison added track in middle school, breaking a 20-year-old Valleywood Middle School record in the shot put. She finished in the top four in the state in the discus her freshman and sophomore seasons, and won that event last spring as a junior.
Jemison is averaging 13 points and 14 rebounds at the halfway point this season.
"She likes being busy and she’s able to pull it off," Erica said. "We actually tried to get her to pull out of basketball, but that’s not what she wanted. We tried a little bit of everything with her, but it’s always been about doing what she liked.”
Darin said the family has followed a single golden rule when it came to their children’s participation in athletics.
"It’s always been up to them to play whatever; we just tell them to make sure they’re having fun," he said. "We won’t be the type of parent who shoves sports down their throats."
Since her freshman season, when volleyball surpassed basketball as her leading interest, Jemison said basketball, at least for her, holds one advantage over volleyball.
"(It’s the) pace of the game," she said. "In basketball you’re going up and down all the time. In volleyball I think there is more stopping and regrouping.
"When I was younger I played basketball because my parents played, but they’ve always told me to have fun. I asked them (about playing basketball) and they said play what you want."
That decision has paid dividends for the Falcons. Jemison said the team’s goal is to win the school’s first girls basketball state title.
"Last year we made it to the finals for the first time in school history and we didn’t think we would make it that far," she said. "Now we’re ranked high. We have people back from last year, we’re undefeated and we’re playing well."