Why Jasmine Walker Will Soon Have Coaches Doing A Happy Dance

Jasmine Walker, 40, will be a central figure during the upcoming signing period. The No 23 prospect -- pictured with, from left, Tia Manora, Kayla Jackson, Tyesha Wheeler and Ahyiona Vason -- has narrowed her choices down to four schools. Courtesy LaKenya Knight

Jasmine Walker drops her head into her left forearm, and her whole body starts to shimmy.

She can be anywhere -- recently it happened at Eastdale Mall in Montgomery, Alabama -- and when she hears the song "Pipe It Up" by Migos, she will dance "The Dab."

It's a move she practiced over and over, until she got it down.

The 6-foot-3 senior center from Jefferson Davis (Montgomery, Alabama) is the same way with her shot, practicing it again and again and again -- until she can consistently make the nets dance with each perfect swish.

"Jasmine is a perfectionist, hands down," said teammate Kayla Jackson, who has seen Walker's dance moves countless times. "She will shoot a thousand times -- that's why her shot is so perfect now."

College coaches agree, which is why the undeclared Walker is in such high demand.

Walker didn't start playing basketball until seventh grade. Yet two years later, she had her first scholarship offer, from Auburn.

She plans to sign on Nov. 11, the first day of the early period, but she has no idea yet how she will choose among her four finalists: Auburn, Florida State, Georgia and South Carolina.

Walker, who has a 3.0 GPA and wants to major in physical therapy, already has turned down several schools she liked -- including Notre Dame and Miami -- because she felt they were too far from her home.

"Telling them no was difficult; it really was," said Walker, the No. 23 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Top 100 for the 2016 class. "You have coaches you built a bond with, and then I had to tell them no because I knew I wasn't coming."

Walker lives with her mom, Charlotte Savage. Her only sibling is a brother who is 16 years her senior and long ago moved away.

Savage, a nurse who attends as many of Walker's games as possible, said the college choice is completely up to her daughter.

"I told her to take her time and make the right decision," Savage said. "This is her life. She is going to be there, not me."

Five strong

Walker, Jackson, Tia Manora, Ahyiona Vason and Tyesha Wheeler played at different middle schools but joined forces as freshmen at Jefferson Davis.

All five were immediate starters except Wheeler, who became a regular last season.

But according to the team's coach, LaKenya Knight, it was obvious right away that Walker would be the star attraction.

"She was only 14 at the time, and about 6-foot-1," Knight said of Walker's freshman year. "But when I saw her shoot once or twice, I knew she was going to be really good.

"Players like her only come around once in a blue moon. And I guess that was a blue moon."

Walker and her fellow freshmen inherited a program that had not won a state title since 2007. They tried to change that right away, but fell in the quarterfinals. The next year, they got to the state semifinals.

Things were getting better ... until they got worse.

In an AAU game in June of 2014, Walker went up for a layup but landed awkwardly.

"Normally, when she falls, she gets right back up," Manora said. "But this time, she just let out a scream."

Walker's mother was not overly concerned because trainers on site told her it was probably just a knee sprain. But that night, Walker couldn't sleep. The pain was unbearable.

"The next day, I took her to the emergency room," Savage said. "Me being a nurse, I said: 'Something's wrong.' She shouldn't be in this much pain."

Doctors sent Walker for tests, which revealed a torn ACL. Walker cried, and she was sadder still when she had to do her first day of physical therapy.

"She said, 'Mom I can't do it," Savage said. "I said: 'Yes you can.' We prayed, and we thought positively.

"I told her: 'I know it hurts, but you have to think about your future.' "

Walker, afraid of what her high school coach might think, didn't tell Knight she had been injured until shortly after surgery.

Knight promised her star player that she would make a full recovery. "You won't be dragging your leg in my uniform," the coach told her.

Walker made a promise of her own -- a state title that upcoming season.

Just five months after the injury, Walker already was sprinting. She missed the first 15 games of the season but came roaring back once she was medically cleared, eventually earning Class 7A MVP honors at state.

In the state final, a 55-54 win over McGill-Toolen (Mobile), Walker had 23 points, nine rebounds and four steals. She made 10 of 16 shots from the floor, a performance that surely led to a few happy dances.

"I'm just a joyful person," Walker said when asked about her dancing. "You are not going to see me angry or sad. That's going to be very rare for me."

Walker's quick comeback surprised no one who knows her well, least of all her mother, who firmly believes her daughter will one day make it in the WNBA.

"When Jasmine wants something," Savage said, "nothing is going to stop her."

Work to do

Walker, who averaged 15.9 points and 8.1 rebounds in 21 games last season, said she wants to tighten her defense and grab more boards.

Knight said Walker could use fine-tuning with her ball-handling.

Doug Bush, who has coached her with the Alabama Southern Starz AAU team and compares her versatile skill set to the style of LeBron James, said Walker can improve the use of her left hand and learn to play consistently hard on every play.

As for her strengths, that's easy -- it's that shot she has practiced thousands of times.

"Her shot is pretty," Knight said. "It's consistent. To see a girl her size who can shoot like that -- it's pretty neat."

It's also pretty neat to see her dance, her teammates say.

"Jasmine is not shy," Jackson said. "We can be in any public spot, and it doesn't matter. If she hears a song she likes, she will dance."

Manora said Walker often shows her a new dance that she's been working on.

"Usually, it's in the hallway in between classes or in the locker room," Manora said. "Jasmine will say, 'Tia, how does this look?'

"She will learn it and practice until it's perfect."

Just like her jumper.