It goes down to the last game, but that’s the difference for Centennial of Corona guard Jayda Curry in gaining this year’s most prestigious and longest running girls basketball individual honor in California. Choosing a Ms. Basketball with no state championships for a second straight year was made even more complicated by the fact there was so much disparity in the number of games that top teams and top players actually played.
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Despite having a scholarship to Cal in hand, being an All State Juniors First Team selection, and being strongly considered for State Junior of the Year last year, prior to the time the 2020-2021 girls basketball season should have started in November, Jayda Curry of Centennial (Corona) wasn’t one of the California incoming seniors to make the ESPNW Top 100 national list of 2021 prospects.
Plus, when the McDonald’s All-American Team was announced and four girls from California were selected, Curry was not one of them.
But does any of the national selections make that much of a difference for a California honor? No. And here’s proof. After leading Centennial to a 25-1 record and a CIF Southern Regional Open Division championship, the first SoCal Regional title in school history, Curry has been named the 2021 Cal-Hi Sports Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year for what she did on the court.
“Wow, awesome, that’s crazy. I’m truly honored and blessed,” Curry said when told she was being named Ms. Basketball.
Curry is the first-ever winner from Centennial and the fifth winner from the Inland Empire portion of the CIF Southern Section. The last winner was Layshia Clarendon in 2009 from San Bernardino Cajon. Prior to that, all-time WNBA great Diana Taurasi of Don Lugo (Chino) won in 1999 and 2000. The first Inland Empire winner was the greatest of them all, Cheryl Miller of Riverside Poly. She was the 1981 and 1982 honoree.
When the list of winners, which dates back to three-time winner Ann Meyers of La Habra Sonora in 1972 and 1974, with the 1973 honor coming at Connelly of Anaheim, was brought to the attention of Curry, a few names jumped out at her.
“When I saw Diana Taurasi and Lisa Leslie (a two-time winner in 1989 and 1990 at Inglewood Morningside) on the list I thought that’s really cool,” Curry remarked. “But then I saw Cheryl Miller and thought that’s crazy to be mentioned in the same breath as her. It’s an unbelievable honor for sure.”
Up until the beginning of the CIF Southern Section Open Division playoffs, and subsequently the CIF Southern Regional Open Division playoffs, it was looking like any one of the four seniors being considered as finalists, Curry, the Stanford-bound duo of Brooke Demetre of Mater Dei (Santa Ana) and Kiki Iriafen of Harvard-Westlake (Studio City), or USC-bound Rayah Marshall of Lynwood, could snag the Ms. Basketball title.
In fact, it was still up in the air until the final game of the season when Centennial beat Mater Dei, 65-51, on the road in the CIF Southern Regional Open Division championship to avenge its only loss, an 83-80 overtime loss at home to Mater Dei in the Southern Section Open Division title game. Curry had 23 points in the loss but in the rematch she posted a double-double after pouring in a game-high 27 points with 10 rebounds, seven assists, and four steals. Curry had 14 of her points in the third quarter when she led the visiting Huskies in repelling any Mater Dei comeback.
Besides the snub by ESPNW and the McDonald’s folks prior to the season, Curry was beaten out for Los Angeles Times Player of the Year and Gatorade State Player of the Year by Demetre, and although Cal-Hi Sports has never had a tie for top individual honors in any sport, girls or boys, Curry and Demetre were named Co-Players of the Year for the CIF Southern Section Open Division by the section. It was pretty obvious that the Press-Enterprise would make Curry their Player of the Year, and they did. Demetre had 28 points in the first game vs. Centennial, but only two in the season finale.
According to Centennial head coach and recently named Cal-Hi Sports State Coach of the Year Martin Woods, in four years of coaching Curry, the only time she got emotional enough to shed some tears was when the Huskies lost in the last second OT buzzer-beater to Mater Dei, and when she didn’t get a couple of the previously mentioned awards.
“I don’t want to lie and say not getting recognized by ESPN and McDonalds’ didn’t have an effect on me,” Curry said, “But I had to get past it and do what I needed to do.”
“Sure, I wanted to be named with the big name players but everything happens for a reason,” Curry continued. “I used it as motivation even though I felt I didn’t need to prove myself to anyone except myself, and my teammates and coaches.”
On the season, the 5-foot-6 point guard and floor general posted averages of 21.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 3.9 steals per game, and did it against the toughest schedule of any team in the state.
Curry’s top performance came in a 100-77 victory over Bonita Vista of Chula Vista, the No. 8 ranked team in the Cal-Hi Sports Final Expanded rankings. Curry finished with a career-high 50 points, with seven rebounds, four steals and three assists. In a 97-71 victory over No. 13 Windward of Los Angeles, she had a double-double 31 points and 12 rebounds with six assists and four steals.
In two games versus No. 15 ranked Torrance West, Curry had 33 points, nine rebounds, seven steals, and five assists in a 100-68 win, and 27 points, eight rebounds, five steals and three assists in an 81-49 victory. No. 16 ranked Orangewood Academy (Garden Grove) held her to 14 points and six rebounds in a 58-45 season-opening win, the closest margin of any of the Huskies’ 25 wins, but in the second meeting, a 92-54 victory in Pool play of the Southern Section Open Division playoffs, Curry had a double-double 25 points and 10 rebounds with seven assists and five steals. In two Big VII League wins over No. 31 Roosevelt of Eastvale, Curry finished with 25 points in limited action of a 90-63 triumph, and a triple-double 34 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 steals with six assists in an 87-54 blowout victory.
On a team with a lot of talented scorers, including UCLA-committed State Junior of the Year candidate Londynn Jones (21.3 ppg), Curry was the model of consistency. Her averages could have been higher had not Woods sat her in six blowout games where she only played an average of just over 10 minutes per game. No matter, the numbers don’t lie.
For her career, Curry finishes as the all-time leader at Centennial in scoring with 2,183 points, and three-pointers with 265, including 55 last season. She also ends up with 567 rebounds, 399 assists and 375 steals. The assists and steals are No. 2 all-time in school history. Even if Curry had had five to six more games in a normal season for a team that would have played for a state championship, she would not have made the Cal-Hi Sports Online Record Book list for Most Points (Career), but her mark is still among the all-time leaders from the Inland Empire.
“Jayda has been part of the foundation of where our program is now,” Woods remarked. “She came in as a freshman with the attitude of accomplishing something greater than herself. Through all the ups, the downs, the wins, the losses, and all the individual records attained, she remained focused on bringing Centennial something that it’s never had, a championship on the highest stage and that’s what she helped lead us to.”
“She was more than a captain, a leader on the court, off the court, and in the classroom, Jayda was a warrior, and someone that had a work ethic that was second to none,” Woods continued. “She was what all coaches call ‘a coach’s dream,’ and has left our program better off than when she arrived. Those teammates that she leaves behind are in a place of confidence and eagerness to win more because of how she led and carried herself day in and day out in our program. We’re thankful for the four amazing years that Jayda gave to our Centennial girls basketball program.”
Like Woods, Curry feels like she was a leader and mentor to the other Huskies.
“I do feel like I have been a team leader, beginning with my freshman year,” Curry said. “Coming into high school and starting as a freshman I had a big role on the team and I had to learn how to be a leader early on.”
“Lucky for me I played with a few upperclassmen and was able to learn from them from a leadership standpoint,” Curry continued. “As I developed as a leader I tried to mentor the younger players for sure, from teaching them plays to giving them tips on how to become great leaders as well.”
What about not getting a chance to play for a state championship where Centennial would have been favored.
“Initially, winning the SoCal title made up for not being able to play for state for sure, and honestly once we won that game having a shot at a state championship wasn’t initially on my mind,” Jayda responded. “However, looking back, it definitely hurts a little knowing that we could have capped the year off with another ring, but it just wasn’t a part of God’s plan.”
Curry didn’t win the Gatorade award but it wasn’t because she didn’t meet their criteria, which includes GPA, community service, outside activities, and other factors we don’t use in selecting Ms. Basketball.
Starting with GPA, Curry maintained a 4.0 in every semester and graduated with a 4.429 weighted GPA. According to Woods, Jayda has exercised many hidden talents and hobbies over the years. She achieved a green belt in Taekwondo, participated in gymnastics, and then discovered her real passion in basketball. Running track, singing in the church choir, and praise dancing were also a few of her hobbies. Jayda has also become an avid book reader and a pretty good baker.
Curry spent several years as an active participant in College Bound, hosted at Claremont College. It was a comprehensive program designed to prepare students for admission and completion at a four-year university. The program was STEM based. While there, Jayda designed a video game and constructed a prosthetic arm, something she took great pride in completing.
Curry has been an active member of Transformation Church since she was five years old. For many years, she participated in Sunday school and annual Christmas and Easter plays. She also participated in the church’s teen zoom bible study. Through the church, she has had the opportunity to volunteer for several food drives for the community. Jayda also had the opportunity to assist in the Pre-School Sunday school class helping with instruction and crafts for the children.
At Centennial, Curry actively participated in several charity fundraisers by collecting clothes for Saver, a store that supports the Inland Empire by providing clothes and accessories at a discounted price. In coordination with Eastvale Church, Jayda also helped collect canned foods for a program called CanningHunger. She volunteered her time at Corona Public Library as a tutor for students from 1st to 7th grade. She was a member of Young Black Association, an organization whose purpose is to bring awareness of diversity on campus and equity for students of color. At her home church, she also participated in various food drives for the community which helped homeless and elderly people.
A family of athletes
Family is important to Jayda and athletics has been an important part of her family.
“My family plays a very important role in my life,” Curry said. “They have really helped me get to where I am today, and have shaped me into who I am. My mom, Robin Curry, is from Hampton, Virginia and my dad, Gary Curry, is from New York. Both my mom and dad played sports when they were younger. My dad played baseball and my mom played softball.”
“I have three sisters, one older, Kayla, age 29, and two younger, Layla, age 16, and 11-year old Ayva,” Jayda said. “Layla (8.9 ppg, 9.o rpg) was a junior at Centennial this year, started for us, and played a major role this season. She often goes unnoticed, but truth be told we wouldn’t have been as successful as we were this season if she wasn’t on the team.”
Kayla is more known by her professional name, Kayla Nicole. She is a journalist, host and Instagram influencer with over 565K followers. Her fiancé, and soon to be Jayda’s brother in law, is Travis Kelce, a star tight end with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Getting started and fitting in at Cal
Shortly after Centennial won the CIF SoCal title, Curry was on her way to Berkeley for summer conditioning and workouts, and a chance to begin bonding with her new Bears’ teammates.
“The first few weeks here at Cal have been good for me. I think that I’ve transitioned well. The conditioning, weights, and basketball workouts are going great so far and I definitely feel myself improving already,” Curry said. “I’ve been able to bond with the other girls on the team and I can say that I am going to enjoy being here and playing alongside them. I’m beginning to feel a little homesick, but besides that everything else has been good and going smoothly.
“I see myself fitting in just fine,” Jayda continued. “I really want to make a big impact and help this team be successful, from scoring, to facilitating, to playing defense, plus more. I want to do everything I possibly can to help us get better and win games.”
For now Curry is the big winner one last time for high school. Congratulations and best wishes on her new career at Cal.
MS. BASKETBALL STATE PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
ALL-TIME HONOREES LIST
(All selections by Cal-Hi Sports)
Note: All-time list before 1980 compiled by our founder, the late Nelson Tennis, based on research.
2021 Jayda Curry, Corona Centennial, 5-6
2020 Te-hina Paopao, La Jolla Country Day, 5-10
2019 Haley Jones, San Jose Archbishop Mitty, 6-2
2018 Charisma Osborne, Los Angeles Windward, 5-9 Jr.
2017 Destiny Littleton, La Jolla Bishop’s, 5-9
2016 Sabrina Ionescu, Orinda Miramonte, 6-0
2015 Katie Lou Samuelson, Santa Ana Mater Dei, 6-3
2014 Jordin Canada, Los Angeles Windward, 5-7
2013 Kelsey Plum, La Jolla Country Day, 5-10
2012 Nirra Fields, Santa Ana Mater Dei, 5-8
2011 Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis,
Santa Ana Mater Dei, 6-0
2010 Chelsea Gray, Stockton St. Mary’s, 5-11
2009 Layshia Clarendon, San Bernardino Cajon, 5-9
2008 Jasmine Dixon, Long Beach Poly, 5-11
2007 Jeanette Pohlen, Brea Olinda, 6-1
2006 Jacki Gemelos, Stockton St. Mary’s, 6-0
2005 Courtney Paris, Piedmont, 6-4
2004 Candice Wiggins, La Jolla Country Day, 5-11
2003 Dominique Banks, Stockton St. Mary’s, 5-8
2002 Sa’de Wiley-Gatewood, Lynwood, 5-7 Soph.
2001 Loree Moore, Harbor City Narbonne, 5-8
2000 Diana Taurasi, Chino Don Lugo, 5-11
1999 Diana Taurasi, Chino Don Lugo, 5-11 Jr.
1998 Michelle Greco, La Crescenta Crescenta Valley, 5-10
1997 Erin Buescher, Santa Rosa Rincon Valley Christian, 6-2
1996 Maylana Martin, Perris, 6-3
1995 Renee Robinson, Atherton Sacred Heart Prep, 5-10
1994 Nicole Erickson, Brea Olinda, 5-7
1993 Danielle Viglione, Fair Oaks Del Campo, 5-10
1992 Charisse Sampson, Los Angeles Washington, 5-11
1991 Tanda Rucker, Berkeley, 5-7
1990 Lisa Leslie, Inglewood Morningside, 6-5
1989 Lisa Leslie, Inglewood Morningside, 6-5 Jr.
1988 Trise Jackson, Lynwood, 5-7
1987 Terri Mann, San Diego Point Loma, 6-2
1986 Terri Mann, San Diego Point Loma, 6-2 Jr.
1985 Sharon Turner, Oceanside El Camino, 5-9
1984 Doretha Conwell, Los Angeles Locke, 6-3
1983 Doretha Conwell, Los Angeles Locke, 6-3 Jr.
1982 Cheryl Miller, Riverside Poly, 6-2
1981 Cheryl Miller, Riverside Poly, 6-2 Jr.
1980 Jackie White, Fresno San Joaquin Memorial, 5-8
1979 Jackie White, Fresno San Joaquin Memorial, 5-8 Jr.
1978 Jackie White, Fresno San Joaquin Memorial, 5-8 Soph.
1977 Denise Curry, Davis, 6-1
1976 Denise Curry, Davis, 6-1 Jr.
1975 Anita Ortega, Los Angeles, 5-9
1974 Ann Meyers, La Habra Sonora, 5-9
1973 Ann Meyers, Anaheim Connelly, 5-8 Jr.
1972 Ann Meyers, La Habra Sonora, 5-8 Soph.
Note: List also extends back with assorted years back to 1905 in the Cal-Hi Sports State Record Book and Almanac.
Harold Abend is the associate editor of CalHiSports.com and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend