Top player Jenna Walker changes Priceville culture
By David Elwell
For the Enquirer
Jenna Walker says that for the past couple of basketball seasons, she’s had opposing coaches ask her, “Are you still here?”
That’s what happens when you begin your varsity career at Priceville in the seventh grade. It’s also what happens when you are one of the best players in the area.
Opposing coaches can be assured Walker’s high school career is over. The next basketball game she plays will be in college for the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.
Walker leaves Priceville with a load of career achievements and some big numbers. She’s also The Decatur Daily’s Class 1A-4A Player of the Year.
“She has meant so much to this program and especially the culture of the program,” said Priceville head coach Terrie Nelson. “She brought a passion for the game, our school and community. A lot of people in Priceville fell in love with our program because of Jenna Walker.”
Priceville has now had the girls Player of the Year three out of the past four years. Kathleen Wheeler, who now plays at Samford, was the Player of the Year in 2018 and 2019.
The final numbers on Walker’s high school career are decisive. In her six seasons on varsity, the Priceville Bulldogs won 107 games and four area championships and advanced to the regional round four times.
Priceville never got over the hump to advance to the state tournament. Getting over that hump could have been big because in the past five seasons, the team that ended Priceville’s season in the playoffs either won the 4A state championship or lost in the state championship game.
Individually, Walker scored 1,787 points, dished out 932 assists and stole the ball 372 times. The assist number puts Walker sixth on the state’s career assists lists.
This past season Priceville (25-9) was led by Walker’s 453 points and 219 assists. That’s an average of 13.3 points and 6.4 assists a game.
“I was a seventh-grader playing with no fear on a team with seniors, who I didn’t know,” Walker said. “I was just looking to get the ball to them so they could score and be happy.”
Since that first season, Walker has continued to make teammates happy as witnessed by the 932 career assists. In a time when high school players are looking for high point totals to catch the attention of college coaches, Walker has thrived on assists.
The game-high assists for the McDonald’s All-American nominee came this past season with 19 versus Randolph.
Nelson said there were actually times in Walker’s past two seasons when she had to ask her to be more of a scorer.
“She is so unselfish, and she has such great vision on the court, but sometimes we needed her to have more of a scoring mentality,” Nelson said.
Walker can also make an assist without the basketball. She can assist teammates in getting excited about practice and games. Nelson said she always showed up at practice with a bounce in her step.
“That rubs off on her teammates. If they weren’t excited about practice, she got them excited,” Nelson said. “She makes everybody feel awesome, like they are her best friend. Relationships are important to her. Everybody loves Jenna. They didn’t want to let her down.”
When it came to college, Walker had 20 offers, including from Auburn, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, UAB and Samford. It was Western Kentucky and head coach Greg Collins that got Walker with just one phone call.
“He was one of the first to call me when coaches were allowed to call players in 2019,” Walker said. “He talked about the school and the basketball program and all the traditions at Western Kentucky. The conversation lasted over an hour.
“When I got off the phone, I told my parents I knew where I wanted to go to college. Even though I had never stepped on campus, I just knew this was the place for me.”
Walker and her mother, Priceville assistant Kim Walker, traveled to Bowling Green to visit the Western Kentucky campus the next weekend. They have visited the campus several times since then, and in May, they will return for Walker to start college.
“It’s sad to leave Priceville, but I’m excited about the future,” Walker said. “I can’t wait to see what’s ahead.”