MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Jayla Hemingway graduated from Houston High School in Tennessee as a decorated prep player.
She scored 2,599 points in her high school career. She averaged 22.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.2 steals and 1.9 assists per game her senior season, and was named the 2019 Gatorade Tennessee Player of the Year.
Hemingway, a four-star recruit, was rewarded with a scholarship to Mississippi State, which has been one of the most successful programs in the country over the last six seasons.
After a year in Starkville, Hemingway entered the transfer portal. She wound up at West Virginia, in hopes of a new start to her career. The story of how she arrived in Morgantown is unique.
“People always ask me why I chose West Virginia,” Hemingway said Monday, ahead of WVU’s season opener. “It was during COVID. I never visited the school [before] I got here. I still chose West Virginia before I even showed up to Morgantown, [or] even knew where Morgantown was.”
Hemingway played in 23 games for Mike Carey last season, and started each of the last eight games of the year. Despite missing some time with an injury, she shot 50 percent or better from the floor in seven games, and made every shot she took in three games.
“When I felt that comfortable to come here without ever really being here, I kind of knew that I had found my place,” Hemingway said. “All the players were really welcoming. Coach Carey and his staff, they were all welcoming. They all made me fell like I was at home.”
She averaged 4.2 points per game, and tallied a season-high 12 points on the road at Iowa State in February.
Fast forward to now, Hemingway is in her junior season, and will be looked at as one of the go-to players in Carey’s rotation.
“Coach Carey let me know that, ‘We recruited you here because of how you play your game. When you get here, just play your game,'” she said. “I don’t think coach Carey would bring anybody here and not let them play how they play.”
Hemingway is one of eight returning players on a roster that also has seven newcomers. She says she gets more comfortable every day she’s in Morgantown.
It’s also about getting more comfortable in her game, and learning how she can best help her teammates when on the court.
Year No. 2 for Hemingway at WVU officially gets started on Tuesday against Saint Francis (Pa.).