Senior Spotlight: Jamilyn Kinney is sticking with her sport to the end
Updated: Sep 20, 2022
Jamilyn Kinney’s past, present and future is basketball. And her lifelong dedication to the sport is taking her places.
Collecting All-Ohio Valley Conference honors since her sophomore year with the Belmont Bruins and playing a crucial role through the women’s basketball team’s road to the 2019 and 2021 NCAA Tournaments, the senior guard has achieved a lot throughout her athletic career.
“Looking back at it now, it’s like, how the heck did I get here?” Kinney said.
In Van Buren, Arkansas, a 5-year-old Kinney started hooping, dribbling and shooting with her older brother Dylan Kinney and his friends. Ultimately, the disadvantages of playing against bigger, faster, stronger boys made her more competitive. Just look at the stellar 3-point shot she developed.
“What she lacked in speed or size at the time she made up with learning how to always be a play ahead of us,” Dylan Kinney said.
Fast-forwarding to about seventh grade, Kinney got a spot on a travel team and realized her future would be on the court.
“It’s like, ‘Oh, I might be able to do this one day.’ And, obviously, I’m here. So I guess I did something right,” she said.
After playing at Van Buren High School, Kinney saw herself continuing her basketball career at the collegiate level while staying close to home in Arkansas. Visiting Belmont changed her plans, though, and the 500 miles suddenly seemed worth it.
“I came to visit and I was like, ‘Holy moly, this campus is gorgeous.’ And then you meet the people here, valuing not just your basketball but you as a person,” she said.
“It was just crazy how it felt like a home away from home in a sense. I remember leaving … and I was just like, ‘Well, dang, this is where I need to be.’”
Women’s basketball head coach Bart Brooks recruited Kinney during his second year at Belmont and acknowledged the impact she’s had on the team.
“Jamilyn embodies everything that I want our program to represent. She’s been a huge part of our program during her four years here,” Brooks said.
Basketball is all Kinney’s ever known, and a life dedicated to the court doesn’t come without its hardships.
“You kind of take it for granted in a sense when you’re out there, and then you can get hurt in two seconds and then it all kind of change for a little bit,” Kinney said.
And things did change a bit for Kinney during her junior year, in the blink of an eye. During a 5-on-5 practice, she ran into a screening teammate, only to feel her shoulder pop out and back into place.
She knew something was wrong.
A same-day MRI showed a partial tear in Kinney’s labrum, but she was cleared to play if she could tolerate the pain. She said “OK” and stood on the court for the game the following day, finishing out her season before getting shoulder surgery.
Over the next four and a half months of rehab, the sport’s echoing absence put things into perspective.
Kinney realized that basketball isn’t everything, but it’s a part of who she is and recognizing her worth outside the hoop was challenging.
When the existential crisis kicks in, community is crucial, she said.
“Who am I? I don’t know. But I will say Bart here does a really good job with telling us we’re not defined by how we perform and how we play on the court. We’re much bigger than basketball,” Kinney said.
Experiencing a shift in her role on the team while on the sidelines for a few months, she committed to spreading positivity. Her teammates could hear her encouraging words and feel her presence off the court.
In the future, that’s where she wants to be.
A sports admin major with a minor in strength and conditioning, Kinney’s career aspirations look something like Brooks’ current office: on the sidelines coaching basketball, but for high school girls.
“She will be an amazing coach in the future,” said Dylan Kinney, who is also a basketball coach. “Her leadership skills and being able to build relationships with her players will also set her apart.”
Brooks also looks forward to following her impact on other teams in her own coaching journey.
“I think her players will love playing for her because she’s so genuine and kind, she’s been an amazing teammate in our program who serves her team as a leader,” Brooks said.
Every single practice and gameday have built her confidence in both player development and ways of coaching. The practicality of the student-athlete grind has prepared her well for what’s to come.
“I think just being around sports is what brings me enjoyment, so I will probably be doing that the rest of my life,” Kinney said.
PHOTO: No. 14 Jamilyn Kinney showcasing her skills in a home game versus Alabama A&M, Nov. 18. Nikiah Perry.
This article was written by Jessica Mattsson.
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