A four-year starter for Whitewater, Jada Claude has designs for a groundbreaking senior season before making the transition to the collegiate level. (Staff Photos by Christopher Dunn)

Whitewater Lady Wildcats senior forward Jada Claude’s humble beginnings didn’t start on a basketball court. Instead, it started with a single conversation.

In the seventh grade, Claude was just a regular student at Whitewater Middle School. Sports weren’t really on her radar as she enjoyed the advantages that came with adolescence. It wasn’t uncommon to see her chilling on the couch, watching television, and smacking on snacks.

“I was just a normal kid going home and eating chips,” Jada laughed.

Everything was status quo for Claude until two words changed her entire life. As she was walking to class, she stopped at the mention of her name.

“Hey Jada!” fluttered through the channels of the hallway. Claude stopped and recognized the voice of her middle school’s basketball coach. As Claude sauntered over, she was met with a proposition. The deal was to join the basketball team as a post player.

“I actually wasn’t into basketball as I wanted to run track,” Jada said. “My middle school basketball coach asked me to do it and I was like why not?”

Still, she had to run it by her parents. To her surprise, they all agreed with her picking up the sport.

“My dad and my mom never really pushed me towards basketball,” Jada said. “They always knew I was going to be a tall kid. When I grew up, they were like ‘you might as well try it.’”

A couple weeks later, Claude took her first steps onto the court. In her debut, she established herself as a defensive maven that collected rebounds and blocks.

As the season wore on, she established her game offensively. She eventually broke out with 15 points in a victory over Bennett’s Mill. Her star power was magnified two years later with a dazzling AAU showcase against top athletes.

“The game I knew I could play at the next level was in AAU when I scored 20 points,” Claude said.

Claude grown leaps and bounds in her game. She is a perennial triple threat with the ability to find her own shot or create for others. In 79 career games, she is averaging a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. She also is swatting 2.4 blocks per game.

“When Jada walked in the door her freshman year, she was mainly a defensive post player,” Whitewater head coach Rashad Muhyee said. “Because of her work ethic, she has become an all-around player. She works defensively in the post, the wing, and as a guard wherever we need her.”

Muhyee credits Claude’s work ethic as the main reason for her success. Claude agrees and said that it wouldn’t been possible without the support of her family. From morning practices to holiday workouts, she always had someone that can guide her along the way.

“My dad (Yves Claude) is probably my one of my number one supporters,” Claude said. “He drives me places and makes sure I get to practice on time. He is very instrumental in everything I do.”

One of Jada’s workouts includes playing against her older brother, Isaiah. He played at Whitewater and was a strong finisher at the rim. The duo spent hours working on different post moves and strategies to attack bigger defenders.

“My brother is 6-foot-5 and has really long arms and is really quick,” Jada said. “He helped me shoot over bigger defenders and not be scared to go up.”

The training helped Jada become quicker off the floor and swift at defending the rim. She has used those revamped skills this season. She already has two 20-20 games, and her biggest output was a 30-point, 22-rebound performance against Hampton High School.

Several college programs have started to take notice. ESPN ranks her as a three-star prospect in the 2019 class. Recruiters like the fact she has several All-Region awards and was the 2017 All-County Defensive Player of the Year.

“One of the things (college recruiters) are excited about is how she fully changed from a post position to a wing,” Yves Claude said. “That is just because of her hard work and she is looking to take that hard work she has been developing all these years and bring it into her final season.”

Here in her sophomore season, Claude quickly developed as a defender and shot blocker.

Jada’s final act should be a memorable one. She has a chance to continue her ascension by becoming the first Whitewater Lady Wildcat to accumulate 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in a career.

Yves couldn’t be happier to see the person his daughter has become. She is a star student on and off the court, and he believes her faith and her desire to get better will carry her far into the future.

“Her mindset and her heart is focused on doing the right things in her relationship with God,” Yves said. “It’s the most important thing and she also wants to maintain her 3.98 GPA and be a great student.”

Jada isn’t expected to announce her college commitment until early next year. She has some favorites, but she is letting the process play out. She wants to make the best decision for her future for all involved.

“It’s actually been pretty good as I never expected the amount of colleges to come at me,” Claude said. “It’s been going pretty well, and I’ve just got to make the right decision.”

Wherever she ends up, she will have the support of her family on her side. She will also have the chance to make an impact on all those around her.

“A couple colleges said to me we will never have to worry about paying for your daughter in college,” Yves said. “She is doing enough hard work on her own that she is already taken care of. I am grateful and excited.”