VALDOSTA –– In the Justice family bloodline, heartbeats have the rhythm of the dribble and jump shots come as easy as breathing.
Following in the footsteps of her brothers Blake and Beau, sister Jacey Justice looks to be the next legend in Peebles High School lore. The precocious sophomore showcased her skills Friday as the Indians arrived from Ohio to participate in the inaugural Valdosta State Lady Blazers team camp.
Not only was the camp itself unprecedented, it was also a rare chance for Jacey to play in front of her older brothers.
Jacey scored 20 first-half points in the team’s second game of the day, proving the peach doesn’t fall far from the basket.
“It’s really competitive,” Jacey said. “Seeing them –– I get to hear coaching from all of my family, especially my brothers and it makes me want to be better for them so I’ve got to push myself to show them that I can compete with them.”
Beau added: “It’s really amazing because you get to see how well she’s grown. I think the last time I saw her play was six months ago, almost seven. Even from game-to-game, you can see her maturity level increasing... She adapts really well, which is the making of a great player.”
As a freshman, Jacey helped lead the Indians to a 17-7 record while introducing herself as one of the best young prospects in the state of Ohio. Jacey averaged 18.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.2 steals and 2.4 assists in her first season with the Indians. More impressively, Jacey shot 50 percent from the floor, 42 percent from 3-point range and made 78 percent of her free throws.
Just one look at Jacey on the floor reveals a player wise beyond her years. The youngest basketball player in the Justice fold spoke like a coach on the floor, encouraging her teammates and directing traffic when the ball wasn’t in her hands. Her mother and head coach, Billie Jo, and her father, Brett, saw potential in Jacey when Blake was in high school; when their daughter was merely a water girl for the Indians.
“Jacey Lynn started when she was 3 or 4 on the bench with Blake when Blake was in high school,” Billie Jo said. “We look back now and that was the water girl. That she knew what to say as a water girl is what was funny. Because she’s been around basketball, as she got to be 5, 6, 7 years old, she’s over there on the bench telling the kids, ‘Listen, you need to be doing this.’
“She’s watched so much and heard so much, so the (basketball) IQ definitely comes from multiple years of watching and watching and listening and listening. She’s had the advantage to be able to hear that and know that and that’s really helped her the last couple of years coming into her high school years.”
When it comes to basketball, one thing the three siblings all have in common is their ability to shoot the ball. That’s where their father comes in. As a former player at Capital University and varsity coach for six years, Brett is unwavering about doing things the right way to put the ball in the basket.
“I’m a big believer in doing things the right way,” Brett said. “I’m very black-and-white when it comes to the essence of how you do certain things. Blake and Beau, from the time they were little, there was a certain way they had to hold the ball, a certain way they had to shoot a basketball. Jacey came along and it was the same philosophy –– she goes through the exact same workouts that I give the boys so it’s actually worked out pretty well.”
Brett’s teaching worked out pretty well on Friday. In Peebles’ final game of the day, Jacey buried six 3-pointers and relaxed on the bench in the final moments of a 20-point victory.
For all her on-court brilliance at such a young age, Jacey regularly drew scouts from several Division I schools, such as Ball State and others, to watch her play. When asked if the extra eyeballs put any pressure on her, the sophomore insists she’s unfazed.
“It doesn’t put any pressure (on me),” Jacey said. “It just shows me that I need to continue getting better so I can have more schools looking at me.”
Confidence. With the Justices, confidence comes from preparation. Nearly leading her team to a District championship as a freshman, Jacey certainly doesn’t lack in that area. Despite Jacey’s stats, Blake said, the only thing that matters is winning.
“Any time you’re as young as she is, and you’ve got that much pressure and that much responsibility for your team, at the end of the day we’re all just competitors,” Blake said of Jacey’s production. “Myself included. We’ve put a ton of work in and we’ve succeeded and all (the numbers) are great, but it’s all about winning.
“I think, at a young age, all that pressure on her and the team looking to her for everything, that’s more difficult than the actual skill behind it and the hours put in.”
Blake was an All-State selection all four years for the Indians, leaving the school as the school’s all-time leading scorer and second all-time in the state of Ohio in 3-pointers made with 314.
Beau, who earned Gulf South Conference Player of the Year honors this past season at Valdosta State, shattered Blake’s scoring record at Peebles with 2,370 — 187 more points than Blake.
During his three-year tenure at Valdosta State, Blake scored 1,112 points in 81 career games. Not to be outdone, Beau eclipsed the 1,000-point plateau in just 59 games. With his senior season starting in November, Beau figures to add to that total and his long list of accolades, which Blake jokingly says seems to be growing every other day.
“It is funny when you look back and I always joke with them that had I come second or third, I would’ve broken their records but I didn’t have anything to strive for,” Blake said grinning. “They’ve still left one for me –– the 3-point record––so I’ll hold that over their heads. When Beau did it, people asked, ‘Does it upset you?’
“No, it’s my little brother. You want them to be better and set the records so, with Jacey, it’s the same thing and Beau’s the same way. We’re never gonna be upset if one of our younger siblings beats us. You’re happy for them in that moment –– we know how much time we put into it, we know how much time she puts into it now and with it being 10 years between us, having raised her to an extent and watch her grow up, I hope she breaks all those records.”