On December 1, Whitewater seniors Courtney Smith and Jada Claude made history at the Queens of the Hardwood Showcase.
In front of their home faithful and among a host of elite teams and players, the dynamic duo each eclipsed 1,000 career points against Douglas County High School. They joined former star and current assistant coach Jada Coggins as the only Lady Wildcats to reach the milestone in school history.
“It feels great to accomplish something in high school alongside with Jada (Claude) and Jada Coggins, our assistant coach,” Smith said. “It feels good to be the second and third to ever do it in school history.”
It was apropos that Smith and Claude accomplished the milestone on the same day. Since middle school, they have been linked together on the court.
Back then, it was Smith leading the Bennett’s Mill Broncos against Claude’s Whitewater Middle School Wildcats squad. The games were always close with Claude trying to slow down Smith at the rim.
“She really surprised me on defense and on the offensive end,” Claude said.
The duo eventually formed a strong friendship that carried them into high school. The chemistry was evident as they dominated against top competition.
“It feels amazing playing with Courtney as she is one of the best guards in the region,” Claude said. “I am glad I got to play these last four years with her.”
On the court, Smith quickly developed into a perennial scorer with a knack for getting to the free-throw line. In 73 career games, she has shot 36 percent from the field and 73 percent from the charity stripe.
The numbers made her a three-time All-Region and All-County honoree. She also was the 2017 Queens of the Hardwood MVP and has a 4.0 GPA.
“I had to attack more with the help of my teammates (this season),” Smith said.
Claude had similar success in her own right. The talented forward grew by leaps and bounds from her freshman season. She has transitioned from a primary post player into a perimeter dual threat.
The move was beneficial as Claude started to reach her full potential. After winning All-County Freshman of the Year, Claude posted back-to-back seasons of double-digit points and rebounds. She has also been named the 2017 Region Player of the Year, All-County Defensive Player of the Year, and is a 4.0 student as well.
This season, she has carried the offensive load alongside Smith. Claude is averaging 18.3 points and 13.2 rebounds. She also improved her playmaking abilities with 3 assists per game.
As a result, Whitewater has jumped out to a 6-5 start and is in a position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2015. Head coach Rashad Muhyee wants to make sure they can get back postseason again.
“Since they walked in the door as freshmen, I knew what I was getting when they were in eighth grade,” Muhyee said. “They’re outstanding and I am glad I got a couple more games with them.”
One reason to like the Wildcats chances is due to the return of Coggins to the team. She has been instrumental in helping develop the roster. Her experience has rubbed off on both Smith and Claude as they have taken on more of a leadership role.
“They brought a new love for the game back for me,” Coggins said. “Watching them be able to go, execute, and do things that I have done shows that the legacy continues and what we are building is working.”
The Wildcats have under two months left in the season. Games are still on the horizon against region foes Fayette County, Starr’s Mill, and McIntosh. Each game will be important for both seniors to finish the year on a good note.
“I think we will improve on the little things, and that will help us win more games in the region,” Claude said.
After the season, both players hope to make the leap to college. Claude hasn’t decided what school she will attend, but will make her choice soon. Smith hopes to practice sports medicine to pursue her passion.
“After basketball, I want to go into sports medicine,” Smith said. “I want to still be in sports, but in the medical field. I am willing to go wherever I can get my degree at.”
Wherever they end up, the duo will continue to blaze a trail few have seen in the county.
“I am very proud of them, and they have grown so much in these four years,” Muyhee said. “I can’t wait to see them play in college as I know both will have the opportunity.”