For the past three seasons, Jayana Sanders has been a staple in the Dollarway Lady Cardinals' basketball program. Wednesday morning, Sanders signed her letter of intent to further her basketball career at the University of Alabama.
During her time as a Lady Cardinal, Sanders' leadership ability has grown tremendously.
"My time at Dollarway was a good experience for me," Sanders said. "Taking the position and the role of a leader was big for me. You have to deal with the good and the bad, and you want to put your team on top. The way I dealt with leadership is putting my team first, and by keeping us as one. When we fell apart I'd always work to get things back together. I just worked hard, putting up 100 shots at a time, and striving to be the best I could be."
This past season, Sanders led the state in scoring with 28.7 points per game, shooting 45 percent from the field. The Lady Cardinals fell short in the state tournament, but in the post season, Sanders was able to catch the eyes of major division I schools across the country.
Sanders originally verbally committed to play at Arkansas Tech on Feb. 9, but at that point she was still flying under the radar. That Arkansas Tech commitment came a couple days after she recorded 51 points against Barton. After that performance, she began to pick up interest from the likes of Seton Hall, Portland, Arkansas State, Alabama and others. On Feb. 15 in the first round of the 8-4A district tournament, Sanders scored 51 points again, and that was enough to convince Alabama she needed to become part of their program.
From that point, Alabama Head Coach Kristy Curry and staff kept in touch with Sanders on a regular basis, and they gave her the opportunity to make an official visit on March 9. The same day of the visit, Curry offered Sanders a scholarship, and it didn't take long for her to decide she will spend her next four years as a member of the Crimson Tide.
On her visit, Sanders felt at home, and she connected with the Crimson Tide players and coaching staff. On March 10, Sanders verbally committed to Alabama.
"Alabama started reaching out to me after my big performances late in the season," Sanders said. "What separated them from most of the schools that recruited me is that they came to me as a family. They let it be known that they would take me in and make me a better player. That's where I found my heart at, and I really connected with the players that are already there."
Dollarway Lady Cardinals Head Coach James Jones expressed the fact that Sanders isn't just a great player on the court, but she's a wonderful person off the court as well.
"She was a team player that never wanted be looked at as a ball hog," Jones said. "This year she actually had to do a lot by herself, and she's a leader on and off the court. When we went on trips she made sure everyone was in line, and that's the kind of person she is. She represents Dollarway real well in so many ways."
As for the next level, Jones believes it'll be a smooth transition for Sanders.
"I expect for her to make an immediate impact," Jones said. "Her coach already said it's up to her, and Jayana knows what's ahead of her. It won't be hard for her to learn the system because of her work ethic and her dedication. She's a gym rat that you sometimes have to run out the gym. She's always working to get better, and they're getting a great player at Alabama."