KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) - Basketball has always been a family affair for the Walker family.
This winter, even more so, as sisters Jasmyn and Jordan Walker have been reunited as first-year players on the women’s team at Western Michigan University.
Both have found their way into the starting lineup, Jasmyn as a junior transfer at forward, and Jordan, last year’s Miss Basketball winner, as a freshman guard.
They played one season together in high school at Mona Shores and are making the most of a chance to wear the same jersey at WMU.
After playing her first two college seasons at Valparaiso, Jasmyn transferred to WMU and sat out last season. Jordan had already committed to WMU before her junior year of high school, so it turned out to be a package deal.
“Honestly, it’s a blessing for both of us. To be together, it’s an amazing experience like we had in high school. That was the most fun I’ve ever had playing basketball,” Jordan told The Muskegon Chronicle . “To be able to do it again for two more years is something I’m really looking forward to. Doing it now is something I can’t even put into words.”
Jasmyn wanted to be closer to home and is glad they could team up again.
“That was one of the coolest parts,” Jasmyn said. “If I didn’t get that chance, it was going to be OK. If I could get that chance, it was going to be even better.”
Miss Basketball Jordan Walker looks to contribute right away at Western Michigan
WMU women’s basketball coach Shane Clipfell is happy to have both.
He took over the Broncos’ program in 2012 and was just getting settled in and missed the recruiting process on Jasmyn the first time around. He wasn’t going to make the same mistake with Jordan, despite her ACL tear the summer before her junior season, and recruited her right through the injury.
“To me, it was a no brainer,” Clipfell said. “Not every knee injury is a no brainer. You just have a feeling she is going to bounce back. Based on what I knew about her, I knew she was going to bounce back and be as good, or better, than before. It’s somewhat of a gut instinct. But with Jordan, no question we were right on that assumption.”
Walker made a quick recovery, playing every game as a junior. Last season, she broke the career scoring record at Mona Shores and earned Miss Basketball honors as the state’s top senior.
She said the biggest differences going from high school to college are the pace of play on the court and managing her time as a student off the court.
“It’s just so much faster with a shot clock. I went back to a high school game and they didn’t have a shot clock and I was like, ‘oh my goodness, this is slow,’” she said. “Just being here and only playing for a couple months, you can already see the game speed up so much. Even in my open gyms, everything was so much faster.”
They play different positions. Jasmyn is a 5-foot-10 forward while Jordan is a 5-8 point guard who has been used in more of a shooting role this season. Jasmyn is averaging 7.8 points and nearly 5 rebounds, while Jordan is averaging 6.1 points and 3 rebounds per game.
They do get the chance to play against each other in practice and spend time together putting up extra shots. They even plan to be roommates next season.
“We definitely push each other on the court, off the court,” Jordan said. “When we’re in practice, if I’m guarding her, we go back and forth. She might block my shot, it just goes like that. It’s funny, it reminds me of stuff that happened in high school. She’ll block my shot and I’ll be like ‘don’t block my shot,’ but not realizing that’s going to make me better.”
Jasmyn is trying to round back into form after sitting out last season as a transfer. She could practice but not play in games.
“It was unbelievably tough. I learned a lot about off-the-court perspective as well as on-the-court perspective,” she said. “I learned by watching. … I wouldn’t recommend it.”
The Walker family has been there to see the girls through the tough times. Their dad, Jarvis, is an assistant coach for the Mona Shores boys varsity, and their mom, Danielle, is a past girls assistant at Shores.
Both played in college at Ferris State University and are in the gym watching Jarvis coach Tuesdays and Fridays and the girls play Wednesdays and Saturdays. The Walkers have made all of WMU’s home games and many away games and there are plenty of text messages between family members.
“Without a doubt, good genes and being supported from home goes a long way,” Clipfell said. “(Jasmyn and Jordan) are extremely coachable. If you praise them, they are not ones to get big headed. If you get after them, they don’t cave in.”
The Walker sisters said winning a Mid-American Conference championship is the goal. The Broncos are 10-7 overall and 3-2 in the MAC heading into Wednesday’s game at Eastern Michigan.
Jasmyn said things have worked out well for her and her sister.
“I can honestly say I thought it would be a bit more trouble just because of the changes in personalities and a different coaching style, things like that,” she said. “I think I fit in really well here. I like it a lot and I think it’s a lot more fun and I’m really enjoying it. It played out better than I thought.”
Other sibling teammates
The Walkers are not the only siblings from the area playing college basketball together.
Sisters Taylor and Allyson Richards are on the women’s team at Cornerstone University after earning all-state honors in high school at Fruitport Calvary Christian.
Taylor, a 6-1 junior forward, has started in 18 of 21 games and is averaging 5.5 points and 4.2 rebounds a game. Allyson, is a 6-0 forward who has seen limited action as a freshman. She has scored a total of 10 points in seven games.
The Golden Eagles are 13-8 overall and 8-3 in Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference heading into Saturday’s game at Indiana Tech.
Brothers Jason and Danny Beckman also play a key role on the men’s basketball team at Hope College.
Jason, a 5-11 junior guard, is leading the team in scoring at 22.3 points a game. A transfer from Alma College, he is shooting 51 percent from the floor and 94 percent from the foul line.
Danny, a 5-9 freshman guard, has earned two starts during the season and is averaging 2.9 points a game.
The former standouts at Shelby have helped Hope to an 8-7 record and 2-2 mark in the MIAA going into a home game Wednesday against Alma College.
Information from: The Muskegon Chronicle, http://www.mlive.com/muskegon
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