ATLANTA, Ga. — For the third year in a row, the nationally-ranked Labette women’s basketball program sent a player to the annual NJCAA Women’s Basketball Coaches Association All-Star Game over the weekend.
Jessica Martino, a rising sophomore from New York, represented the Cardinals in Atlanta where 40 players from around the country gathered to compete in two games in front of NCAA recruiters.
“My favorite part about the event is that she’s playing in front of coaches all across the country,” Labette head coach Mitch Rolls said. “She’s got offers from all around the country, so she’s got all the exposure she needs. She’ll pick the school that’s best for her.”
Martino, who said she was battling a hamstring injury over the course of the event, said the experience was a source of motivation and pride.
“It was a big deal for me,” Martino said. “I wish I could’ve represented Labette a little better, but I’m coming off a hamstring injury. I tried my hardest out there. But I plan on doing bigger and better things during the season.”
DeAshia Young (2017) and Upe Atosu (2018) previously represented Labette at the all-star game. Rolls said the new tradition of having a player nominated as an all-star is a testament to the program’s recruiting efforts.
“We’ve done a pretty good job of recruiting,” Rolls said. “We’ve had at least one kid good enough to be in the top 40 every year. We’re getting great kids to sign and we’re blessed to have such great players.”
In her first year in Parsons, Martino was the only freshman in the Kansas Jayhawk Conference to earn First Team All-KJCCC honors and was also the lone first-year player to be selected to the NJCAA Region VI First Team.
Martino was second on the Cardinals’ roster in scoring at 11 points per game. She led Labette in rebounding with seven boards per game, including 3.3 offensive rebounds.
In Atlanta, Martino was relegated to mostly a post role.
“She played good defense and rebounded well,” Rolls said. “They had her playing the five, which is a little out of position for her a little bit. But it showed off her athleticism.”
Heading into her sophomore campaign, Rolls expects Martino to be at the top of most team’s scouting reports.
“She’s going to get the same treatment Upe got,” Rolls said. “Everybody is going to be keyed in on her. She was the only freshman to make First Team all-conference, so she’ll be the focal point of a lot of defensive schemes. It’s all about how she’s going to adapt and how people defend her.”
As for Martino, she saw the trip and honor as an opportunity to shine light on the rest of her Labette teammates.
“I feel blessed to get the opportunity to play my game in front of a bunch of Div. I coaches,” Martino said. “It can help my other teammates here at Labette too. They need to get looks.”