Against All Odds, Emma Excels

Scholar athlete emma youngSchool: East Jessamine High
Sport: Basketball
Academics: Emma raised her GPA from 1.2 as a freshman to 3.45 as a senior.
Parents: Coach Jacqueline Coleman and her husband, Chris O’Bryan

Basketball star Emma Young of East Jessamine High has no business being as charismatic, amiable and all together engaging as she is.

Not when you consider her background. When she showed up at East Jessamine as a freshman, she was beyond at-risk.

As a child, she bounced from school to school, relative to relative, from bad situation to worse.

At 15, she moved in with a relative in Nicholasville but after a few weeks was asked to leave. She stayed at the home of friends for a night here and there, and planned to leave school when she told basketball Coach Jacqueline Coleman that she had to go.

Emma had been in the program only briefly. Coleman had no idea of her basketball skills.

Still, Coleman arranged a meeting with Emma and her mother. At the end of the meeting, Jacqueline and her husband, Chris O’Bryan, the school’s boys basketball coach, agreed to take Emma in. Why?

It had nothing to do with basketball.

“I hadn’t even seen her play,” Coleman said. “But I saw something special in her. She lights up a room. I thought, ‘She’s a mess now but maybe she wouldn’t be a mess forever if she were with the right people.’”

That, as the saying goes, was the start of a beautiful friendship – one neither can talk about without tearing up.

Emma’s GPA was barely 1.2 and discipline was a foreign concept. Today, she carries a 3.45 GPA, works part-time after school, has a scholarship to play basketball at Texas A&M Corpus Christi (a Division I school) and is on track to graduate with honors.

How did she do it?

“A lot of nights at the kitchen table, a lot of arguments, no cell phone, no basketball. I had to earn my priviliges,” Emma said.

In other words, hard work and determination – characteristics she also applied to the basketball court.

Emma, 5-foot-9, 155 pounds, cracked the starting lineup as a freshman and soon became a star. After years of losing, East Jessamine became a winner – from 17 victories four years ago to 23 this past season.

Emma became the school’s first 2,000-point scorer and set the school’s all-time assist record.

She was a Miss Basketball nominee and earned the prestigious Donna Murphy Award, awarded to the state’s most deserving female student-athlete.

“Emma is tough, resilient, hard-working and determined,” Coleman said. “She wanted a better life for herself.”

With the two of them on the same team, Emma has made that happen.

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