Oregon guard chooses Lady Vols

The Lady Vols added a third commit to their 2013 class when Jordan Reynolds chose Tennessee, a place she called her "dream school." Go inside to hear from the Oregon guard and her mother about the decision.

Tennessee has blazed its own Oregon Trail, albeit in reverse, this week when it got a second commitment from the West Coast state in Jordan Reynolds, a 5-11 combo guard from Portland.

Reynolds, whose other finalists included Louisville, Ohio State and USC, announced at a press conference Friday at a youth center in her hometown that she would attend Tennessee.

The decision thrilled both Reynolds and her mother, Kimberly James, who played basketball at the University of San Diego. James is a longtime Tennessee fan and while she stayed out of her daughter's decision-making process – Reynolds didn't make up her mind until Thursday night – she was elated with the choice.

"I am on Cloud 99999," James said in a telephone interview with Inside Tennessee. "It was a long road, but I am so grateful. Tennessee is what her dream has been. I am elated and ecstatic. Here we come Tennessee."

Reynolds also grew up a Tennessee fan – she watched the Lady Vols on television with her mother – but she had plenty of suitors and she wanted to be certain of her choice.

When close friend and summer basketball teammate Mercedes Russell, a 6-6 center from Springfield, Oregon, committed to the Lady Vols on Tuesday, that made Reynolds' decision a little bit easier.

"Jordan didn't really display emotion when Mercedes committed because she was still in the midst of it all," James said. "But myself, inside, I just exploded with joy because I knew it would make it a little bit more tempting to join her teammate who she knows. She understands her game already."

Reynolds acknowledged that the Russell commitment had an effect on her.

"It pushed them up even further because it's someone that I got to know over the past couple of years, someone to go in with, I thought, ‘I get to go play with one of my teammates,' " Reynolds said.

Still, Reynolds needed to make her own decision.

"I actually made it (Thursday) night talking to my mother," Reynolds said. "Tennessee came out on top of everyone because it's always been my dream school and to go to my dream school with one of my teammates, I thought, ‘You know what? Can't nothing get better than that.' "

Reynolds plays for Central Catholic in Portland and fits the mold of guard that Tennessee has been recruiting lately – athletic and able to score and defend.

James was a center for San Diego, and Reynolds apparently got her hops from her mother.

"I was a center because I had great leaping ability," James said, to much laughter from her sisters, who were sitting nearby. "I am not really tall, but I had leaping ability so I played inside."

Reynolds, who is edging closer to 6 feet tall, got a healthy dose of those athletic genes. James is admittedly biased, but she does know the game and could discuss her daughter's strengths and weaknesses.

"She dominates with that first step," James said. "If she catches her defender off guard with that first step, she will blow by her, and it's over. She will make her way to the rim."

Reynolds is close to being able to grab the rim – "she is trying to dunk," her mother said with a sigh – and is explosive.

"She has got an explosive game and she's very graceful in her game," James said. "She has a nice jumper, great speed, and she's a tall guard. She can see over the smaller players and, if she had it her way, she would be a better passer than shooter or anything else. She likes to get the assists."

James played college ball so she knows the next level is a major adjustment for any player just out of high school.

"It's a whole different ballgame," James said. "She has to learn to be more assertive and be more aggressive on the outside shot. She has to take the shot and not second-guess herself.

"And then she has to not be afraid to have body contact and go inside and make that floater or that finger roll. She has got to be able to get inside, even in traffic. That is something that her coach, Michael Abraham with Team Concept, has really pushed her to do – make contact with people, it's OK, and if you fall down, you fall down, get back up and do it again."

Mother and daughter both became Tennessee fans for the reasons so many others did – the presence of Pat Summitt. When Summitt announced in August of 2011 that she had early onset dementia – she retired last April and is now head coach emeritus – both were saddened by the news.

"When we heard the news, her heart sank because she idolizes her and emulates Pat Summitt," James said. "She has her on a pedestal amongst no other. When we heard the news we were more heartbroken about her illness than anything because we were concerned about her health.

"But it didn't shake the Tennessee name too much."

That is a tribute to what Summitt built that a rising high school junior across the country could hear the news a year ago and keep Tennessee on her list. Reynolds ultimately realized her love for Tennessee hadn't changed when the head coach changed. Summitt's longtime assistant, Holly Warlick, is now at the helm.

"You have a legacy," James said. "You have the winningest program in the United States. The foundation speaks for itself, and we were very confident that Holly who has been there with her the whole is going to carry on this tradition.

"We are very, very, very confident that the legacy will continue, and Jordan will just get to be a phenomenal part of that."

It was Summitt, of course, that made Reynolds first take a look at the Lady Vols.

"Absolutely," Reynolds said. "Pat Summitt is the name of Tennessee. They set the bar high for women's sports for a long time."

Reynolds took an official visit two weeks ago, and she used that trip to make sure Tennessee still resonated with her, even with Summitt no longer on the sidelines.

"I got to get a feel for it and on my official visit I was very comfortable with everyone there, the coaches, staff, the facilities and the team," Reynolds said. "It already felt like home so I thought I might as well make my decision now."

James wasn't concerned about the distance from Portland to Knoxville – for the record, it's nearly 2,600 miles – because an older daughter has already made the trek and then some when Ariel Reynolds went to junior college in Florida to play basketball. She now plays for Utah.

"She adjusted well," James said. "She was homesick maybe one or two days and she told lil' sis, ‘You can do it. I did it. And mom will come. Mom will be there. Mom will support you.' The family loves to travel. We travel a lot so for us this is just a new place to visit. We are ecstatic."

Reynolds wasn't concerned about being nearly all the way across the country.

"I am used to the travel," she said. "Our AAU team travels so much during the summer so I think that it will be a bit of an adjustment at first but I am looking forward to it. I am looking forward to getting out of the state and go see new things."

Reynolds, who will sign her LOI on Nov. 16, said she intends to enroll at Tennessee next June in the summer session.

"Absolutely," Reynolds said. "I plan to go right when school ends, get in in June and start right away."

Reynolds was the Class 6A Player of the Year in Oregon last season and averaged 18.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 4.9 steals per game as a junior. She is looking forward to her senior year, especially with her college decision now made.

"I am very relieved that it is over with now," she said. "I can finally focus on trying to win a championship with my teammate Kailee Johnson (who is Stanford-bound). I am just glad it's all over now. We can both now enjoy our senior year."

Reynolds hasn't yet met the third commit to Tennessee from the class of 2013, Jannah Tucker, a wing from Maryland.

"I have heard she's a great player, and I can't wait to become teammates with her," Reynolds said.

Warlick has filled three spots with the three commits – a tall center, a versatile guard and an athletic wing. They will join nine returning players for the Lady Vols.

"I looked into that because that was an important part of my decision as to who I was going to play with for the next four years," Reynolds said.

Tennessee might not be done yet. Two other 2013s are on the recruiting board in guard Tyler Scaife, who is from Arkansas, and Kendall Cooper, who is from California.

However, a class of Russell, Tucker and Reynolds could already be the top-rated one in the country. Adding one or both of the above players would be the proverbial icing on the cake.

James is such a Tennessee fan that she wore orange this week.

"A little mental telepathy," James said with a laugh. "I am a huge fan and a huge follower, and we've always loved the school and the program. This is a dream come true for her and for me. I didn't get that far but now I'm going to Rocky Top."

James grew up in Springfield, Oregon, and played college basketball in the state of California. So how did she – and then her daughter – become such tremendous Tennessee fans?

"They are one of the nationally televised women's team," James said. "For me when I was growing up you didn't see a lot of women's basketball on TV and if you did, it was Tennessee, it was Stanford, it was Duke, and that's what we knew. I began following them as a girl and my girls, when they came on TV, I would turn it on and make sure they were watching, because if they wanted to go to the next level I wanted them to see how it's done.

"And that is exactly what we did. Put them in front of the TV and said, ‘This is Tennessee.' And it caught hold."


Jordan Reynolds' highlights from OregonLive.com

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