By Devin Bradshaw
Jenna Kol has had better games with more gaudy numbers. But the game against Skyline College had to feel the best.
Her 26 points, including six 3-pointers, back on Jan. 24, mattered for sure. Desperately needing a win, after four bad losses, she put the Lady Hawks on her back. It was their first win in three weeks in a season where wins are hard to come by.
“I’d rather score seven points and win than 30 points and lose,” she said. “I’d just rather celebrate the win.” Kol has been one of the lone bright spots in a down season for the Lady Hawks. She is the team’s leading scorer, doing most of her damage from outside the 3-point line. She’s had some huge games: 33 points against Chabot and 30 points against San Mateo.
But what makes her play this year unique Is not the points she’s put up, but what she’s overcome to have this type of season. Kol is leading the women’s basketball team all while battling scoliosis.
Scoliosis is a curve in the spine that causes significant lower back pain. In some instances it can be extremely painful.
As you could imagine, for athletes — basketball players especially — scoliosis couldbe even more terrible. All the running, jumping, twists and turns playingbasketball, it’s almost impossible to play close to your full capacity with back issues.
Kol, a shooter, produces in spite of the pain.
She has made 63 of 163 from 3-point range, which 38.7 percent. That’s the seventh most 3-pointers made and the fourth-highest percentage in the state, according to the California Community College Athletics Association. Kol averages 14.4 points per game, which ranks fifth most in Coast Conference-North.
“My back has always hurt,” Kol said. “I never focus on the pain. I just always forget about it. But lately I kind of noticed my body shape looked kinda weird. I forget about it. Just play through it. Get in the mood and the adrenaline gets going. Ice it up, take some pills, I’m good to go.
“Unless I’m on the floor crying, I’m good.”
It may sound crazy, to play through pain. But Kol has the bug: she loves the game. She loves being part of a team. She even prefers the Spurs, over the Warriors, because of the cohesiveness of how they play together.
It makes sense when you know her background.
She began playing when she was 8 years old. Her father, Pang, took her with him to Jade Street Park in Santa Cruz when he would play pickup. She would practice on the side by herself. Maybe that’s when she fell in love with shooting.
She wound up at Kimball High School in Tracy, where her father was the coach of the Jaguars girls basketball team. Having your father as the coach might make the coach-to-player relationship easier. But it doesn’t sit to well with the teammates, who might think nepotism was involved.
“High school basketball wasn’t the greatest experience for me,” Kol said “Being the coach’s daughter, I felt like I always had to prove to people that I belonged on the team and that I worked just as hard as everyone else.”
She began to doubt her desire to continue playing basketball. The sport she fell in love with was no longer fun, just a mission to prove a point. She would, however, learn to let go of that weight. She found, again, her love of the game.
“I no longer fear what people think of me,” Kol said “I love basketball and I play for myself. That’s why I put on my shoes. M.Y.P. — make yourself proud.”
As a freshman last season, she averaged 8.9 points and made 28.3 percent of her 3-pointers. The diminutive guard broke out towards the end of the year, topping 20 points in three straight games. She made a total of 16 3-pointers in those three games. It was a preview of what was to come this year.
Despite her increased production, the Lady Hawks, at 5-15, are going to miss the playoffs. It’s possible Kol only has a few games left in her organized basketball career. Not because of the pain in her back. She still wants to play.
“Its up to her how far she wants to take it(basketball),” Said Coach Morgan “Just keep playing and put it in the good Lord’s hand’s”
Kol currently has an offer to play for The University of Mary Mauraders.
“I would love to play in the future,” said Kol, a biology. “But I’m a book nerd. So I have that to back me up.”