Unselfish superstar Jordan Horston hits 1,000-point mark

Maria M. Cornelius2MCsports

In the 119 years that Tennessee has been playing women’s basketball – the first game was in 1903 – just under 50 players have reached 1,000 career points. Jordan Horston became the 48th player for the Lady Vols.

Horston, a scintillating 6-2 senior guard from Columbus, Ohio, now has 1,004 points and counting. The milestone came in the second quarter last Sunday against Eastern Kentucky and involved three Lady Vols. Tamari Key blocked a shot, Rickea Jackson grabbed the defensive board and Horston sprinted to the other end. A perfect pass from Jackson found Horston, who hit the layup for a 47-21 lead and entered Tennessee’s record book. The Lady Vols went on to win, 105-71.

“It’s pretty cool, I guess,” Horston said after the game in a clip that can be watched here on Twitter that is worth it for her understated body language after the feat and the reaction of teammates Key and Sara Puckett. “I’ll take it. Honestly, I’ll take wins over points any day.”

Coach Kellie Harper was more effusive in her praise. Horston was recruited by Harper’s predecessor, Holly Warlick, and was finishing high school when Harper was hired. Horston kept her commitment to Tennessee, as did Key, and the two seniors have been vital to Harper’s success.

Jackson, who also is a senior, is in her first year at Tennessee. Jackson and Horston, who competed against each other in summer club basketball events while growing up in Michigan and Ohio, respectively, took official visits to Knoxville while in high school on the same weekend, but Jackson opted for Mississippi State before transferring to Tennessee last spring. That Key and Jackson both had a part in Horston’s milestone accomplishment is apropos.

“Jordan and I are really close,” Harper said. “We kid each other that we’ve been through a lot together. I think there’s a pretty big trust there. There’s obviously a lot of loyalty there. It’s not easy to come into a program and play for a coach that did not recruit you.

“She knows I love her and would do anything to help her, and vice versa. I know she’s got my back. I’m just proud of who she’s becoming and who she wants to be and how she’s getting there.”

The two wins at home last week against Colorado and Eastern Kentucky evened Tennessee’s record at 4-4 after some struggles to start the season. The Lady Vols fell out of the top 25 as expected and will host No. 9 Virginia Tech this Sunday, Dec. 4, at 1 p.m. Eastern. (Home court atmosphere matters. Get tickets here.)

Horston and Jackson have found their groove together on the court and lead the team in scoring at 14.9 and 17.6 points per game and rebounds at 6.0 and 6.6, respectively. The pair also have combined for 36 assists, a rather eye-popping stat since neither plays point guard. Jasmine Powell leads Tennessee from that position with 33 assists.

Rickea Jackson, an elite scorer, also is an excellent passer. (Kate Luffman/Tennessee Athletics)

When the two superstars are unselfish, it sends a signal to everyone else to get in the slipstream.

“When you have players like that, it makes you want to play with them,” Harper said. “You want to be on the court with those two. I would love to play with those two. I would have racked up a lot of assists if I played with those two.”

That’s quite an endorsement since Harper, a former Lady Vol point guard then known as Kellie Jolly, had 452 assists and ranks No. 7 all-time in Lady Vol history for helpers. She was passing the ball to Chamique Holdsclaw and Tamika Catchings – one of the best guard-forward combinations ever at Tennessee – whose retired jersey numbers hang in the rafters at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Horston and Jackson aren’t in that rarefied air yet, but the two could lead Tennessee to its first Final Four since 2008. Despite the tough start, don’t count out the Lady Vols.

Harper and Vols basketball coach Rick Barnes both were on Vol Calls on Monday evening. Harper won three national championships at Tennessee as a player – Barnes said he wants just one – and should have won a fourth, but the Lady Vols lost in the Elite Eight. Harper said it took a while to admit that the 1998-99 team, which lost its season opener a year after going undefeated at 39-0, didn’t embrace the process it took to win a championship.

A mathematics major, Harper is very process focused as a coach and takes the long view.

Barnes added his endorsement: “Kellie is doing what she needs to do to get this team where it needs to go.”

Maria M. Cornelius, a writer/editor at Moxley Carmichael since 2013, started her journalism career at the Knoxville News Sentinel and began writing about the Lady Vols in 1998. In 2016, she published her first book, “The Final Season: The Perseverance of Pat Summitt,” through The University of Tennessee Press.

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