California phenom gets Vandy career underway

Freshman basketball player Jenn Hall, it turns out, has already won one championship in Memorial Gym-- as a 12-year-old. Now, as a member of Melanie Balcomb's Commodores, the McDonald's All-American from Folsom, Calif. hopes before she's done to bring a couple more championship trophies to Nashville.

VM: Your name is Jennifer Hall. Do people mostly call you "Jennifer" or "Jenn"?

Jenn: Jenn.

VM: How did you come to be at Vanderbilt?

Jenn: Well, it took a long time to get here. It was a long process to get through all the colleges to come to the decision of choosing Vanderbilt.

VM: When did Vanderbilt first appear on your list?

Jenn: Actually, pretty late in the process because I was mostly looking at California schools, but I was really looking for the competition like the SEC and a great education. There were very good schools, but I was looking for the best of both worlds, and Coach Balcomb called me pretty early on after Coach Foster had left, right after she transferred over here.

VM: So was it your contact with her that led you to first seriously be looking at Vanderbilt?

Jenn: Yeah. I was talking to Coach Foster, and I really liked Coach Foster a lot, he's an awesome coach and I look up to him a lot. And then I heard he was moving to Ohio State, so then I started looking at Ohio State because he was there.

I didn't know too much about Coach Balcomb, and my family did a lot of research, especially my mom. She was on the Internet every day finding out about Coach Balcomb, Xavier, all those places, so I got to know her pretty well, where she's been, all that kind of stuff, what kind of a coach she is, how she was undefeated against Pat Summitt. All those facts started building up and building up, so my interest started to get greater and greater in Vanderbilt. And then I started talking to her more. I really want to be a coach when I grow up, and I don't think there's any coach I'd rather play for than Coach Balcomb.

VM: When did you make your decision? Did it hit you all at once, or was it more of a logical process?

Jenn: I had actually gone on eleven unofficial visits. Eleven different schools. We took a road trip back here to the east. We came here, and then my mom and I drove to Indianapolis, then to Purdue, to Notre Dame, then we went to Ohio State. So we took road trips, and my whole family got to go on the last one, but they didn't get to go here. It was awesome because Chantelle was here, and Ashley Mac was here, and we did a lot of stuff when I was here so it was really cool. It was an unofficial. We thought it was really important to go on an unofficial because that's how they really are. On the official they make it so it is a big deal. We wanted to get them just how they were so we took a road trip.

VM: After you had your unofficial here, is that when you verballed?

Jenn: No, I really didn't know. It was really far away from home. It's a 36-hour drive, so it's a long ways. But I just felt that God really helped guide me and my parents, and my personal trainer really helped guide me through the process. Even though it is 3,000 miles away, I really felt like this is where I really belong with Coach Balcomb and the great coaching staff and the team.

It's really ironic. I was here in 1996 playing in the Nike Lady Footlocker Free for All. I was in sixth grade, and I won a national championship here, the national championship for 12-and-under. So Coach Balcomb found that out, and she was like, "How about two national championships on one court?" and I was like, "Oh geez."

I would never have expected to come back. But I have pictures from it. It just shows that God has a reason for everything. There's actually a picture of my dad and I sitting over there, and he wants to get the same exact picture as six years ago when he comes for a game. My twin brother's coming here, too.

VM: Is he here yet?

Jenn: No, he'll come in the fall.

VM: You're been here two weeks and a little over. What do you think?

Jenn: I've dreamed of college since second grade. I think it's awesome, just to be able to work out with the team. I've been working out with a personal trainer for about four years.

VM: Has it been a pretty seamless transition from what your personal training was doing to what Lori does here?

Jenn: He really prepared me. I feel like I really know and understand what I'm doing. I've done it for so long. There are a couple of new things, but with the plyometrics and a lot of that stuff, I've already done a lot of it, so it really really helped. He played at Temple University on a football scholarship, so he's been through the whole college thing and recruiting with football. So he really helped with the insight and always keeping my mind there every time we worked out -- "they're going to be like this", telling me how it was going to be and stuff like that.

VM: You worked with him for four years, all the way through high school?

Jenn: Yeah. It was great. And my dad was coaching me when I wasn't playing for high school. My parents have always been there, and my brother. They've always supported me through everything.

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