In college basketball, March is the month where experienced players look to carve their own shining moment with their respective teams.
As only a sophomore, West Virginia’s Jayla Hemingway has played in plenty of big games, but she is ready to take on her first NCAA Tournament.
To date, Hemingway, a transfer from Mississippi State, has played in the SEC Championship game, the Big 12 Championship game and the Gold Medal game at the World University Games.
“It’s always exciting to be able to play in a championship game,” Hemingway said. “To be able to compete at that level and that stage is always a blessing and always so much fun.”
Now, rather than with Australia’s women's team, Baylor or South Carolina, the Tennessee native will set her sights on Lehigh in the first round of the “Big Dance.”
“This Lehigh team is very good, so we’re definitely going to have some competition for the first game,” Hemingway said. “We’ve just got to take this first game and go from there.”
For Hemingway, the opportunity in the tournament will be everything she could have asked for after leaving the Bulldogs’ program. After missing out on her first appearance last year due to the cancellation of the event, the 5-foot-11 guard decided to leave Mississippi State due to the departure of several coaches to Texas.
Upon arrival at West Virginia, Hemingway instantly earned a spot in head coach Mike Carey’s rotation. Playing at least 10 minutes in every game of the season, including getting a start in the past six games, has allowed her to put her own unique stamp on a strong Mountaineer squad.
“I always try to be the workhorse of a team, just be able to make the hustle plays and be able to score when my team needs me,” Hemingway said. “Whenever we need a momentum change, I always try to be that Energizer bunny we need in the game.”
With a Mountaineer squad that boasts no NCAA Tournament experience, Hemingway can surely provide some examples on how to deal with big games. After all, she has already seen some of the best that the world has to offer.
“(The World University Games) were nice to go to and compete with people that we normally wouldn't see in the United States,” Hemingway said. “It was good to see different teams from all over the world and play against different types of play.”
Even with so much talent and repetition, Hemingway, the all-time leading scorer at her high school, came to Morgantown looking to learn more.
Due to her work ethic, as well as Carey and his staff’s stellar coaching, Hemingway has been able to add plenty to her game.
“The coaches always help us any way they can, whether it’s in strength and conditioning and weights or the training room,” Hemingway said.