A natural athlete, Whitney Jennings could probably excel in just about any sport she put her mind to. But to watch her play with the expert skill and athletic grace that she displays in basketball, it’s almost as if she was born to play the game.
And Logansport fans have taken notice, as they showed up in record numbers this past season during Jennings’ sophomore campaign, with upwards of 3,000-plus in attendance for the Lady Berries’ biggest games. This past season Jennings led the Berries to a 20-win season and their first-ever undefeated season in North Central Conference play. She’s considered a 2014 Miss Basketball candidate and has already received ample interest from Division I programs.
But just two generations ago, her grandmother, Nancy Adams, did not even have an opportunity to play sports competitively. A lot has changed in women’s sports since then, and a driving force behind the change was the landmark legislation, Title IX, that was passed 40 years ago.
Title IX states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity.”
Veteran Logan girls basketball coach Jerry Hoover said Title IX, indeed, has made a huge impact.
“Title IX forced them to have to be equal. There had to be the same opportunities for girls as there were for boys,” he said. “The national legislation, Title IX, drove that bus.”
Hoover said that before Title IX — when girls did not have the same opportunities as boys — was “another form of discrimination against a segment of our society.”
Whitney’s sister, Rachel, is also a basketball standout who is a particularly good shooter. She has received interest from several schools and is set to get a scholarship to play basketball. And the oldest sister, Shannon, received both athletic and academic scholarships to play soccer at Bethel College, an NAIA school.
Carol Jennings, the girls’ mother, said it’s easy for her daughters to take for granted the opportunities they have grown up with in sports, which is a sign of the progress that has been made over the last 40 years.
“My girls don’t even realize what it was like before,” she said. “There have always been so many programs for them growing up in Logansport, whether it’s the Y, rec soccer, mighty mite basketball.
“All they know is the opportunities they have now.”
Despite not always having equal opportunities throughout the years, the Jennings family has a strong tradition of girls basketball that spans four generations. It starts with great-grandmother Helen Albert, who was a member of the 1929 Argos team that finished as the mythical state runner-up. Then there’s grandmother Nancy Adams, who did not have an opportunity to play competitive sports in her high school but did cover the first girls state championship game for the South Bend Tribune as a sports correspondent in 1976. And mother Carol Jennings was part of the two sectional championship teams at Bremen in the early 1980s.
Helen (Krouse) Albert was a key member as a sophomore on the 1929 Argos team that finished as mythical state runners-up.
As the story goes, Wabash had a tall and talented team that other teams were rather intimidated to play against.
A newspaper writer from the Argos Reflector wrote: “Wabash had issued a sweeping challenge and the Pride of Argos was the only team in Hoosierdom qualified even to answer the defy, and nothing that followed can dim the glory reflected by that outstanding fact.
“When it came to playing basketball they had little on our girls save altitude, but of that they made the most — getting the tip-offs and playing quite literally over the heads of our Pride.”
Wabash won game one, 30-17, at Argos. The Reflector stated: “It was, on the whole, one of the fastest and most exciting games ever witnessed in Argos, but our girls could not quite reach their altitudinous antagonists.
“A record crowd of 800 witnessed the game. There was a good delegation from Wabash and Plymouth, Culver, Bourbon and Bremen, and other neighboring towns were well represented.”
In game two at Wabash, Argos trailed just 14-9 at the half before Wabash ran away to a 39-13 victory. The Argos newspaper writer said there may have been questionable officiating in the contest and summed up the team’s effort by penning, “That our little town has a team of high school girls who were the only ones in Hoosierdom qualified to take up the gauntlet thrown down by the tall Wabashers, and that they did take it up and fought the good fight to the last, against odds, will ever be the Pride of Argos.”
Following the season, Albert moved to Lapaz with her parents, and she attended Lapaz High School her junior and senior years and also played basketball there.
Albert passed away in 2009 at the age of 95.
In an interview with the Monticello Herald Journal in 2008, Albert compared girls basketball in 1929 to the modern game.
“It’s much different. There’s no comparison,” she said. “It’s really a lot faster game. The girls have to practice a whole lot.”
In 1929, they played 6-on-6 basketball instead of the current 5-on-5 game. In 6-on-6 basketball, three forwards play in the frontcourt only and are the only players allowed to shoot, and three guards play in the backcourt and play only defense. Another rule is players are allowed to dribble no more than two times before passing or shooting.
Nancy Adams, Albert’s daughter, said her mother told her that basketball was her favorite part of school. She added that when her mother moved to Lapaz, basketball helped her adjust to the new school and meet new friends more quickly.
Of course, Albert did not have the opportunity to play college basketball as Title IX was still 41 years away when she graduated high school.
Nancy (Albert) Adams is a 1959 graduate of tiny Leesburg High School, which later consolidated into Warsaw High School. Adams’ graduating class at Leesburg was just 18 students, including just five girls.
Adams did not have the opportunity to play sports in high school, let alone college, though she was a cheerleader for Leesburg’s boys team.
Adams’ only opportunities playing sports in school were in gym class, where she recalls running track and playing some basketball.
“I liked to run track and enjoyed playing basketball,” she said. “I could run as fast as some of the boys. I had two brothers and grew up on a farm. I enjoyed sports then, too.”
Though she did not have the chance to play competitive basketball growing up, Adams is a matriarch of a basketball-loving family.
“Basketball has always been our favorite thing as far as a family,” she said. “My parents enjoyed basketball more than anything, but they liked baseball and some other things, too.”
Girls basketball started picking back up again in Indiana high schools after Title IX was passed in 1972. In 1976 the IHSAA held its first girls basketball tournament.
Warsaw, led by Indiana’s first Miss Basketball, Judi Warren, made a run to the state finals. Adams and her husband Kent, a school administrator at the time who later became a state representative and state senator, approached the South Bend Tribune about covering the team for the newspaper. The duo had already been providing coverage of the governor of Indiana at the time, Doc Bowen, from Bremen, for the paper. The duo had always provided professional grade work and the paper agreed for them to cover the first girls state championship. Nancy wrote the articles and Kent took the photos. She wrote a state finals preview and they covered the event. If it was not for their coverage, Nancy said the paper would have probably relied on an AP blurb in what was the news of record in that area.
Warsaw went on to win the first girls state championship, and the top headline of the Sunday, Feb. 29, 1976 edition of the South Bend Tribune was titled, “Hysteria hits girls, too, as Warsaw grabs state title.”
Adams said Warren was a short, quick point guard who was the spark plug for Warsaw. She also had some taller teammates who helped the squad win the first state title.
Adams said the modern girls basketball game compared to the mid-1970s is “a lot faster and more sophisticated than when it started.”
Adams put on her analyst’s hat in regards to her granddaughter, Whitney Jennings. She noted how hard Whitney has worked to acquire her skill set and added, “She definitely has some God-given ability, too. A lot of kids do the same thing and don’t have the same results. ... They don’t come around that often with that skill level.
“She’s like a coach on the floor, too. She understands all the angles. It’s fun to watch her play.”
Carol (Adams) Jennings was part of two sectional championship teams at Bremen, in 1980 as a sophomore and in 1982 as a senior.
Bremen, which had about 400 students in the early 1980s as Jennings recalls and is now a Class 2A school, won its first sectional title in girls basketball in 1980 playing in the single-class days.
Jennings said the 1982 team was the better team, led by five seniors. She said she was a scrappy player who worked hard on defense and battled for rebounds.
Bremen was coached by Marty Huber, who just retired from his coaching post this year. The team’s top player was Deana Moren, Bremen’s only ever 1,000-point career scorer. Moren went on to play at the NAIA level.
Bremen played against NorthWood for the sectional championship in 1982. NorthWood used a 1-3-1 zone designed to limit Moren, and it worked, as Moren was held to six points after entering averaging over 20 points per game. But Jennings was one of the players who stepped up, as she recorded 15 points and seven rebounds to help Bremen knock off NorthWood 62-51 to claim the title.
Bremen went on to defeat South Bend Adams in an Elkhart Regional semifinal game before losing to Goshen in the regional final. Bremen finished 20-3 on the season, with two of the three losses coming against Goshen, a conference opponent, and the other coming against NorthWood in the regular season.
Jennings said her first opportunity to play sports was in swimming, and she started when she was 9 years old. She swam in high school and set school records that held for about 15 years.
She said her first opportunity to play basketball came in the seventh grade. She remembers Bremen beat Argos 10-8 in her first ever game in middle school, and Moren scored all 10 points in the win.
“We all got a lot better after that first year,” Jennings said. “We probably won half our games in the seventh grade, but by eighth grade — we had played a lot more and went to a summer camp in Angola and improved — and went undefeated. Seventh grade was the first time any of us had really played basketball, which was 1977.”
Jennings talked about how the game has progressed since she was in high school.
“Girls are so much more skilled than they were back when I played,” she said. “We had some really good athletes. We had some athletic girls that were quick and aggressive. Deana was skilled naturally, but she was not as good as Whitney by far as far as ball-handling and shooting. Back then we didn’t have the shooters hitting like we have today.”
Carol Jennings’ younger sister of five years, Leah Ann (Adams) Self, was part of Bremen’s regional championship team in 1985 as a sophomore. She went on to play basketball at the University of Indianapolis and is only the second athlete in the school’s history to earn 12 letters in various sports in her four years.
Whitney Jennings has 1,141 points and 287 assists halfway through her high school career. The 5-foot-5 point guard averaged 25.4 points and 7.0 assists as a sophomore. She has already received offers from programs such as Iowa, Texas Tech, Indiana State and Butler.
Rachel Jennings was Logan’s second leading scorer this past season, averaging 11.5 points per game. The 5-8 shooting guard finished ninth in the state in made 3-point baskets (60). Of those who finished in the top 10, her 44.1 percent shooting from behind the arc ranked her fourth. She is receiving interest from several college programs.
Shannon Jennings was the starting point guard as a junior on Logan’s last sectional championship team in 2007. She was known as a defensive specialist and usually guarded the opposing team’s top player. A four-year starter, she scored more than 200 points each season of her career and finished with 885 career points. She went on to play college soccer at Bethel, where she received both athletic and academic scholarships that paid for about half of her schooling. She graduated from Bethel in December with a degree in accounting and will attend Indiana University for graduate school.
The girls’ cousin, Betsy Adams, who’s the same age as Shannon, was an Indiana All-Star in 2008 from Twin Lakes High School. She played at Valparaiso University on an athletic scholarship before a knee injury sidelined her this past season. She received a medical redshirt and will finish up her college career at Florida Golf Coast University as a fifth-year senior and grad student. After graduation she plans to remain in basketball, whether playing overseas or starting a coaching career.