- By Tom Archdeacon columnist
Victoria Jones was dissecting her team the way no other college coach in the area can do.
“Quelle, that’s 00 out there (Laquelle Jacobs), she works at McDonald’s,” the Sinclair Community College women’s basketball coach said as she stood on the edge of the court during practice Thursday afternoon.
“Amanda (Schroeder) is a nanny. Alyssa (Bowman) works at Elsa’s and the Twin Towers (Madison Connally-Banks and Aaryn Evans), they work here in the equipment room. But I just heard Aaryn’s working at a gas station, too.”
These are in-season jobs for the Tartan Pride — in fact, Jones works at the Dayton Correctional Institution, too — but if you think the Sinclair women are all work and no play, well, you haven’t seen this bunch on the court.
Ranked No. 11 in the nation, Sinclair is 21-2 and has won 20 games in a row going into this afternoon’s 1 p.m. match-up with visiting Cuyahoga Community College.
Averaging 87.9 points per game, the Pride has the No. 5 offense in the nation (National Junior College Athletic Association Division II). It has scored 100 or more points eight times, a program record. It scored 130 against Hocking College and beat Clark State by 101 points (118-17), both records and both done while playing the backups on the nine-member roster half the game or more.
As for Schroeder, the 6-foot freshman guard from Carroll High School who babysits kids for a few Kettering and Springboro families, she’s the No. 2 scorer in the nation, averaging 27 points per game.
Evans — the 6-foot sophomore from Thurgood Marshall with two jobs — is the No. 6 rebounder in the nation, averaging 11.1 per game.
Connally-Banks, a 6-1 sophomore from Fairmont, already has three college offers for next season: Urbana University, Central State and Grambling State. Bowman, a freshman from Stebbins, is a 3-point shooting threat off the bench.
And Jacobs — who serves up Big Macs and quarter-pounders at the McDonald’s on Wilmington Pike — is a sometimes starter and a defensive stopper.
The players mostly work for extra spending money, though the three who live in apartments do it to help pay bills, too.
Since Sinclair doesn’t offer room and board and has no training table meals for the team, Jones primarily recruits local players so they can live at home. Some of their other school expenses can be handled by Pell grants, if players qualify for them.
Freshman Kierre James, the starting point guard from Lima Senior, and Jacobs, a 5-8 sophomore guard from Toledo Scott, are the only players from outside the Miami Valley.
They both have their own places, as does Evans, who just moved with a cousin into her own apartment.
“I’ve got rent to pay, a car note, insurance, DP&L, Spectrum, a lot of stuff,” Jacobs said. “My parents help, but I try to take on what I can. I’ve got a responsibility.”
Jones smiles at such talk: “I don’t think you’ll hear many D-I girls worrying about their DP&L bill.”
The added burdens the Sinclair players take on so they can be college ballplayers shows a special commitment to the sport. And this season that’s bringing unprecedented success.
“We are making some noise,” Jones admitted quietly, talking more to herself than anyone else as she watched her team hustle up and down the court.
She looked across the gym at the championship banners hanging from the ceiling.
“Look at those banners,” she said. “The last championship was 1994. The last tournament championship was 2003. And right now we’re in 2018.
“We are doing something special here this season.”
Pictures of pride
Jacobs — who said she primarily works on Sundays at McDonald’s — said not many of her co-workers know she’s a college basketball player. Neither did the patrons until she showed up recently wearing a Sinclair jacket that said women’s basketball on it.
“I had a customer who said, ‘Nice jacket, but you don’t really play for Sinclair, do you?’ ” she said. “I told him, ‘Actually, I do.’
“And then he started asking me all about the team.”
While her hoops exploits may remain a secret at the Kettering burger joint, that’s not the case back up in Toledo at Nitty’s Barbershop on W. Bancroft Street.
Her dad, Frank, is a longtime barber there and she said her family now lives above the shop.
“They’ve got two of our Sinclair posters up in there and there’s a picture of me in action that my mom took,” she smiled.
“Some of the people from the neighborhood know me and always ask how I’m doing. And other people come in and see the picture and go, ‘Oh Frank, is that your daughter? The basketball player? It’s something they all like to talk about.
“My grandmother ran a beauty shop on the south side of Toledo, so I was brought up in beauty shops and barbershops.”
So which one has the most gossip?
She started to laugh:
“Oh, I’d say the barbershop. You’d think the girls talk more, but to me the men are the ones with all the gossip.”
She said she missed home so much as a freshman — “I’m really close to my family” — that she went back to Toledo every weekend she could. That hurt her grades and Jones said she threatened to send her back home for good.
Jacobs had to retake a couple of classes and add another for credit — all on her own dime — to bring her grades up.
“She had a wellness class and one requirement was to run a 5K race, which she did one day right before one of our games,” Jones said. “But she made it and now she‘s really upped her grades. She’s the most improved player in my sophomore class.
“I’m really proud of her.”
Kierra James played for one of Jones’ former players from Cincinnati State. That was the connection to Sinclair. And even though she is just 5-foot-2 and came in out of shape, Jones liked “her toughness and heart.”
James — who said she has dropped 10 pounds since the season began — has started 19 games and is averaging 10.2 points.
“In our latest games, she’s been a big difference-maker,” said Jones, noting her 15.6 average the past four games.
James credits the Pride’s success to “us really being a team that’s unselfish. We actually get along with each other. We’ve built a chemistry this year.”
As for the long winning streak after a 1-2 start, she admitted: “We focus on each game, not on any records. We want to win a championship. But we know the streak is there and we don’t want to break what’s happening. We know it’s important to the program.”
And to the fans, including her mom, Lachelle, who, she said, raised her mostly on her own. She’s a juvenile probation officer in Allen County, but Kierre said she makes it to every Sinclair home game and some on the road.
“She’s in a motorcycle club, too,” she said. “Diamond Essence — it’s an all-female club out of Lima.”
Hearing that, Jones chimed in. “I’ve got a (Harley Davidson) Sportster. I’m gonna ride with her.”
More proof there’s not another team around here quite like Sinclair.