Centre Basketball: Jenna Mire saves her best for the end
Centre College senior Jenna Mire, center, didn't originally plan to come to school in Danville, but now says it was the right decision for her. (Mike Marsee / February 11, 2013)
And why would she? What had already been a good experience for her has gotten even better over the last couple of weeks, as Mire has played as well as she has at any point during her career with the Centre women.
She had one of her best games Friday night, when she scored a career-high 11 points — all in the second half and overtime — to help the Colonels defeat Birmingham-Southern 75-69 at Alumni Gymnasium.
“Jenna’s giving us great minutes,” Centre coach Wendie Austin-Robinson said. “She’s probably playing the best basketball of her career.”
But Mire said if she had had things her way, she would have been giving those minutes to Maryville, the school she said she chose because it was close to her hometown of Knoxville, Tenn. Centre was recruiting her, but she said she was in the process of turning Austin-Robinson down when something strange happened.
“I accidentally committed here,” Mire said. “I committed to Maryville, and coach Austin called me one day — it was getting down the last couple days — and we were having a conversation and I thought I was telling her that I wasn’t coming here. And the next thing I know she said, ‘Great! (Assistant) coach (Tom) Campbell and I can’t wait to have you here, and we’ll tell the girls you’re coming,’ and she hung up the phone and I looked at my parents and I said, ‘I guess I’m going to Centre.’”
Austin-Robinson said she didn’t remember the conversation going that way, and Mire said the coach told as much in conversations they have had since she came to Centre.
“We have (talked about it) a little bit. She was like, ‘I don’t think I said that. You told me you were coming,’ and I was like, ‘No, I didn’t,’” Mire said. “But it was the best decision I ever made. I don’t want to graduate.”
Especially not when she’s playing this well. Mire hit three of four free throws in overtime to help Centre (12-10, 10-2 Southern Athletic Association) finish off Birmingham-Southern and Sunday the Colonels knocked off Millsaps, one of two teams ahead of them in the conference race in the final regular-season home game for Mire and fellow seniors Chelsea Benham and Bridget Winstead.
Mire is averaging 2.9 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.2 assists on the season, but over Centre’s last four games her averages are 6.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists.
“Her last four or five games have been her best games,” Austin-Robinson said. “I think she’s gotten that senior urgency. She’s gotten confidence in herself, she knows that we have confidence in her, and I think it’s that urgency that, ‘Hey, this is it. I’m going to go out on top as strong as I can.’”
Mire said that’s only part of it.
“A lot of it is it’s coming down to the end ... but I guess I’ve been looking for my shots a little bit more, and it’s opened up a lot of things for other people, and I’ve really been pushing the ball more,” she said.
Mire has started every game at point guard this season, where she succeeded Division III All-American Maggie Prewitt, a player she said she could emulate but not equal.
“I could never play like her,” she said. “At the beginning of the year they would say to me, ‘You’re not Maggie, don’t try to be Maggie,’ so I really started making an effort to try to play my own game and do what I do well — for example, I’m left-handed. I didn’t try to force anything that I was uncomfortable doing.”
She played 22 minutes Friday but averages only 13.2 per game, sharing time with freshman Mary Winstead. Austin-Robinson said it’s a matter of each of them working better with different rotations.
“It just works with her in that first bunch, and then we go in rotations from there,” Austin-Robinson said.
Mire also has an important role as a leader, and she said is a different kind of leader than her fellow seniors.
“I think a lot of the girls look up to me. I’m known as the mother of the team. The three seniors all have different qualities we bring to our group: Chelsea leads more by action, Bridget leads by yelling at people, and I take care of everyone,” she said. “I’m happiest when I’m giving to others, and they all know they can trust me and I’ve got their back, and I think that just helps ease some of the other girls.”
She said her role has led her to do things such as driving a teammate who had broken her nose off campus to the hospital, and taking another teammate whom she sensed was getting homesick to Lexington for a day out.
“It’s a lot of little undercover stuff that no one knows about, but it’s stuff that I really enjoy. I’m a sociology major, so it’s something that you kind of pick up on being around people and learning about people,” Mire said.
Mire still has a little time left in basketball, but her long-term goal lies in baseball. She is an avid Atlanta Braves fan who has won her fantasy baseball league for seven straight years, and she plans to intern this summer with the Braves in baseball operations and player development and hopes to work her way up through the front office — all the way to the office of general manager Frank Wren.
“I want to be the general manager of the Braves,” she said. “I’ve actually told him that before, and he welcomes the competition.”