Wheeling’s Jaden Terrell Commits to Davenport to “Do Big Things”

Less than a week after Davenport offered him a full-ride scholarship, Jaden Terrell knew it was the place for him.

The Wheeling senior had been in conversations with the program for months, visiting the school’s Grand Rapids campus prior to officially being offered. After the coaching staff told the 6-7 wing he had a full-ride scholarship waiting for him, there was little doubt in Terrell’s mind.

“I was very excited at the time,” he said in a phone interview. “Knowing what I knew about the school, and the coaches and the players, I was pretty set on Davenport. … I felt like I could trust the coaches. I felt that when I go there I could do big things, help the team out a lot. And just thrive and progress in life.”

The decision was locked in after getting advice from his sister Timber, who went through her own recruiting and plays volleyball at Arkansas State.

“She said, ‘You’ll know if a coach really wants you if they’re always talking to you,'” he said. “‘They’ll tell you that you can be a player like one of their past really good players, and how you can play a really good role on the team.'”

Though he had that feeling with Davenport, the recruiting journey was far from straightforward for Terrell, impacted by the pandemic like so many other student-athletes. As he told the Daily Herald, he had two Division I offers pulled due to a lack of roster spots caused by extended eligibility with current players. Opportunities to showcase his game, especially after growing three inches recently, were limited. Now, the high-school season is on hold.

It didn’t stop him from working towards his goals of playing college basketball.

“I’ve been going to the gym with my dad a lot, a private gym,” Terrell said. “Mornings, at night, sometimes during my lunch through school. Mostly just practicing shots from the outside. Working on my handles. And learning different tips on defense and rebounding.”

The progression of Terrell’s game has been swift throughout high school. As a sophomore he played mostly on JV. A year later, he led Wheeling’s varsity team in scoring at 13 points per game. If he gets the chance to play a senior season, he expects to be a more well-rounded scorer, as well as to take a bigger role in team leadership.

He said it was a change in mentality that allowed him to grow quickly. In the summer before junior year, Terrell said he got a confidence boost from Walter Fisher (“Coach Fish”) while playing in his first tournament for Right Way Athletics.

“He was getting on me and everything saying, ‘If you have the open shot, shoot the ball,'” Terrell said. “‘You’re known as a shooter, I need you to shoot the ball. That’s your role.’ So I always just went by that. … The second tournament showed what I could really do [when I wasn’t] thinking about everything.”

Terrell is taking that increased confidence and skill to one of the best Division II teams in the country. The Panthers were ranked in the top 25 for 97 consecutive weeks from 2010 to 2017. Last season’s 19-12 record was actually a down year — just the second time in the past 12 seasons that Davenport didn’t reach 20 wins.

During his campus visit, before receiving an offer, Terrell saw firsthand how high the level of basketball will be by playing with the team.

“I had people tell me when I went to this visit … ‘They’re going to be bigger, faster, stronger,'” he said. “I was thinking, ‘Of course they’re going to be bigger than me, they’re going to be faster.’ When I thought about faster, I didn’t think like sonic speed fast.

It was a Niles North graduate, redshirt senior Tafari Beckford, that gave Terrell a lesson in the college game.

“He was very shifty,” Terrell said. “He was really fast and I didn’t see it coming at all. … I just had to adjust, and eventually I could stay with him. … Just able to play my game, and I was able to do what I can do.”

He must have left quite the impression, as the offer came on a Zoom call not long later.

“[During the visit] we watched some videos,” Terrell said. “And they said, ‘You could be this type of player, knock down threes off screens. Be our leading scorer.”

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