Two years ago, the BlueJackets had a winning record for the first time in school history, finishing the season with a 14-2 mark and making their first playoff appearance – a year after winning just two games. Last season, Farragut captured its first playoff victory with a 46-31 win over Sarasota Cardinal Mooney in the Class 3A Region Quarterfinals before losing to rival Calvary Christian in the next round.
A majority of the reason has been because of senior captain Charlissa Jenkins, who has gone from a raw talent playing organized basketball for the first time as a freshman at Gibbs High School in 2011 to a 6-foot-2 center that averaged 18 points per game and 20 rebounds per game last season. On Thursday, with her grandmother, two sisters, brother, and aunt in attendance, Jenkins validated her ascent by signing a letter-of-intent for a NCAA Division I scholarship to play next season at Gardner-Webb University, located in Boiling Springs, N.C.
“I never thought I’d be where I am today,” Charlisa said during an emotional signing day which was also attended by BlueJackets coach Julie Pickering and athletic director Matt Thompson.
“If I had not come (to Farragut), it’s hard to tell if I would be doing this (signing a scholarship letter) today.”
Charlisa, one of 16 siblings, has had to endure a somewhat rocky home life, but the St. Petersburg-resident has leaned on her brother, Rayshawn ’12, who helped the BlueJackets football team advance to the FHSAA Class 2A state championships in 2011. Rayshawn was a state champion hurdler who played offense, defense and special teams for the BlueJackets and now attends the University of Miami where he plays safety for the Hurricanes.
While Rayshawn has managed to have a communicative relationship with Charles Jenkins, the siblings’ father, Charlisa has had it differently. “It’s been a night and day type of thing,” said Charlisa, whose sister, Elise, and brother, Keyon, come from the same mother and father as Rayshawn and Charlisa. “It was different for Rayshawn and I don’t know why. But I don’t dwell on it. I just use it for motivation.”
Despite family hardships, the senior has used her time at Farragut as a place for growth and development – something far removed from what she feels could and would have happened had she stayed at Gibbs. Through her friendship with Noah Huntley ’15, she has also been able to secure her first job as a teenager, working on the weekends at the Wagon Wheel Flea Market, which the Huntley family owns.
“Every day at Gibbs, I had to turn my head right and left to make sure no one was about to start a fight,” Charlisa said. “Every morning, right after the morning bell would ring, there was always a fight happening in the hallways, usually over the most petty of stuff. Being here has been a blessing. It has changed my life.”
Leaning on Rayshawn, who is the first in the family to attend college, has been helpful as well.
“He is so kind-hearted and is there for me all the time,” said Charlisa, who talks to her brother daily either on the phone or through social media. “When I was making a decision on where to go to college, he told me to make the decision based on where I felt most at home, where I would be the most happy, where I would be able to develop as a person, student and athlete.”
Pickering said Charlisa has gone from being a player and person with a lack of maturity on and off the court, to someone possessing maturity and purpose.
“Her words carry meaning now,” said Pickering, who is in her second year at Farragut after a stellar four-year career at Eckerd College. “She was a completely raw talent two, three years ago. She didn’t understand what a drop set was, any post moves. She has a complete game now. And more importantly, she has developed from a leadership standpoint. She still has her moments emotionally, but she has learned how to direct them in an appropriate way with purpose.”