Ally Jensen provides Creighton women's basketball coach Jim Flanery with a constant reminder that recruiting is an inexact science.
Jensen is 5-foot-6. She isn't fast, nor can she leap tall buildings in a single bound. Her biggest strength is her ability to shoot, but that's not what has made her a valuable contributor the past four years.
“Coaches like to talk about toughness but we're still all looking for the kids that can put the ball between their legs and go do something special,” Flanery said. “With Ally, that's not who you get. With Ally, you get a kid who's going to do the things that help you win games.
“When you have a player like that, it reminds you that it's not just who jumps the highest or runs the fastest or makes the plays that make you go, 'Wow!' It can also be about the one that is steady and the one whose team plays better around her.”
Jensen is in the stretch run of a career that she said is rewarding for more than just the basketball experience. She'll play her final home game Saturday when the Bluejays try to sew up at least a share of their first Missouri Valley Conference regular-season championship since 2003 with a win against Southern Illinois.
The senior from Ames, Iowa, has scored 788 points the past four seasons. Most have come from beyond the arc — her 210 3-pointers rank fifth in program history. She has twice made six 3-pointers in a game.
“It's fun to reflect on my four years here, and at the same time, it's sad to think that basketball will soon be over,” Jensen said. “I'm going to miss the people most of all and the memories that we've made. I'm really thankful for getting this experience.
“It's sad that it's almost over, but I'm excited to look ahead at the picture without basketball.”
A nursing student, Jensen figures she'll be around the program next year as she completes her studies. That will make her teammates happy as they have come to appreciate what she does off the court as much as her on-the-court contributions.
“She's just fun to be around,” Creighton forward Sarah Nelson said. “She's a great leader and an even better person. The thing I'll remember about her as a player is her consistency. She's one of the best 3-point shooters I've ever played with.”
Flanery knew when he was recruiting her that Jensen could shoot but that's not what eventually led him to extend a scholarship offer. He decided to offer Jensen instead of another player from Iowa after watching videotape of Jensen rebounding the basketball.
It might seem odd that the rebounding ability of a 5-6 player was what earned her a scholarship but Flanery said that illustrated the tenacity and fundamental approach that underscores Jensen's game.
“Ally averaged 5.4 rebounds as a high school junior,” Flanery said. “She played on a team with some very good post players but in watching tape of her, I kept noticing how she would compete to rebound on every play. Here's this tiny little 5-6 kid blocking out 6-footers on the weakside of the zone. I decided then that she was a kid that would do anything she could to win.”
It still took a couple of other players turning down Flanery's offer for him to have a scholarship available for Jensen. She knew that, but it never altered her outlook.
“I knew I wasn't highly recruited,” she said. “I remember Flan telling me one time that I might not have been their first option but that doesn't mean I couldn't have a great experience here. And because I really didn't have high expectations when I came here, it's turned out better for me.
“I just came in every day with an attitude that I was going to work as hard as I could and try to be as good as I could be. There has been ups and downs but I'm happy with my time here. I've made some great memories and friendships. I knew basketball wasn't going to last forever, and I was looking for an overall experience.”
What Jensen was able to contribute in her first two seasons led Flanery to offer another undersized shooter from Iowa a scholarship. That player was Jensen's younger sister, Sammy, who is now a CU sophomore.
“Ally affirmed that sense you have that it's not always about the most talented player,” Flanery said. “What she was able to do helped influence our decision to bring Sammy into our program. I guess you could say Sammy owes her big sister in that regard.”
Contact the writer:
402-679-2298, firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter.com/PivOWH