Kierre James wore her white and red-trimmed No. 3 Sinclair jersey and the well-earned smile that came from her double-double performance: 26 points and 10 assists.
Her mom, Lachelle James, a juvenile probation officer in Lima, wore a fancy black T-shirt that across the front read “Diamond Essence,” the name of the all-women’s motorcycle club she’s in. On the back was a pink motorcycle and the club’s motto: “Riding Through It.”
Kierre, as Sinclair coach Trendale Perkins put it, “is the heart and soul of the team.”
Her mom, he noted, my well be the team’s No. 1 fan.
Lachelle worked her job with the Allen County Juvenile Court on Wednesday, then got in her car – “I don’t ride my motorcycle if it’s under 50 degrees,” she laughed – and then made the hour-and-15 minute drive to the Sinclair gym and took a seat two rows off the court.
“I haven’t missed a home game yet and I’ve been to every one on the road, too, except when they played Hocking College down there,” she said with reference to the school in Nelsonville, two hours southeast of Dayton in Athens County.
“I love to see my daughter play,” Lachelle said, “She’s my baby. And I think she enjoys seeing me here.
“When a kid looks in the audience, they should see somebody that belongs to them and cares about them.”
She sees the flip side – the part parent absenteeism plays – with her job in juvenile probation.
As a parent she’s always been involved in the lives of her daughter and her older son, Keanu.
“I lived with my mom growing up, but my dad was around and took part,” Kierre said. “Ever since I was little, though, my mom played a big part in my life. She was always there for me.”
Lachelle said she got a lot of help from her parents and her family:
“It really does take a village to raise a child.”
When it came to basketball, Kierre’s older brother and cousins played a part.
“Kierre just fell in love with basketball at the age of four and she’s been at it ever since,” Lachelle said. “She tried to keep up with her brother and she usually did. She was really little, but she was feisty.”
Sinclair’s Kierre James against Hocking College on Wednesday night. The Tartan Pride won 127-53. Eric Deeter/CONTRIBUTED
Memorable first impression
Perkins said it was Kierre’s AAU coach who first tipped him off about her:
“He sent me a DM (direct message) on Twitter and told me about this guard he had who was tough. I figured I needed to go see her.”
By then she was playing at Lima Senior High School.
“It’s kind of a funny story,” Perkins said. “I got turned around up there and got lost a little bit trying to find her high school.
“When I finally get there, it was the second quarter and she immediately picked up her second foul and they sat her on the bench after that.
“I was ticked. I drove all that way and now she was on the bench the whole second quarter. I was like, ‘Man, this is ridiculous.’
“Anyway, the third quarter starts and her team is down about 10. And no lie, the kid goes on a 14 or 16-0 run by herself! At that point I knew we had to have her and I offered her on the spot.”
He admits that at a compact 5-foot-2, she “definitely doesn’t pass the eye test. She is kind of short. But while you can measure height, you can’t measure heart and she’s got a ton of it.
“Girlwise, I haven’t coached a whole lot of dogs (as in ferocious, junkyard types.) I’ve been coaching a long time and she’s one of the only girls I’d consider a dog. She can just take over a game.”
As the sophomore point guard on a team whose roster this season has fluctuated from seven to just five players, she’s on the court an average of 36.3 minutes in every 40-minute contest and is averaging 21 points
She given the team a second scoring threat alongside fellow sophomore Amanda Schroeder, who is averaging 25.4 points. Wednesday night the 6-foot forward from Carroll led Sinclair with 31 points and 16 rebounds.
Myalisa Beal added 22, Sarah Bettinger, 20, and Keeara Nored, 17 points and 10 assists.
“Kierre’s recruiting is starting to pick up,” Perkins said. “Delaware State called about her and so did Chowan University, a Division II school in North Carolina and Bluefield State, another D-II in West Virginia.
“There’ll be more. After she graduates from here, you’ll definite find her playing at another place next year.”
Lachelle hopes her daughter continues her basketball at a four-year school, but said: “Regardless, she’s going to go on and get her nursing degree.”
Kierre said she’s taking the prerequisite courses at Sinclair and said she’s done some job shadowing at St. Rita’s Hospital in Lima and at a nursing home there.”
“Ever since I as a little kid I wanted to help people,” she said.
That example comes from her mom, as well.
“Yeah, she’s pretty cool,” 19-year-old Kierre admitted with a teenage shrug.
As for her mom’s Diamond Essence involvement, she just smiled: “It’s what she wants to do so she does it.”
Lachelle explained: “I’d always seen people on bikes. It looked like something I’d like to do. So I YouTubed how to ride a bike and then I took a class and I’ve loved it since. That was three years ago.”
She said there are 10 women in the club – they’re from Lima, Toledo and Detroit and work a variety of jobs – and then they travel all over when they get together to ride:
“I’ve been to Indianapolis, Detroit, all over the state. I just love the freedom of it.”
She said her dad, on the other hand, is a little nervous about her new passion: “Every time I leave, he wants me to call him every time we stop, just to let him know I’m alright.”
She said the club also gives back to the community: “We’ve got a yearly back to school drive and we feed the homeless We’re just a bunch of ladies who love the community and love to ride.”
Her love of her daughter though is the one thing that tops that and it keeps Kierra on the back of her bike instead of up front.
“She’s ridden with me,” Lachelle said, “I know she wants to learn and yeah…but not yet.”
And that’s OK.
Thanks to Sinclair basketball, her daughter’s on quite a ride herself this season.