Shawnee graduate jack of all trades for Arizona women's basketball program
TUCSON, Arizona – Jessika Carrington has been the consummate jack of all trades for the University of Arizona women's basketball program.
From aiding in recruitment to working up expense reports to planning road trips for the team, the 2006 Shawnee High School graduate has worn many hats as the director of operations for the nationally-ranked Wildcats.
Community service is a big part of what basketball teams do at the NCAA level and Carrington has been in charge of that as well at Arizona.
“We may be visiting senior citizens' homes, going to classrooms to read or do activities and we have partnered with the Boys and Girls Club of Tucson,” said Carrington. “We often go to children's hospitals.”
But recently those activities have been hampered due to implications of COVID-19.
Those efforts may have been curtailed, but they haven't been wiped out. Through the efforts of Carrington and members of the program, adjustments have been made on the fly.
“We were not able to go visit, but members of the team made notebooks and decorated them for journals for the children,” Carrington said. “With COVID (as an obstacle), we have done Zoom calls with classrooms and children in hospitals.”
During the summers, the Wildcat team often has two community service projects a week and one event on the weekend during the school year, according to Carrington.
Because of Carrington's leadership with community service initiatives, the women's basketball program won the Athletic Director's Community Service Cup for four straight years.
Carrington's journey to becoming a vital piece of the Arizona Wildcat program began at Shawnee High School where she was a cheerleader, basketball player and member of the track and field squad as a shot put and discus thrower.
“I loved basketball and I enjoyed cheerleading. I think we only won about 25 basketball games the whole time I was there, but it was fun,” said Carrington. “Cheerleading was fun. My dad and I would joke about it. Go kick butt on the court and cheer about it later.”
Following high school, Carrington made her collegiate home at the University of Oklahoma and served as a team manager for Coach Sherri Coale's Sooner women's basketball team.
“I grew up going to her camps and loved what she is all about. I had gone to college to become a physical therapist,” Carrington said.
However, through a friend, Carrington got hooked up with the OU women's program as a team manager.
“I had no idea what it was all about, but I knew I wanted to be a part of it,” said Carrington. “I volunteered for two years and then I got paid $5.25 an hour my last two years.
Carrington says her duties ranged from doing laundry for the team at 10 o'clock at night or rebounding for Courtney Paris (former OU All-American, WNBA player and current Sooner assistant coach) in a late-night shoot around.
Carrington earned her Bachelor of Arts in Human Relations in 2010 and ultimately obtained her Master of Education in Intercollegiate Athletic Administration in 2012 from OU.
Upon graduation, Carrington worked in the OU Athletic Ticket Office as a graduate student responsible for selling, distribution and marketing of tickets for all sports.
Some of the memories she cherishes during that time at OU were the road trips.
“When we (here at Arizona) go to the Bay Area to play Cal and Stanford we will go on a trip to Pier 39 or the Golden Gate Bridge. Last year, we tried to go to the Google campus but were unable to,” Carrington said. “One of the reasons I like to do this is because of my experiences as a student manager (at OU). I like to be able to translate that part into what I'm doing now.”
Carrington had a stint from 2013-2017 as an administrative assistant for the University of Southern Cal women's basketball program where she was responsible for oversight of the basketball office, assisted with team travel and meals, coordinated student managers, communicated with all athletic and academic departments and administered the head coach's calendar.
That set the stage for Carrington's current position, one in which she has experienced growth professionally and has seen the emergence of a fledgeling women's basketball program at Arizona.
“Our head coach, Adia Barnes, is in her fourth season. She played here in the mid-90s and may be the best (women's) player to ever come out of here,” said Carrington. “I'm in my fourth season here. My first season we won just six games. The second season we did better and then we won the WNIT in 2019. It was nice to be able to play about a month longer.”
Carrington calls her experience with the Wildcats as a 'growth process.'
But she was disappointed at the conclusion of the 2019-20 season, one in which the Wildcats were headed to the NCAA Tournament and scheduled to host the first two rounds but were unable to because of the pandemic.
“Our team goal is to make the Final Four.” Carrington said. “Last year, we beat Stanford which was No. 4 at the time, at home. It was a season of a lot of firsts. We swept Arizona State for the first time in about 20 years. We hadn't won in Tempe in 20 years.”
So far so good this season, the Wildcats have risen to No. 10 in both the Associated Press and Coaches' Polls and own a sparkling 10-2 record. Arizona is scheduled to play at home against Utah on Friday.