The little girls began to come up to West Forsyth senior Jenna Staiti after each victory for the Lady Wolverines basketball team in the state playoffs. They wanted to take their picture with the girl some were calling the best female basketball player in Forsyth County history. A few even wanted Staiti’s autograph.
“That’s never been a thing,” Staiti said.
Even after everything the 6-foot-5 center had already accomplished during her high school career, her acclaim and notoriety reached even greater levels in a final season in which all elements of her game and her place in county history aligned.
She signed her scholarship to play for the University of Maryland, led West to an elusive Region 6-AAAAAA championship and then captured the state’s imagination in the Lady Wolverines’ run to the state semifinals capped by a 51-point performance against eventual state champion McEachern.
The accolades came pouring in soon after: Miss Georgia Basketball, Gatorade Georgia Player of the Year, WBCA All-American, Naismith All-American.
And here is the last one: the Forsyth County News’ Girls Basketball Player of the Year for the second straight year.
Question: How did this season meet your expectations?
Staiti: “At the beginning of the season we talked about how we could win a region championship. That was our main goal. … After many practices of conditioning, just straight conditioning, we all started thinking with all the work we put in that we thought we could do it.
“We were really confident. We won the region, and going into state we were going to take it one game at a time. Coach [David] May puts in so much work for us we thought after each game that we’re doing this for him and all the coaches. It’s just all the hard work is paying off. Each game we were getting more confident, a lot more confident than last year.”
Q: What was it like to be in the state semifinals?
Staiti: “It was awesome. I think a lot of people saw us as the underdog coming in. We were a little nervous at first, but the first game we played at West Georgia the crowd was on our side and we got confident. But then the next game was awesome to see all those people there for us. You know, us and McEachern, you’d never see West Forsyth winning, but to play as good of a game as we played against them was good. We left everything out on the court and they brought everything they had too.”
Q: 51 for you.
Staiti: “I didn’t even know. I didn’t know until 45 minutes after the game. I didn’t have my phone or anything. I was pretty upset, you know. But once I was calm and everything, everyone was like, ‘You know you had 51, right?’ But I had no idea.”
Q: What’s it been like to deal with all the attention?
Staiti: “It just feels like all my hard work is paying off. I definitely couldn’t do it without my teammates. They get me the ball.
“But for the past four years, I’ve never had the attention like I’ve had now, everyone knowing who I am. I was at Fowler Park the other day, and some guy came up to me and was like, ‘Are you Jenna Staiti?’ Just everyone knowing who you are is pretty cool. Little kids want to take pictures with me. That’s never been a thing. After a bunch of the state [playoff] games little kids would come up to me and be like, ‘Can we take a picture?’ It’s gotten more and more throughout the years.”
Q: How meaningful were all the postseason accolades?
Staiti: “It means a ton. I could have never imagined my freshman year when I came in here all lanky, not coordinated, to where I am now. It’s pretty cool to see where you can go. I mean, I didn’t even think I was going to be a basketball player. That too. With all of it put together, it’s awesome. It means the world.”
Q: What will you remember the most about playing at West Forsyth?
Staiti: “I just think the relationships I’ve made with coaches – Coach May, Coach [Chris] Roy. I think the best time of the season is just hanging out with your teammates and you’re all getting along, dinners with your teammates. That’s what I’m going to miss the most I think. And obviously the memories I made this year were pretty cool.”
Q: Have you thought about what you want to accomplish at Maryland and what kind of player you want to be there?
Staiti: “Definitely, I want to be a stretch forward. Working over the summer I think will definitely help my game. I definitely want to be able to step out and play a little bit. It’s going to be a lot of hard work.”