Bracey - Mississippi Scoreboard
photo by Chris Todd

In 2015, seventh grader Jacorriah Bracey stood on the sidelines of the Mississippi Coliseum at the MHSAA 3A quarterfinal game. She quietly watched the clock tick down on Ruleville Central High School’s 8-point loss to Jefferson County. Bracey was not pleased. In her young mind, she saw a coach who had given her all and a team that had not done all they could do to secure the victory. Later that night, she made a promise to the coach.

“I could see in her eyes that she was frustrated and mad because (they) could have beat that team,” Bracey said. “I remember telling her, ‘When I come here I’m going to do everything I can to get you that ring. We’re going to get to state.’”

The semifinals of the MHSAA State Basketball Tournament on Wednesday, March 4, 2020, at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson, Miss.
photo by Chris Todd

Wednesday morning, the Clarion Ledger Dandy Dozen made good on her word. With the game on the line, she grabbed multiple rebounds, dribbled out of traps and picked up key steals to keep the ball in her team’s hands and their advantage on the scoreboard. Jacorriah, the top ranked player in Mississippi, finished the game with 35 points leading the Lady Tigers to a 55-52 win over Tylertown and a trip to the 3A title game. When the buzzer sounded and the celebration began, she and her coach embraced. The fulfillment of the promise even more special because Ruleville Central (now Thomas E. Edwards) High School’s head coach Chiquita Bracey is Jacorriah’s mother.

Basketball has been a part of the pair’s life for as long as they both can remember. Chiquita Bracey started playing the sport while living with her grandmother after her mother’s death. A standout at Drew High School in Drew, Miss., she earned a basketball scholarship to Mississippi Delta Community College. The swing player saw a rewarding freshman season, but was soon faced with a life altering decision. Chiquita, now pregnant, was told by her coach that she would be redshirted. Not fully understanding the decision and without advice, the young mother gave up basketball altogether. She later transferred to Delta State earning her Bachelor of Arts degree in secondary education. After graduation, she accepted a position at her alma mater and one year later, the 23-year old was given the head girls basketball job.

Chiquita didn’t realize then that her altered path would be the start of something special. Her daughter, Jacorriah was now 6 years old and in elementary school. Each day, the little girl was dropped off via the bus at her mother’s gym. Afternoons were spent watching practices. Evenings were reserved for basketball games. Summers were spent at team camps. She became immersed in basketball.

“That was just our life at the time. It was basketball, basketball, basketball,” said Chiquita. “Whether it was summer training or us playing in tournaments over the Thanksgiving or Christmas break, or heading to playoff (games), we were just always involved in basketball.”

Soon it was time for Jacorriah to blaze her own sports path. At 7 years old, Chiquita and husband Curtis placed their daughter on the community basketball team. Everyone else quickly saw what her parents already had realized. Their daughter was special. Her natural ability mixed with the skills picked up from her hours in the gym placed her well above the other players in her age group. As a 7th grader, she led her team often drawing shock from the crowd and even her teammates for feats that are normally reserved for those much older. She was moved up to the varsity team her 8th grade year and averaged 11 points. Her freshman season produced a 52 point single game scoring record. Ranked #1 in her class as a sophomore, the  young star averaged 30 points a game. In her junior year, the five star recruit broke her own record in a game versus Humphreys County scoring 53 points.

All of which has been guided from the sideline by her coach/mother.

“You never see a mother daughter duo,” said Chiquita, now in her 15th year as head coach. “You see a father-son or a father-daughter, but you’ve rarely seen a mother-daughter duo. She has made me very proud. Coaching her has been very easy and her being on my team has made my job easier.”

            Jacorriah has definitely been a major contributor to her team’s success and makes it look effortless. Ranked by ESPN as the #11 guard in the country, the senior averages 35 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists per game. A 5-foot-11 combo player, she can score from anywhere on the floor, but is also a stingy defender. Her unspoken leadership on the court is unmistakable.

The semifinals of the MHSAA State Basketball Tournament on Wednesday, March 4, 2020, at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson, Miss.
photo by Chris Tott

As expected, the mother-daughter/coach-player relationship does make for some interesting moments. Critiques from practice often spill over into the ride home and discussions of game situations find their way to the dinner table. There is no favor just because they share DNA. Jacorriah admits that her coach is hard on her. Chiquita adds that her team’s star player has no problem living up to it. Their unique dynamic works.

“Jacorriah is the coach on the floor.  She is an extension of me on the court,” says Chiquita. “She sets the tone. She is not very outspoken, but they listen to her. She gets the whole team involved. She leads and they follow.”

That leadership extends away from the gym. Jacorriah, who has an A average, was also named Miss Thomas E. Edwards High School. She helps with her siblings and spends much of her time home with her family or bonding with her teammates. All things added to the list of reasons her mother has to be proud of her.

“She is a good kid,” Chiquita said. “We’ve always had a good bond and we talk to each other and tell each other anything. She values what I think of her and tries to stay in tune and keep things in order so I don’t have to tell her.”

Jacorriah credits her mother with not only the player, but the young woman she has become.

“She is really a coach even off the floor. She is a life coach,” Jacorriah. “She pushes me on the court, but she pushed me off the court too. Whether it’s making good grades, or good decisions, or telling me things to do and look out for.”

Together, the pair have made history. The Lady Tigers will play for their first state title Saturday versus Senatobia. With the new MHSAA format, Jacorriah, an Ole Miss signee, will play the first game on her college home’s floor before she ever enrolls. The fact that Chiquita and Jacorriah get to do it together makes it much sweeter for each of them.

“It will be amazing. It’s a wonderful opportunity, said Chiquita. “It’s something that has never been done in our community. We’ve already made history, but just finishing it out will be a perfect end to her high school career.”

“I know she really wants this,” Jacorriah adds. “She has never gotten this far. I told her we are going to win the championship this year for her because she has always wanted it. ”

Watching from the sidelines will be Jacorriah’s 6 year old sister, Jace Kinnedi. Much like her sister, she is being raised on the hardwood. However, if Jacorriah has her way, there won’t be any more promises to be made.