COLUMBUS (AP) — Ohio’s 2016 Ms. Basketball went from virtual unknown to coveted college prospect nearly overnight last summer.
So maybe it was appropriate that Hannibal River High School’s Jensen Caretti wasn’t familiar with the Associated Press award until she was told she was a nominee.
“I heard of it today,” she said with a laugh Monday.
“It’s a pretty big honor,” she said, adding, “It feels great being nominated.”
On Wednesday, she was announced as the 29th winner of the statewide award, continuing an amazing rise over the past year that started on the AAU circuit.
“I went to one tournament in Cincinnati and there were a lot of (Division I) college coaches there and they weren’t allowed to contact me until the day after the tournament was over. Then they all just called at once on one day,” she said. “I had like 30 coaches call me in one day, so it was pretty hectic.”
A 6-foot-1 guard, Caretti said she prefers passing to scoring, but she is adept at both, and much more.
She averaged 25.1 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and four steals per game in the regular season, and the Pilots finished 21-5 with a loss to perennial powerhouse Berlin Hiland in a Division IV district final.
Her next stop will be Ohio State, where she signed in November after fielding more than 50 offers from Division I schools. Almost none of them knew about her when her junior season wrapped up last year.
Pilots coach Rick Isaly knew early he had a potential Division I prospect on his hands — “by far the best player I’ve ever coached” — and he acknowledged surprise that it took so long for many others to notice.
“I guess it takes being in the right spot at the right time for people to see,” he said.
It happened when they played in a tournament last year and a Cleveland-area team saw her, which led to her getting connected with the AAU coach who took her last summer and helped her get exposure, Isaly said.
That led to a recruiting process that her mother, Sharon, describes as overwhelming at times. “But it was exciting to see and learn all the new and different colleges and coaches and to see all the different schools we got to go to,” she said.
One of 11 adopted children in her family, Caretti plans to major in sports management.
She ultimately narrowed her list of schools to four before picking the Buckeyes over Pittsburgh, North Carolina and South Carolina.
“I wanted to stay closer to home,” she said. “I’ll be able to see my parents more often. They’ll be able to come see me play and then I’m used to living in an area of less than 400 people and I’m used to going to a school with 250 students, so I think the move to Columbus is going to be a drastic change. I’m going to have to get used to it, but that’s just another obstacle I’ll have to face.”
Caretti is the third Ms. Basketball winner signed by Ohio State in the last five years.
Next year she will team with 2014 winner Kelsey Mitchell, a point guard from Cincinnati Princeton, and perhaps help fill the void left by graduating senior Ameryst Alston, a guard from Canton McKinley who won the award in 2011 and 2012.
A state media panel chose Caretti as the winner from a strong field that also included finalists Nia Staples of West Chester Lakota West, Jodi Johnson of Wadsworth, Deja Winters of Richmond Heights, Lexie Barrier of Ironton, Byrdy Galernik of Toledo Central Catholic and Shayna Harmon of Ashville Teays Valley.
Caretti is the first winner from the OHSAA’s East district and the third from southeast Ohio, joining Logan’s Katie Smith in 1992 and Beaver Eastern’s Marlene Stollings in ‘93.