The entire Richard Hardy Memorial School student body turned out Friday to watch two of their fellow classmates sign to play college basketball in the fall. Kyla Braden, the daughter of Billy and Gretchen Braden and Shalonda and Monty Meeks, of Grundy County, and Keya Jenkins, the daughter of Telva Jenkins, of South Pittsburg, are the newest members of the Cleveland State Lady Cougars basketball team.
Principal Beth Webb welcomed Cleveland State basketball coach, Dan Lumpkin, with words of praise for the two seniors.
Richard Hardy Lady Hawks coach, Kelby Ferrell, says Cleveland State is getting two great players.
“These two seniors complement each other better than any two players I have ever coached,” said Coach K. “Their leadership qualities are second to none and they will be extremely hard to replace. I could not be more proud of them!”
The girls have built up substantial statistics during their high school career. Kyla played all four of her high school seasons at Richard Hardy with two all-districts, two all-regions, an MVP, and over 1,000 points.
Keya transferred to Richard Hardy her junior year, after playing varsity at South Pittsburg for three years (playing up her eighth grade year). She sat out her junior year, but came back as a strong player this past season. Her career stats include two all-districts, two all-regions, and over 1,000 points – all in just three years.
“I think she will fit right in at Cleveland State. I am excited to see what the future holds for her as she continues her journey,” said Keya’s mother.
Kyla’s mother remembers what it was like to first visit Richard Hardy.
“Mrs. Webb gave us a tour,” said Shalonda. “About halfway through, Kyla whispered, ‘Mom, I want to go here.”
“We met Coach K on that tour, and Kyla told him she wanted to play basketball. He looked at her and asked her if she was any good. I think she has answered his question on the court.
“I am so thankful for the amazing coaches she has had during her basketball career – John Ross Jones, Andrea Cleek, and Coach K. they have all made positive impacts on her career. I have done my homework on Coach Lumpkin and am confident he will continue this trend.”
Lumpkin stated Friday that he is confident he made the right choice with Kyla and Keya.
“Both girls are good athletes. We play a fast paced game on the offense where athleticism is key,” said Lumpkin. “Both girls are the high quality caliber players I am looking for to lead our team. Our point guard graduates this year, and was looking for someone to come in and run the show. I see that ability in Kyla.”
Kyla and Keya both played travel ball during the spring and summer with the Tennessee Lady Belles, winning the USBA National Championship title in 2014. Belles’ coach Megan Ferrell says she could not be more proud of the two girls.
“They have worked so hard and have grown so much in their play over the years,” says Coach Megan. “They have been a joy to coach and I look forward to watching them play at the next level!”