All atwitter about #Hoops

Kentucky basketball connecting with Sparkman standout

When most high school teenagers get home on a school night they:

Photo by Gregg Gelmis

Photo by Gregg Gelmis

(A) Call their boyfriend/girlfriend/BFF
(B) Get on their Facebook to check out the latest drama going on at school (something like the Facebook spoof actors James Earl Jones and Malcolm McDowell do in the Sprint commercials)
(C) Post a photo on Instagram
(D) Do some … homework?

Or, if you’re Alexis Jennings, a senior on the Sparkman High School girls basketball team and one of the top prep players in the nation – ESPN rated her the No. 9 post player in the country and she signed early in November with  Kentucky  – you go home and tweet to your 810 followers on Twitter. As of Dec. 10, she had sent out over 20,000 tweets as @Lexissjanay3.

“No such thing as a lucky win *shrugs* it was faith,” Jennings tweeted, probably in response to somebody else’s sour grapes tweet after the Sparkman girls edged rival Hazel Green 41-39 at the Trojans gym. Jennings hit key free throws down the stretch and stole a pass with 13 seconds left to preserve the win, which improved the Senators to 9-1 at the time.

It’s a good bet many of her Twitter followers were eagerly awaiting what she had to say after the game, including her newfound hoop friends from the University of Kentucky, who can’t wait for her to arrive in the Bluegrass State. When she committed during the early signing period, picking Kentucky over Georgia and Tennessee (Alabama and Auburn had coaching changes and didn’t show much interest, her mom says),  she was warmly embraced by the UK fans, athletic department and players and welcomed to what’s known as “La Familia” on Twitter. Among her followers are current UK women’s players Makayla Epps, Azia Bishop, Samaria Walker, Linnae Harper and Bernisha Pickett.

Gary McKnight – @TenDem  – “@lexissjanay3 Thanks for joining the family.”

UK Hoops – @UKHoopCats –  “Welcome to the family, @lexissjanay3! We can’t wait to see you in the Blue and White! #LaFamilia”

Coach D – @MarkusDouglas21 – “@lexissjanay3 is going to ball out at Kentucky!!!! #bbn”

“It was nice,” Jennings said, referring to the congratulations on Twitter. “I talked to a majority of the players when I made my visit and got to meet them and get close to them.

Excited about Kentucky future

“I’m very excited about going to Kentucky. With our system, we run fast and it’s simliar to what they run at Kentucky. As you probably saw (during the game), I like to handle the ball. I wanted to sign early and get it out of the way so I could focus on our basketball season.”

Jennings was obviously focused as a junior, averaging 22.1 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.3 blocks and 3.2 steals while leading Sparkman to a 33-1 record . She was named first team Class 6A All-State, Alabama Sports Writers Association Super 5 and a finalist for 6A Player of the Year and Miss Basketball. The lone loss to eventual champ Hoover in the Northwest Regional championship game was the only damper on the season.

“She’s a fantastic kid,” Sparkman coach Patrick Delay said. “She makes good grades, doesn’t have an ego and works hard. She even had the others kids come in for workouts (before the season) at 6 a.m.! They see her desire and this team is hungry.

“If my own daughter was like Alexis I’d be tickled to death,” Delay said.

This is where Alexis Jennings really shines. As well as she can do it all as a big post player – dribble, rebound, drain the 3-pointer and mix it up inside – Jennings’ greatest asset may be her character. While kids and adults alike are posting anything and everything on the Internet, many of Jennings’ posts focus on her faith and doing the right thing.

“Lord, thank you for allowing me to live and see another day,” is a frequent tweet Jennings sends out.

“It is a blessing just to wake up,” Jennings said. “Not every day is given. You need to fulfill your purpose on earth.  If you can impact your own life, then maybe you can persuade others and they’ll be more successful.”

All in the family

It helps to have a role model who is her mother, basketball coach and even on the faculty as Sparkman High School (working with curriculm). As Jennings also frequently tweets: “Praying to God tryn to live right but i still had to go out and get it..never had my father in my life.”

Jennings mother, Tracy McCall (far right) is an assistant coach at Sparkman. Photo by Gregg Gelmis

Jennings mother, Tracy McCall (far right) is an assistant coach at Sparkman. Photo by Gregg Gelmis

“It’s been good for our relationship – all of it,” says her mother,Tracy McCall, who started coaching at Sparkman in 1997 after her own successful basketball career at the University of North Alabama. She rejoined Delay’s staff last year as an assistant. “As as a coach and mom I get the same amount of respect.  I also work at the school, but we dont’ see each other that much and that gives her the space she needs.”

And, speaking of space, what about the space between Harvest and Lexington, Ky.?

Mom says no problem.

“Four hours, 20 minutes off Exit 93,” McCall says with a big smile. “It’s a nice drive down the Blue Grass Parkway.”

See more photos of Alexis Jennings by Gregg Gelmis.