Atlanta/Harrisburg, IL 2017
The Summer signing of former South Atlanta standout combo guard, Jada Harrell (pictured kneeling above), by SE Illinois is more than meets the eye. Harrell originally had an offer from Coach Reeves to attend Gardner-Webb University in NC, a Division 1 school in the Big South Conference. Due to slightly missing the academic standards to receive a D1 scholarship, Harrell was forced to consider other options. Coach Steve Kenner of SE Illinois immediately expressed strong interest in Jada, noting “Jada has the potential to be really good! She has something special! She is long and athletic with good ball handling skills and can play out on the perimeter as well as in the post. She is someone who can create for herself and for others! We really like what she brings to the table and she fits into our exciting brand of basketball.” When asked what qualities are ideal during recruiting, Coach Keener offered, “When my staff and I are out evaluating recruits at events, we look for a variety of things within a student-athlete. Some of the characteristics of our rubric consists of; coach ability (how well does she take constructive criticism), comradery (is she a good teammate), work ethic (willing to work hard and put in extra time), positive energy and effort, selfless, and potential ability (willingness to be great).”
More interesting perhaps, is the back story of the area where SE Illinois is located (in an area called “Little Egypt” between Harrisburg and Equality in Saline County, IL) and Jada’s until recently unknown ancestral ties to the area. Jada is a direct descendant of the Taborn family, the most acknowledged of the founding families of Lakeview, an unincorporated township started in 1818. After the war of 1812 between British and United States forces, in which various Indian/Indigenous nations fought on both sides, the Taborns and six other families (7), referred to as ‘freedmen’, moved from North Carolina and were welcomed by the 13 remaining Indian families. Lakeview was originally called “The Pond Settlement” and was named after the Cypress swampland and wetlands that surrounds the area of Carrier Mills. It is one of the oldest settlements in Illinois, and holds the oldest dominantly African American cemetery in Illinois, which is a state historical landmark.
According to Wikipedia, “Census records indicate that the first settlers were the Allen, Blackwell, Taborn, Mitchell, Evans, Cofield, and Cole Families. These earliest Lakeview residents were most self-sufficient. They depended on a mixture of hunting and farming for their food. The early families had substantial land holdings in the Pre-Civil War era. It was only after the village of Morrillsville, later known as Carrier Mills, was established that some of these holdings were sold off. Whites continued to buy land around Lakeview during the remainder of the nineteenth century, resulting in the breakup of the larger land holdings. Lakeview covered a series of farmsteads concentrated about 3 square miles (7.8 km2); however, the focus of the settlement has always been on the church and school, along what was is now Taborn Road.”
Jada exclaimed jokingly, “I have already been warned that any tall, light skinned guys around here could likely be my cousin. It is really kind of nostalgic to hear about these stories. I don’t think it is a coincidence.” Whether a coincidence or whether somehow she was drawn there, Ms. Harrell’s story is amazing in that prior to her recruitment, there was little connection for her to this historical tale in which her family played a major role as pioneers and lends to the exploration of more of her family’s legacy. “I’m here to focus on basketball and school and I’m sure I will have the chance to learn more about our history and meet many relatives along the way.”
The Lady Falcons have a long season ahead and Coach Kenner is taking over the reigns of the Head Coaching position with high hopes of a successful campaign. Originally from Atlanta, GA, Coach Kenner reiterates “I am really excited for us! We have a new team, with new players, and with a new coach! I believe we have a chance to be special again this year and make a run in the National Tournament. I am a firm believer that we are a “WE” program! This program is not about any individuals or myself…it is about “WE”.