Ohio University's Jaya McClure (0) attempts a layup against Central Michigan University at the Convocation Center on February 18, 2023. | Jack Tatham

Ohio University's Jaya McClure (0) attempts a layup against Central Michigan University at the Convocation Center on February 18, 2023. | Jack Tatham

February 22, 2023

Family Fun

Women's Basketball: Jaya McClure's family ties shape her love of basketball

By Bobby Gorbett | For The Post

The game was already decided by the third quarter of the 2022 Kentucky 2A Women's Basketball State Championship. Current Ohio guard Jaya McClure led her team with 32 points en route to a 94-44 victory. The win gave Ohio its third 2A state championship since 2018-19. According to McClure, love was the secret ingredient to the team's success. By the end of McClure's high school career, the Lady Centurions loved each other like a family.

"Love and energy is what it takes to win games. When teams love each other, you win," McClure said. "And my High school team, we loved each other. We did things outside of practice. And I made sure that everyone felt heard and felt like they were a person ... everyone wanted to play, everybody wanted to give their all and that's what made it so much fun."

As a daughter of a former Louisville football player, sports were an essential part of the childhoods of Jaya and her twin brother Jordan. By eight years old, Jaya was already involved in tennis, fencing and swimming. McClure didn't start playing basketball until the seventh grade, but the competitive nature of her family pushed her to be the best person she could be on and off the court.

McClure blossomed as a player in high school, where she was voted to the All-Tourney team three times. McClure took the next leap in her game as a senior in high school, and by the end of the year, she was a Ms. Kentucky Basketball candidate and a Mcdonald's All-American nominee.

Jordan McClure had fewer opportunities than his sister during his high school career, but he worked hard to garner interest at the collegiate level. Jordan's determination and work ethic is inspirational to Jaya.

"He is one of the hardest workers I know ," McClure said. "And his passion and love for basketball is real. He's had a hard go with politics and everything in high school basketball, and so him making it to college ball has just been a blessing for my family."

More recently, Jordan suffered a wrist injury that may threaten his basketball career, but Jaya has used his hardships as fuel to improve.

"My brother redshirted his freshman year and he's been dealing with a wrist injury," McClure said. "So it's looking like he may never play basketball again. So with that on my mind recently, that's been fueling me too."

McClure has had high expectations for herself on and off the court since high school. During her senior year, McClure was honored with the Donna LJ Award, given to a female senior basketball player who "exemplifies the meaning of a great student athlete."

McClure has taken her academic initiative to Ohio University, as she is majoring in neuroscience. Although McClure's academic initiative has made her transition from high school to college more difficult, her academic obstacles help her on the court.

"How you do anything is how you do everything. My mom always made that important in our family," McClure said. " ... So when I push myself in school, I push myself in basketball. I push myself in every way."

With Yaya Felder already established as Ohio's point guard coming into the season, it seemed unlikely that McClure and Felder could share the court as starters during a large portion of the season, and in the nonconference play, they didn't.

However, McClure still found ways to score and impact the game coming off the bench. McClure's first standout performance was on Dec. 21 in her home state, when Ohio took on Kentucky. McClure had what was at the time a season-high of 15 points.

McClure got off to a bit of a slow start scoring the basketball in Mid-American Conference play, but as she gained playing time with Felder, the chemistry between the two players began to mount.

When Caitlyn Kroll went down with a season-ending injury, McClure was forced to make the first start of her college basketball career alongside Felder. The two immediately looked like a natural fit; Felder and McClure combined for 54 points. McClure played all 40 minutes in Ohio's 83-75 win, and finished with new career-highs of 22 points and seven assists.

McClure credits the support her family has given her for the confidence she had in her first-ever start as a Bobcat.

"My parents and my brother are the biggest supporters of me," said McClure. "And they've instilled confidence in me."

After a bumpy start to the Bobcats' season, which included just two wins in their first 16 games, the team has steadied the ship and won two of their last fou games. McClure's emergence as a strong second option to Felder in the backcourt has the Bobcats playing with more energy than they had at the beginning of the season.

Possibly the most important growth is off the court. McClure feels like as the season has progressed, the Bobcats feel more like a family.

"We're just having more fun with each other, and enjoying each other," McClure said. "And you can see the synergy on the court. We have definitely grown as friends and as teammates. And that's only going to get better as the years continue."

As McClure learned through her four years at the Christian Academy of Louisville, love and family are the key to winning championships.

AUTHOR: Bobby Gorbett
EDITOR: Will Cunningham
WEB DEVELOPMENT: Anastasia Carter