Top Skyhawk secret Haislip has eyes on big mission

Top Skyhawk secret Haislip has eyes on big mission
Top Skyhawk secret Haislip has eyes on big mission
Shhhh!
Perhaps the best-kept secret on UT Martin’s women’s basketball team had just as soon stay that way.
Often overshadowed by the widely-decorated backcourt tandem of fellow freshman teammates Heather Butler and Jasmine Newsome, Jaclissa Haislip has quietly put together a season that would’ve normally showered her with similar accolades.
And while many haven’t noticed, Haislip doesn’t really care.
“I don’t think it matters to any of us who gets the attention. We just want to win,” said the former Murfreesboro Riverdale prep standout, who was a part of the youngest Division I roster in the nation and the Skyhawks’ first-ever Ohio Valley Conference championship and NCAA berth.
Haislip ranked in the Top 10 in the OVC in six different categories this season and set a school record for most made 3-pointers in a single game when she hit eight against Murray State in late January.
She led UTM in rebounding (8.2 per-game) — ranking fourth in the league in that category — and was third on the team in scoring (9.2 ppg) behind Butler and Newsome. Twice Haislip won conference Freshman of the Week awards.
And despite also being among the league’s Top 10 in made 3-pointers, offensive and defensive rebounds and minutes played, the slender six-footer was passed over for any individual Ohio Valley Conference postseason honor.
“Really, it doesn’t bother me,” Haislip laughed, while again being prodded about what many perceive as an obvious oversight. “It hasn’t crossed my mind.
“I promise, I don’t ever think about it until somebody else brings it up.”
 She gladly deflected to Butler and Newsome — among the nation’s top freshman scorers and the conference Freshman of the Year and Co-Defensive Player of the Year, respectively — despite a case for honors that also included five double-doubles.
Haislip instead focused on the closeness of those who make up the program, calling it a family-type atmosphere where everyone is both proud of and interested in the best interest of others within the locker room.
“We are really close. He (Skyhawk head coach Kevin McMillan) didn’t give us the ‘check your egos at the door speech.’ He didn’t have to. It took us a few games early in the year and during our (preseason trip) to Canada, but everybody’s very comfortable with their role,” she said.
“It’s truly a family-style atmosphere. We really like each other. If something’s going on in somebody’s room, before you know it, the whole team is in there watching a movie or just hanging out.”
Haislip then laughed aloud when recalling the biggest argument the team made up of mostly 18- and 19-year-olds had this season.
“I think it was about what color pre-wrap we were going to wear for one game,” she said.
After helping Riverdale to the Class 3A state championship, 30 wins and averaging 17 ppg, Haislip — the cousin of former University of Tennessee star and current NBA player Marcus Haislip — narrowed her college choices to UTM, UT Chattanooga and Belmont. She also visited Mississippi State and had considered hometown Middle Tennessee State University earlier.
She said McMillan’s straightforward recruiting approach made UT Martin an easy choice.
“He told the truth. He didn’t sugar-coat things,” Haislip insisted of her coach’s pitch. “He said we’d be rebuilding or building, and he was flat-out honest about everything, including the other players who he was recruiting.”
For his part, McMillan gushed not only about the hoop abilities of his former mid-state star, but as much so about Haislip’s character.
“What a great young lady,” the coach began. “She’s the type person we wanted to target when we began recruiting for UTM — one who was selfless and who didn’t care who got the credit as long as we won.
“And a lot of our kids are like that. Any other year and she’s hauling in a bunch of individual awards and is on the All Freshman Team and everything else. She’s like so many others we have. She cares and worries more about her teammates than she does herself.”
Sounds like another good secret to have.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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