HELENA -- When Jamie Pickens was 9 years old, after qualifying for her second Elks National Free Throw Contest in Massachusetts, she told the Independent Record she had two goals: “To grow up to be tall and to play basketball for the University of Montana.”
Check and check.
When Pickens made Helena High’s varsity hoops team two years ago as a freshman, she measured 6-feet-0, and now as a Bengal junior has grown to 6-2.
And over the weekend, she made a verbal commitment to Montana head coach Shannon Schweyen to play for the Lady Griz basketball team.
“It’s just so nice to have it done with, it’s been a long journey,” said Pickens, who has received a “shoebox full” of college offers in the mail. “I’ve always known where I wanted to go … my grandparents lived in Missoula, I’ve watched them play for years, and we’re friends with Shannon’s family. It’s just a really cool feeling.”
Along the way of her journey were conversations with D-1 colleges such as Gonzaga University, Montana State, Boise State, Colorado State, San Diego State, the University of San Diego and Utah Valley; and of course hometown NAIA Carroll College.
As a sophomore last year, Pickens helped the Lady Bengals win their first State basketball championship in 20 years.
She was selected to the all-state team at her post position, where she ranked in the top three in the AA in three categories; first with a .510 field goal percentage (107 for 210), No. 2 in rebounding at 8.9 boards per game, and third in scoring with a 14.9 point average.
Pickens was also listed in the state’s top 10 in four other categories, including third in free throws made (79), fifth in blocks (32) and tied for eighth in 3-point percentage (.375, 6 for 16).
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After HHS defeated Missoula Sentinel – and two of her summer travel team buddies, Lady Spartans Jordyn Schweyen and Kylie Frohlich – 46-41 in the State chipper, Pickens was chosen to the all-tournament team, posting averages of 10.7 points and 8.3 rebounds.
ESPN has ranked her the 59th best hoopster in the nation for her class, and 13th at her position.
“Montana is getting a really good basketball player, who happens to be an even better person,” said Helena coach Eric Peterson, the AA’s 2017 Coach of the Year. “Jamie is a naturally gifted athlete, who is also the consummate teammate. What people don’t see is all of the extra hours she has put in the gym, and the scary part is she has yet to hit her ceiling.
“We’re very lucky to have her in our program, and we’re happy she doesn’t have to play the next two years worrying about where she’s going to play in college.”
An all-around athlete, Pickens is on schedule for 12 varsity letters for HHS; four each in volleyball, basketball and softball. To date she has already garnered three all-state selections – two in softball and one in basketball.
“I just love the campus, it’s really pretty, and Missoula has been my second home my whole life,” she related, in reference to choosing UM. “I’m really excited about playing there with Jordyn and Kylie, they’re seniors and have committed, also.
“And the school offers great opportunities for what I want to study -- health and human performance. I want to be a P.A., and that’ll help with that.”
Jamie, whose parents are Mike and Lisa Pickens, sports a 3.7 GPA in the classroom.