Denied on the doorstep of the Final Four: Two shots she'll never forget

Dee Dee Jernigan was a senior at Xavier when she missed two wide-open layups in the final seconds in the 2010 Elite Eight. A decade later, she's learning to move past the pain. Melissa Golden for ESPN

Editor's note: This story was originally published in March. It is being reposted as part of ESPN's Mental Health Awareness Month coverage.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- This is where Dee Dee Jernigan gets nervous.

She's inside the lane, frozen where the rim and backboard meet, staring up at the basket. It doesn't matter that she hasn't been on a court in months or played in a game in years, this moment doesn't get any easier.

Jernigan still can't shoot a layup, even in an empty, quiet gym, without thinking about that night.

As soon as the buzzer sounded that Monday night in 2010, Jernigan's life changed forever.

Her college career ended in the most public, humiliating way, and basketball, the one constant, no longer offered any respite. Instead, it was more grief for someone who still hadn't mourned the death of her mother four years earlier and had nowhere to turn for support.

When she needed someone -- anyone -- no one was there. No one on her team talked to her.

It was all too much for the 21-year-old to handle. She walked away from basketball cold turkey, turning to marijuana to help get her through each day and out of her own head. The pain -- the death threats, doubt and depression -- got to be too much. She thought ending it might help.

Sunday marked the 10th anniversary of those shots. A decade later, she's still trying to move past the moments those two shots bounced off the rim and the fallout that followed.

Time has helped. Jernigan has begun to heal, to put the misses into perspective, to grieve her mother's death. She's coming to terms with the guilt of causing her teammates and coaches to miss out on what might have been life-changing opportunities. And time has helped the now 31-year-old Jernigan bury her suicidal thoughts forever.

Yet some things still aren't easy to do. Like shooting layups.

But on this afternoon, Jernigan -- after saying out loud to no one in particular that she is nervous -- takes a dribble and attempts her first shot of the day.

It was a layup.

She made it.

A life forever changed


Tenth anniversary of Jernigan's missed winning layups

On March 29, 2010, Dee Dee Jernigan missed back-to-back wide-open layups that could have sent Xavier to its first Final Four and upset No. 1 seed Stanford. After a timeout, Jeanette Pohlen went coast-to-coast for a layup to give the Cardinal the win.

The pain of the past 10 years was 41 seconds away from never happening for Jernigan.

With Xavier leading Stanford 53-51 in the final minute, Jernigan made what was, at the time, the biggest play in Xavier women's basketball history: The 6-foot guard stole the ball from Stanford forward Kayla Pedersen near the top of the key. Jernigan passed the ball to guard Special Jennings, who was fouled instantly and headed to the free throw line to shoot a one-and-one. But Jennings missed the first, and Stanford got the rebound. On the other end, Pedersen hit a 15-foot jumper to tie the score at 53. Xavier got the ball across half court and called a timeout with 20.8 seconds left.

In the huddle, then-Xavier coach Kevin McGuff drew up a play for senior Amber Harris: Get the Musketeers' All-American forward the ball on the right block and let her read the Stanford defense. Ideally, she'd go one-on-one. But Jernigan, who was one of the first two players off the bench that season, had watched enough of Stanford that game to guess how it would play out.

"I'm thinking in my head, 'I know I'm about to be open because they were gonna focus so much on Amber,'" Jernigan recalled. "I'm like, 'I know that my [defender] is gonna run over there to get her. I know that if I cut right here to this block, I'm gonna be open.'"

The play unfolded just as Jernigan had anticipated.

Harris got the ball at the right block. Jernigan didn't have a defender on her from the moment she inbounded the ball. Once she saw Harris start to get double-teamed, Jernigan cut to the basket. Harris hit Jernigan, who caught the ball wide open under the right side of the hoop.

The moment Jennings saw Jernigan catch the pass, she thought it was a done deal.

"This is something you don't even have to teach," Jennings said. "This is boom."

Senior Maureen Hester felt as if the inevitable was about to happen: "We thought we were going to the Final Four."

Then-assistant coach Mike Neighbors was already standing, anticipating a celebration.

Jernigan missed.

She rushed it.

"I felt like if I didn't get it up quick enough," Jernigan said, "that it was gonna get blocked and I was gonna get stuck down there."

On the court, there wasn't time to think about the missed layup. The ball was loose. Harris eventually grabbed the offensive rebound at the 3-point line, took one dribble to her right and found Jernigan, again, under the basket.

Again, wide open.

"You think you're going to the Final Four," said Neighbors, now the head coach at Arkansas. "You're getting ready. You can't advance the ball at this point in time back then. You think, 'We got a chance to take the lead here.'"

Then Jernigan missed again.

"The second one is the one," Jernigan said sitting on her couch in her Tallahassee apartment. "That's the one. Like, the first one, OK. But the second one, that's the killer, only because when I shot it, I felt how it came off of my hand. It kind of hit the backboard late and took a crazy-ass bounce. And that was it."

Jernigan was too far underneath the basket, which forced her to shoot higher than she normally would. The ball hit the backboard on the way down instead of on the way up.

Stanford's Pedersen got the rebound, and the Cardinal called timeout.

"All of a sudden, it was like a ghost was sitting on the rim," said April Phillips, a senior forward. "We didn't expect her to miss one, but we definitely didn't expect her to miss two."

Jernigan knelt to the court, her head down. Neighbors and Hester ran to pick her up and tried to console her.

"Those shots, man, if I can take them back, I would. Afterwards, nothing was the same for me." Dee Dee Jernigan

As she was bent over, Jernigan's mind started to run.

"I just missed it, it's millions of people watching, so I'm thinking about that aspect of it," she said. "Like, 'goddamn, you just missed this on national TV, like, one of the biggest games of your career, of the season, probably could have put it away if you just made it. You make it, you going to the Final Four-type deal.' That's all we talked about. That was the ultimate goal that year.

"So, I'm like, 'Damn.' I'm thinking about what my teammates are feeling, what they thinking."

When Stanford called timeout, 4.0 seconds remained on the clock, but the officials reviewed the film and added an extra 0.4 seconds. The extra time proved costly.

A wave of shock settled over Xavier's players in the huddle.

"I don't think I ever recovered to go back out there for those last seconds," Jernigan said. "So, I'm basically done. But then once I hit the floor, I remember how they were set up when they inbounded the ball."

With the aid of 10 years of hindsight, Neighbors now questions whether Jernigan should've been on the court in those final moments.

It's still hard for Jernigan to watch the final 20.8 seconds.

"It sucks," she said. "It really, really, really, really sucks."

Stanford's Jeanette Pohlen took the ball the length of the court, hitting a layup as time expired. Game over. Stanford 55, Xavier 53.

"Those shots, man, if I can take them back, I would," Jernigan said. "Afterwards, nothing was the same for me."

An enormous loss

Basketball had always filled a void for Jernigan.

When her mother, Regina Jernigan, was first diagnosed with cancer in 2002, Dee Dee was a freshman in high school in East Chicago, Indiana. As Regina spent months in and out of the hospital, Dee Dee threw herself into basketball, hoping the sport would distract her.

She avoided the hospital whenever her mom was admitted.

"It's like, you don't want to see her like that," Dee Dee said. "I miss her, but I can't see my mama like that. I don't know how to handle or deal with that kind of stuff. I just basically stayed away until it got to the point there was no more they could do for her in the hospital.

"There's a lot of stuff that I regret."

Dee Dee and Regina never had a typical mother-daughter relationship, something that Dee Dee now wishes would've been different. Regina, a blackjack dealer at a nearby casino, worked a lot. She didn't go to any of Dee Dee's games until she got sick. But Dee Dee said Regina was there for her as much as she could be -- and when she needed her mother the most, such as when Dee Dee came out to Regina at 14 years old.

But they rarely shared how they felt about each other. During her mom's final months, an aunt made Dee Dee and Regina sit down and tell each other how much they loved one another. "I needed to hear it from her," said Dee Dee, who was 17 at the time.

As her mother's health deteriorated in the spring of 2006, Dee Dee was finishing up a decorated senior year at East Chicago Central High School. She returned home from playing in the McDonald's and WBCA all-American games around 5 p.m. on April 6. She went to her mom's room, which had been moved downstairs to accommodate a hospital bed, to talk and catch up. When Dee Dee went to sleep that night, she hadn't even unpacked her bags.

Her mom's caregiver woke Jernigan up around 10 p.m. Her mom had died.

"It's almost like she waited until I came back," Dee Dee said.

Regina Jernigan was 36 years old when she succumbed to breast and brain cancer, leaving behind four children, 15 years apart in age -- Dee Dee and siblings Antaneah Bouie, DeJonnell Jernigan and Donnell Cotton Jr.

Dee Dee sat on the couch outside her mom's room for the next two hours, waiting for the coroner to get her mom's body. Family members came and went. She remembers everyone crying. But Dee Dee didn't cry. She was too numb to feel anything.

At one point, she walked into her mom's room and saw her eyes were still open. Dee Dee closed them.

After Regina died, Dee Dee's aunt gave her a letter from her mother. Again, it was something her aunt had pushed her mother to do.

"There was things in there that I wish she would have got a chance to say to me," Dee Dee said. "Reading it, that's what I wanted. That's what was missing."

Coming out of high school, Jernigan was a top-25 recruit, getting serious looks from the likes of Purdue, DePaul, Rutgers, Tennessee, Arizona, LSU and Ohio State.

Initially, Jernigan signed with Purdue. But she never wore a Boilermakers jersey, instead playing at Rutgers in 2006-07, Wabash Valley College in 2007-08 and, finally, Xavier in 2008-09 and 2009-10.

Katrina Merriweather, the Purdue assistant who recruited her to West Lafayette, ended up being the one person Jernigan relied on throughout the end of her mom's illness, though.

Merriweather became Jernigan's rock. The two talked often, perhaps too often; Merriweather was accused by the NCAA of making more than 100 impermissible phone calls, most of which were to Jernigan. Merriweather, now the head coach at Wright State, was making sure Jernigan was awake to go to school, and she was the person Jernigan called when she needed to vent or had questions about how to care for her mother. It was also Merriweather who made sure Jernigan had clothes for -- and attended -- her mother's funeral.

Merriweather resigned from Purdue in the spring of 2006, before Regina died. Once that happened, Jernigan reopened her recruitment.

Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer had recruited Jernigan out of high school, but when Regina's health began to decline, Stringer suggested that Jernigan stay close to home. Now Jernigan was looking for a new school, and there was just one place she wanted to go. She headed to Piscataway, New Jersey.

Emotionally, though, she wasn't ready to be on her own or to be thrust into the pressure-filled vacuum of what was at the time one of the most competitive programs in the nation. Basketball continued to consume Jernigan, until she got home from class and practice and the emotions bubbled up. She was a 12-hour drive from her siblings and extended family and angry at her mother for dying, and she didn't know how to handle it.

Then came the pressure of the season.

"I'm just coasting through," Jernigan said. "It was like zombie mode, almost. I don't know how I'm feeling until I'm by myself.

"Balancing all of that was hard, and that's when I kind of really fell into that depression mode, and they kind of sensed that."

She was prescribed Zoloft. She hated it. She couldn't play like she was used to. Jernigan also describes herself as emotionally volatile during this time, the anger of her mom's death making her a "mean kid."

Jernigan's relationship with Stringer began to deteriorate. Rutgers reached the national championship game that season -- one marred by Don Imus' racially charged comments about the Scarlet Knights -- but Jernigan averaged just 1.2 points and 6.0 minutes per game, appearing in 23 of 36 contests.

After Rutgers lost in the national championship game to Tennessee in 2007, Jernigan says Stringer told her in the locker room that she could leave the program. But Stringer put a restriction on her transfer: Jernigan couldn't go to any other Big East school -- or to Xavier, which was then part of the Atlantic 10 Conference. Rutgers offered no explanations for the restrictions at the time, and Stringer, despite initially agreeing to be interviewed for this story, later declined, instead issuing a statement that wished Jernigan well.

Jernigan ended up going to Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel, Illinois, a move that allowed her to keep playing rather than sitting out a transfer season. She crammed two years of school into one and then headed to Xavier in Cincinnati.

On the court, former teammates say Jernigan was well-liked. She was tough. She could play. Her teammates still remember her handles, like the ball was on a string, Jennings said. And Jernigan embraced the role of being the sixth or seventh player.

Off the court, she often kept to herself but didn't avoid her teammates. If everyone was hanging out, she'd join. Other teammates said she was funny and liked to joke around.

"She can kind of roll with the wind," Jennings added.

Jernigan said she didn't really have a relationship with McGuff but tried to be a good teammate.

"I always felt like I had to defend myself because I didn't have any family, or no mother to have my back, so I feel like I had to have my back," Jernigan said. "So I kind of bumped heads with a lot of coaches, bumped heads with Coach McGuff, probably part of the reason me and Coach Stringer didn't have the best relationship. I wouldn't take all the blame for that one.

"But when I was at Xavier, I'm just, like, 'Goddamn, I'm saying something about everything.' I feel like if you treated me a certain kind of way, I felt like I had to defend myself."

The emotion of her mother's death continued to take a toll during her two seasons at Xavier. Jernigan knew there was a lot inside that hadn't been tended to yet.

The aftermath

Flash forward to March 29, 2010. After the loss to Stanford, Xavier had to wait outside its locker room so the boxes of hats and shirts commemorating what would have been the Musketeers' first Final Four could be removed. Once the team was inside, there was a mandatory 10-minute cooling-off period before the media was allowed in.

The locker room was silent.

"Nobody said anything to me," Jernigan said.

Not her teammates. Not her coaches. Not an Xavier administrator. No one even patted her on the back.

"I wanted somebody to say something to me -- anything," Jernigan said. "We could've argued. ...

"I don't know if it'll make a difference about how I feel and how the rest of my life went from that point on, but would've been nice."

Ten years later, Jernigan's former teammates remember that locker room scene like it happened last week. Some didn't know what to say. Some didn't want to say anything.

At the time, Jennings was angry.

"That's the biggest game of our career," Jennings said. "You never get that moment back.

"I think the way I looked at it when I was a player was like, 'Man, the layup is the first thing you learned in kindergarten.' So, it was hard. It was hard. It was very hard. Was it selfish? Absolutely. When I look at it now, it's like, 'Man, what she was going through was far greater than anything that any of us were going through because it just so happened that it was her that missed the layups.'"

Jernigan sympathizes with her teammates.

"I wouldn't have known what to say," she said. "In their defense, I'm not upset about it. I'm not mad about it. It would be selfish of me."

Jernigan doesn't remember anything about the rest of her time in the locker room. She blacked it out.

Before Xavier's flight home that night, Neighbors told the video team to put together 25 clips of plays that Jernigan had made throughout the season that helped Xavier get to that point. On the plane, each player had a row to themselves. When Neighbors walked back to where Jernigan was sitting, he found her leaned up against the window, spread out along the seat. He moved her feet, sat down and started showing her the clips. He got through about 10 when she stopped him.

"She said, 'Coach, I appreciate what you're trying to do, but there is nothing right now that's gonna make me feel better,'" Neighbors remembered. "And those words stick to me through all those years now."

When the Musketeers arrived back on campus, Jernigan said she had an inbox full of hate mail. They told her how terrible she was and said that she'd blown any chance of playing in the WNBA.

But there was some good sprinkled in. Jernigan remembers an encouraging letter from a woman who worked for the Washington Mystics. She received similar messages from people who worked at Stanford, as well as Cardinal fans. Two days after the shots, Nikki (Kremer) Drew, a former Xavier player who missed free throws in the 1999 NCAA tournament that could've helped the Musketeers upset UConn for a spot in that year's Sweet 16, sent a letter explaining that life will get better -- eventually.

Still, the kind words couldn't pull Jernigan out of her funk. She decided to skip the Final Four in New Orleans, where she had been selected to participate in the senior showcase.

"At this point, I didn't want to be seen by anybody," Jernigan said. "I kind of hid on campus. ... I just went on about my day, went to class, went to my room."

And she started smoking marijuana. It took her away from the emotion. It helped her sleep. She woke up and smoked. She went to class high.

"You smoking, you high. You're not thinking about none of your problems," Jernigan said. "It was every day, all day, just so I could not think about it."

Jernigan relied on the marijuana to help numb her mind, but she got smarter about when to use. She wouldn't smoke before work when she got a job months later. That was the line she wouldn't cross. A high Dee Dee wasn't the best Dee Dee, she said. She knew how to put on a front when she needed to. And working in home health care, she needed to smile and leave her problems in her car.

But once she got home from work, she'd roll a blunt and smoke to quiet the demons for at least another night.

Jernigan was finishing her college career like she started it: grieving. Her mother died months before she left for Rutgers, and Jernigan didn't have enough time -- or knowhow -- to mourn losing her. Four years later, she was going through the same emotions.

"How I felt when I started it was how I feel when I finished it," Jernigan said. "Not sad per se, but confused, angry, lost. ... Like, spaced out. Where am I?"

Jernigan got through the rest of the school year and graduated. She could finally leave Cincinnati and start the process of putting the missed shots behind her.

To do that, though, she needed to put basketball away.

Trying to move on

Jernigan headed to Indianapolis, first moving in with Merriweather -- she was part older sister, part best friend, and had served as Jernigan's power of attorney before she turned 18 -- and then eventually moving in with two of her siblings and their father. Like she did with basketball when her mom was sick, Jernigan tried to throw herself into her siblings' lives, hoping to never think about what happened the last time she was on a court.

"I didn't want to go around nothing that had to do with a basketball because I didn't want to have to be asked about it," she said. "I didn't want to have to talk about it. I felt terrible and I don't really know in what way, but just like low self-esteem, confidence, you know, everything. At this point, I have none.

"All my life I played basketball. Everything that I've done to now from that point has been routine or scheduled. Now I'm graduated. You're an adult now. I didn't know what to do, didn't know how to go about going to get a job or what I wanted to do. ... I was down. Down bad. Like no money, no nothing."

Jernigan didn't want those missed layups to be the last thing she did on a basketball court, but she didn't think the WNBA was an option. She didn't believe in herself, didn't think she'd put in enough time or work to maximize what she calls her "God-given talent."

She was too content going through the motions. Even when it came to her future. She was always like that.

Jernigan never planned out her life, with or without basketball. She says she never declared a major at Xavier, graduating with a degree in liberal arts. She went back and forth between whether to continue to play or get a job. If she chose the latter, she knew she wanted to help people.

"Ten years ago, I was trying to figure out where I was going to be in three months," she said. "Like what was my next day going to be like. It was hard, hard for me to pull myself together after that. That was one of the toughest things I've ever had to do in my life, where you don't want to go outside. You don't want to do anything where somebody can see you that saw what happened to you. So I was just trying to get through the day a lot of times after it happened."

Smoking calmed her emotions, but it couldn't stop Jernigan's mind from going to the darkest of places. She began having suicidal thoughts shortly after graduating. They almost always came when she was driving alone. Other times when she sat at home, she'd think about killing herself but get caught up in the logistics of doing it. It was easier, she thought, in a car.

She got close once.

She was driving Merriweather's red Ford Expedition south on I-65 in Indianapolis. She was about to get off at 71st street. A railing was to her right.

"I was like, 'If I turn more to the right, you're gonna hit it,'" Jernigan recalled.

But she stopped short. It was a stupid idea, she thought. She can get through it, she thought. It would've been another selfish act in a life full of them, she thought.

"It's one of the worst things that ever happened to me, but it probably turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me." Dee Dee Jernigan

In the split seconds between thinking about turning the Expedition into the railing and deciding not to do it, Jernigan also thought about Merriweather. It was her car. How could she kill herself in Merriweather's car?

"I knew that it wasn't the end of the world," Jernigan said. "Like a part of me -- a very small part, but a part of me -- is like, 'Yeah, you missed it, but do you want to die? And do you want that to be why you die?' So I had to look at it, try to use it. It's one of the worst things that ever happened to me, but it probably turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me."

"I had to pull myself together. People miss shots in the NBA, they miss layups all the time. But it's like I was really going to allow myself to just dwindle away because of this?"

In the months after she missed those shots, Jernigan received another blow. She found out the man she grew up thinking was her father, who committed suicide when she was 10, wasn't her biological dad.

Jernigan's biological father died from AIDS when she was 5.

"It was like that on top of everything," Jernigan said. "That became a problem for me, too. It's like, I can't. This is just too much at this point."

It took Jernigan about six months after the Elite Eight loss to pick up a basketball again. It happened in the fall of 2010 when Merriweather gave her access to the gym at Wright State.

Jernigan's first shots? Layups.

Inside her head, the same few words played on repeat: You better not miss.

Merriweather began to work her out, and they started each session with the Mikan drill. Jernigan had to make 20 layups in a row. It was a battle, Merriweather remembered.

"Just the psychological and mental block of that drill alone," Merriweather said. "Because it had to not be scary anymore. It's just a freaking layup.

"We never worked out without her doing it first. It didn't matter how long it took her, it didn't matter how pissed she was; I didn't care about any of it. You gotta let it go. You gotta move on. You're too good for it to define you. So come on."

Jernigan refused to play in Indianapolis. She didn't want anyone to recognize her. One of the first times she stepped on a court publicly was, of all places, the 2011 Final Four. She was a practice player for a coaches clinic.

"That was kind of a relief," she said. "But I really didn't say much to people."

Jernigan eventually landed a job in home health care for a year. From there, she worked as a picker for Amazon at a warehouse in Indianapolis for another year, pulling everything from toiletries to electronics off the shelves to be packed and shipped. It was physical labor, something Jernigan had never done before. She enjoyed it but started getting the itch to play again.

At home, every night, though, Jernigan was still trying to figure out who she was without basketball. The more she worked, the less she smoked marijuana. It eventually dropped to twice a week, then once a week.

Basketball, though, was still gnawing at her.

She quit her job at Amazon and decided she needed to finish her basketball career on a different note -- any note -- than it had ended on at Xavier.

Jernigan decided it was time to play overseas but didn't know how to get there. For one of the only times in her life, she asked people for help. One of her mom's friends knew someone playing in Finland.

Jernigan signed with Äänekosken Huima in 2012, two years after her last college game. She decided to stop smoking when she left for Finland, and it took a few games to get into shape. But Jernigan eventually helped lead Huima to a silver medal that season. One of her best games was 17 points and 17 assists. She came home after that.

The last thing she did on a basketball court was no longer missing two potential game-winning layups.

Leaving the game the right way

At the time, Jernigan walked away content with the revised ending to her basketball career.

"The reality of it is it still happened ... but I didn't really feel like it was my defining moment to me, which it may still be, but I know I've done something else after that," she said. "A lot of people may not know that I did, but I know that I did, so it was more for myself at that point."

It was 2013. Jernigan returned to East Chicago and immersed herself into her hometown. The whispers continued, people around town would joke about her missing the shots and not playing in the WNBA. She felt the city that once embraced her for being a basketball hero was turning its back on her.

"It was very hard. Was it selfish? Absolutely. When I look at it now, it's like, 'Man, what she was going through was far greater than anything that any of us were going through.'" Xavier teammate Special Jennings on why she didn't know what to say to Dee Dee Jernigan after the misses

And now she needed to figure out what to do with the rest of her life.

She began substitute teaching and then took a position as dean at 21st Century Charter School in Gary. She then became a physical education teacher, which led to her coaching the girls' basketball team. And later that year, Jernigan met a friend who helped put her on the path toward healing.

Jasmine Walker worked at 21st Century, and the two quickly became friends. One rainy night, they were hanging out, driving around when they began talking about their pasts. Jernigan shared her story.

Walker suggested going to church together. Jernigan was hesitant at first. She hadn't gone to church since Easter services as a little girl with her mother. But Walker, who sang in the choir, was persistent and eventually enlisted her own mother to help persuade Jernigan. Once Walker's mother told Jernigan she was driving over to pick her up, she couldn't say no.

The first service she went to at the Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church in Gary, Indiana, was the beginning of Jernigan's healing.

"Every time I went, it was the same thing that I was crying out about," she said. "But I needed to do it that many times to kind of get over and deal with it."

Every Sunday was another chance for Jernigan to come to grips with her past. The more she went, the more clarity she had. Jernigan stopped being mad at her mom, accepted her role in all her issues with Stringer and McGuff, and started to get whole again. The suicidal thoughts stopped.

And she started to see that she needed to use her past to help others.

Jernigan took a job as an assistant coach at Tallahassee Community College in 2016 for two years, making just $17,000 annually. It was a pay cut, but she was back in basketball full time. There, she realized how much she had learned from Stringer, putting the details of a year's worth of practice to use with her new players. They won the 2018 juco national championship. A few months later, the coach at TCC, Franqua Bedell, didn't renew Dee Dee's contract.

But a teamwide session with a sports psychologist early in the 2016-17 season helped Jernigan turn another corner. She told her story to a group of people for the first time. It was a weight gone.

She worked at a local high school for a few months before getting a job as an education counselor at the Gadsden Correctional Facility outside Tallahassee.

She works a regular schedule. Has her weekends free. She drives Lyft to make some extra money. She couldn't be further from basketball, but she still watches as much as she can on TV.

She knows talking to a professional will help her finally grieve her mother's death, 14 years later, and heal from missing those shots. That'll come in time. She's ready to tell her story and try to use it to help others.

"I know," she said, "that there's more to life than basketball."