Feb. 6, 2018
College is a time of growth and development. For student-athletes, development is often measured in on-court performance and playing time, but fourth year Jae’Lisa Allen has proven there is much more to see off the court.
A native of Pine Bluff, Ark., Allen moved 14 hours away from home to spend the next four years on Grounds at Virginia. For Allen, the choice came down to relationships.
“Honestly,” said Allen, “the coaches drew me here. Coach Frett [Meredith], she recruited me and I just fell in love with her. She was one of the big factors for me coming here.”
Four years later, Allen looked back on her arrival as a first year with a chuckle.
“It was a big transition,” Allen recalled. “I remember I got here in the summer of 2014 and I was the only first year for a few months. I was just nervous about everything and I would call my mom and say ‘all the buildings look alike and I’m scared’, but honestly it’s helped me a lot.”
Over the past four years, plenty of moments have shaped Allen during her time at UVA. As most would recognize in looking back on their own collegiate experience, those four years are home to perhaps the largest leaps in personal growth.
Student-athlete growth is only enhanced by their experience in an athletic program. Hours of practice, preparation, travel and gym time provide plenty of added responsibility and for Allen, it has all led to her own personal development.
“It helped me grow a lot as a person,” said the fourth year. “Being 14 hours away from Arkansas I had to grow up fast. I feel like I matured a lot as a person, as a player on the court and it has just been one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.”
All that growth can be partially attributed to the environment and the culture in the women’s basketball program, but it is even more so a reflection of who Jae’Lisa Allen is.
“I think a lot of Jae and the hard work that she puts in on a daily basis,” said assistant coach La’Keshia Frett Meredith. “She has not always gotten the opportunities to play, but the resilience that she has shown has been awesome. She has come in and done so much for us that just can’t be seen by people on the outside. To see her mature as a young lady has been great and that’s why we do what we do ÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘Â¢ÃƒÆ’Ã†’Â¢’Â¬” to see that development in our student-athletes.”
For four years, Allen has shown up to the gym every day and poured herself into the women’s basketball program. Sure she has appeared in just 35 games, but there is much more to Allen than meets the eye on game day.
“People just see the games, but not necessarily the practice and preparation that goes into what we’re doing,” Frett Meredith said. “She shows up every day, even on bad days when she’s having a tough time, she’s fighting through just to be out here to help us and help her teammates. My hat goes off to her, several times, just for her effort on a daily basis and the resilience she shows as a person.
“I think it’s going to help her when she is finished here and out in the real world,” Frett Meredith continued. “You hope that the things they learn through athletics and the things they experience in this program will help them in their day-to-day lives once they’re finished playing basketball.”
An African American Studies major, Allen came upon her major much in the same fashion as her choice to attend Virginia.
“My second-year summer I took an African American Studies class and I just fell in love,” said Allen.
What exactly ignited that love?
“I would say my professor, Lisa Shutt,” said Allen. “She is an awesome professor and she made class so interesting, so I decided to major in it.”
For someone whose experience on Grounds has been so heavily influenced by her relationships and interactions with others, it is no surprise what Allen says is her favorite part of her UVA experience.
“Just being able to play with this group of girls,” Allen said. “They’re my sisters and I feel like that’s been the best part, just being with them every day. We joke a lot and I feel like if I’m having a bad day, they’re always there to pick me up.”
A two-way street, the Cavaliers have had an impact on Allen, but the fourth-year has likewise left an indelible impression with the program.
“I think how hard she worked every day even though things didn’t always go her way,” said Frett Meredith on what she will remember Allen by. “Just her presence, her smile and everything she gave to the program and to her teammates without always seeing the results she may have wanted.”