Cambridge show was a hit at Holiday Hoops
BRISTOL, Tenn. – Thursday’s championship game of the Doc Maples Holiday Hoops girls’ basketball tournament had been over for nearly 30 minutes when Jaloni Cambridge finally emerged from the Ensworth locker room at Viking Hall.
The 5-foot-6 junior guard is coveted and adored by college basketball coaches and fans across the country, but this is one superstar who prefers a low-key approach.
Cambridge wore glasses and mingled with her teammates. She described life as the nation’s top junior.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Cambridge said. “I’m just here to help the people behind it and to show that anything is possible.”
Consider that she has already guided Nashville-based Ensworth to two Division II Class AA state titles, including one as an eighth-class starter with her older sister Kennedy.
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Jaloni competes nationally with Under Armor’s AAA team and the United States 16-17 squad.
“I’ve traveled all over the place with these teams and the experience really helps,” Cambridge said.
In Thursday’s matchup against the Honaker Tigers, Cambridge wowed fans with her attack, defense and court acumen.
Honaker trainer Misty Miller was impressed with the Jaloni show
“We read a lot about them before the tournament and saw them play earlier this week,” Miller said. “She’s just an incredible talent and great things can be expected from her in the future.”
This success story goes deeper than a Stephen King novel. Jaloni’s older sisters, Jordyn and Kennedy, play basketball in Vanderbilt and Kentucky, respectively, while brothers Devan (Auburn) and Desmond (Nevada) have also been prominent for their basketball teams and are both now in the state of Arizona.
Jaloni’s father once led all NCAA Division I basketball players in steals.
“Everyone in my family is a hard worker and athlete,” said Jaloni. “My family members went through the high school and college process. They help me with everything and give me advice when I need it.
“My mom didn’t play a lot of basketball, but she’s focused on achieving whatever she wants in life.”
The Cambridge guide to tire success followed an old-fashioned path.
“We grew up practicing against each other and going to different community centers,” Jaloni said. “My brothers are much bigger, so I had to learn to take my shot.”
In addition to quick releases against a zone defense, Thursday’s five-star production featured scoop shoots, stop-and-go moves, alert entry passes, sudden steals and speed. Lots of speed.
“I’ve told my players to hold off (Cambridge) as best they can because an athlete like that is going to score. She has the ability to just take over a game,” Miller said.
Honaker junior guard Valeigh Stevens had an idea of what to expect.
“I played against Cambridge at a camp in Nashville, so I knew what a talent she had,” Stevens said. “We wanted her to shoot outside instead of driving to the rim, but that didn’t work out so well. We tried guarding her but she can jump over you. This girl is an unreal athlete.”
For various reasons, Stevens said she will remember dancing with the star on Thursday.
“My mom took a picture of Cambridge playing me,” Stevens said.
What were the two-time Tennessee Player of the Year’s impressions of her visit to Bristol and Viking Hall?
“I liked this gym when I first saw it,” said Cambridge. “I didn’t shoot really well in Wednesday’s game, but I’m able to hit those shots and something got into me today.”
For this rare athlete, team bonding was more important than her 35-point blast and tournament MVP award.
“Having the opportunity to compete with my team at a great event like this is really a blessing,” said Cambridge. “I’m proud of how all my teammates have progressed.”