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College Playing Time Kerns’ Next Challenge

When Jennifer Kerns dreams, she is a 6-foot-4 point guard.

But visions of her mom, Phyllis, send her back to reality. Mom is 5-0. Kerns is a stretch at 5-8.

Kerns is the eighth of nine children, ages 17 to 34. ‘Hyper’ may best describe her childhood.

“I was so hyperactive,” said Kerns, 18, on graduation day during breakfast. “I was the worst one. When it was time for bed, I’d run around and scream.”

Soccer became Kerns’ outlet after mom put her on brother Joe’s boys team. She stayed for four years.

The footwork carried her to all-state high school girls soccer honors four consecutive years, and Idaho A-1 Player of the Year honors last fall.

Kerns also learned to use her hands. Basketball became her passion following her sophomore season at Coeur d’Alene High.

Last winter, Kerns completed a career that included three State A-1 girls’ basketball titles by making history at Lake City. She directed the Timberwolves to the championship. Later she was named A-1 Player of the Year, as well as Idaho’s Gatorade Player of the Year.

Last week, Lake City named the Washington State University-bound Kerns its first Female Athlete of the Year.

This week, Kerns is The Spokesman-Review’s Idaho Female Athlete of the Year.

The honors are nice, Kerns said. The stats, 15 points and seven assists per game, are forgettable.

Kerns has one thing on her mind - playing time.

She’s graduated now. There were no basketball shoes under Kerns’ graduation gown; school officials said no.

Four hours before the ceremony, Kerns was lifting weights. It was her third week of training, following a WSU exercise program.

Had graduation occurred any earlier, Kerns’ gait wouldn’t have been as brisk. She could barely walk after Day 1 of the workouts.

“Tuesday morning I was so incredibly sore,” Kerns smiled. “Mom and dad were laughing, saying, ‘This is the athlete?’ Melissa Dodge was laughing. I’d done squats and lunges; my butt was so sore.”

Kerns has never trained with weights. Now, precious playing time depends on it.

“I don’t think she’s really been completely pushed,” said Dave Fealko, who coached Kerns’ entire high school basketball career. “I think the challenges that are going to push her are probably going to occur at the higher level.”

Kerns truly loves college basketball. Someday, she hopes to coach at that level.

“I always watch college basketball, every game,” Kerns explained. “If I miss a game, I tape it. Through the Final Four from the Final 64, I have tapes stacked up.”

A notorious no-look passer, Kerns choreographs her passes off those college game tapes.

“With her floor sense, she gets a good feel of where people are suppose to be, and she would get them the ball,” Fealko said.

“Once you realize you’re playing with Jennifer, (the ball) will get to where I’m suppose to be because she’s a great deliverer.”

Kerns is a defensive bulldog.

“She just gets down and she physically challenges you,” Fealko said. “Her physical intimidation or tough play definitely has to come from her soccer experience. You’re continuously moving around the ball.”

Bill Eisenwinter, Kerns’ soccer coach the past three years, recognized her as one of the state’s top players as a freshman, and said she only got better.

“There’s a few players in the state who got full-ride college soccer scholarships,” Eisenwinter said. “I felt she dominated those players.”


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