Jackie Patterson told herself she wasn’t going to play junior college basketball out of high school.
Turns out, it may have been the best thing for her.
Patterson, tabbed the preseason Big 12 Conference Women’s Basketball Newcomer of the Year, honed her skills for two years at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College before transferring to Tech for her final two years of eligibility.
“We looked at Jackie coming out of high school,” Tech coach Kristy Curry said, “and felt like there were some areas that she needed to improve at.”
Patterson, a 2010 Frisco Wakeland High School graduate, signed with Wichita State but never played a minute for the Shockers, transferring out after one summer because it just wasn’t the right fit, she said.
Patterson’s twin sister, Jasmine, was taking the juco route at Hutchinson, so Patterson called coach John Ontjes to see if she could enroll — getting over the mentality of not wanting to play at a junior college.
“I talked to coach (Ontjes) — I didn’t want to transfer to another D-I and sit out,” Patterson said. “I went there, proved my game and now I’m — I don’t want to say big time — but I’m in the big conferences.”
Patterson, who rotated from small forward to center for Hutchinson, could have gone almost anywhere after her two years in Kansas.
She said every Big 12 Conference school, except Baylor and newcomer West Virginia, wanted her, and she also garnered interest from Southeastern Conference schools.
Curry and the Lady Raiders liked what they saw out of the older Patterson, and were in the hunt to sign the all-American.
“I think she just got so much better,” said Curry, who envisions Patterson in the power forward position. “She had only scratched the surface coming out of high school, great raw talent, but she’s really worked hard on her 12-to-15 foot jump shot, and working on a putback underneath, free throws — she’s just improved so much.”
Patterson believes the most improved aspect of her game is her rebounding. She averaged more than eight rebounds a game at Hutchinson.
The Lady Raiders lost top scorer and rebounder Kierra Mallard, leaving a hole at forward for which Patterson hopes to compete. Patterson said she will rotate with Kelsi Baker, who also has shown marked improvement in the offseason.
Patterson said she remembered Curry’s recruitment of her coming out of high school, so she was eager to listen to what the Lady Raiders had to offer.
“(Curry) didn’t really know if I was going to be ready coming out of high school,” Patterson said. “I kind of knew she liked me, so that gave it a plus. Curry, she’s just a nice lady. She’s a mom type — well, off the court. You can talk to her and she’ll be honest with you.”
Patterson said she worked hard with Ontjes while at Hutchinson to improve her game, hoping to transfer to a Division-I school after two years in Kansas.
She helped lead the Lady Blue Dragons to the NJCAA title game last season and a No. 2 ranking, falling to No. 1 Trinity Valley for their only loss.
“(Ontjes) pulled me aside and was like, ‘If you come in extra, I’m going to make you a better player,’” Patterson said. “... So I took that advice, went in and got better every day.”
Patterson averaged 16.1 points, 8.25 rebounds and 2.3 assists in her two years at Hutchinson. She was a second-team all-American in her first season and a first-teamer after her sophomore year.
“Jackie was an immediate impact kid for us at our level,” Ontjes said. “Very athletic, could score with her back to the basket and facing the basket — just was a kid that has a lot of athleticism.”
While Patterson is a newcomer to the Lady Raiders, she already knew some familiar faces in Lubbock.
Tech assistant coach Katie Hensle coached Patterson’s AAU team for three seasons, getting to know the forward well. Freshman Lady Raider Minta Spears also played with Patterson on Team Texas.
Hensle said Patterson’s mid-range shot, coupled with her athleticism, makes her an exciting addition to the Lady Raiders.
“The first time I saw her play,” Hensle said. “I knew she would be special.”
Patterson and the rest of the Lady Raiders host an exhibition at 2 p.m. Nov. 4 in United Spirit Arena before starting the season Nov. 11 at Arizona State.
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