Jada Wynn literally grew up on the basketball court.
When parents Jody and Derek Wynn were helping coach the University of Southern California women’s basketball team more than a decade ago, a young Jada sometimes would be stationed in a playpen in the corner of the gym during practices.
Other times, Derek would haul Jada around in a baby backpack while instructing his college players.
“She’s been born and raised in the gym,” Derek said.
Jada has grown up around the game as the daughter of two NCAA Division-I college basketball coaches, who have coached women’s hoops together at Pepperdine, USC, Long Beach State and now the University of Washington. The couple is in their second season coaching the Huskies, with Jody as the head coach and Derek as the associate head coach.
Along the way, Jada developed into a talented player.
The versatile 6-foot guard has compiled a strong freshman season for the state-bound King’s girls basketball team, averaging 13.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.2 steals per game. The eighth-seeded Knights (20-6) open the Class 1A Hardwood Classic against ninth-seeded Medical Lake in an elimination contest Wednesday afternoon in the Yakima Valley SunDome.
“She’s got skills and physical capabilities that some high-schoolers at the freshman level just don’t have,” King’s coach Dan Taylor said. “She’s super smart, has a great basketball IQ (and) puts in time herself as well.”
Over the years, Jada has watched countless college practices and games. From an early age, she began traveling with her parents on their teams’ road trips, even tagging along for a tournament in the Bahamas and a foreign tour in Italy.
“She and her younger sister, Kaeli, have been everywhere,” Jody said. “They’ve been on the back of the bus with the teams. They’ve been on airplanes with the teams. … She’s seen the history books come to life at an early age, being able to take her to different cities, states and countries.”
Jada said the bonds she’s developed with college players over the years have been particularly rewarding.
“It’s like you get a whole new set of sisters every year,” Jada said. “It’s really cool. Some of them have known me since I was little, and I still see them around (when they) come to my parents’ games.”
In addition, Jada’s parents said the college players have set a strong example for their daughters.
“There’s no better place to raise your kids than in and around college students that are driven (and) motivated,” Jody said. “(Our daughters have had) outstanding female role models that they’ve grown up with.”
“It gives them a great vision,” Derek added.
Jada began playing basketball at an early age and learned to shoot from her mother, who was a four-year letter-winner and starting guard at USC.
“She was quite the shooter. I have a lot to live up to,” Jada said with a laugh.
Jada has always been a regular at her parents’ college practices. But starting a few years ago, she occasionally began stepping into various drills or scrimmages when the team needed an extra practice-squad player.
Practicing against high-level college players certainly has benefited Jada’s basketball development.
“It’s awesome for her,” Derek said. “I told her (recently that if) you can do a decent job of staying in front of (Washington leading scorer) Amber Melgoza and these types of kids, you should be fine in high school. You shouldn’t feel as much pressure. So it’s definitely a benefit for her confidence.”
When she was younger, Jada played in the post because she was taller than her peers. But two years ago, after realizing she wasn’t going to grow much more, she began transitioning to guard.
As a result, Jada possesses a well-rounded arsenal. She primarily plays on the perimeter for King’s, but also has the versatility to exploit certain matchups in the paint.
“As a guard, she’s a great perimeter shooter,” Taylor said. “Inside, she has great footwork posting up and she does some solid moves. She’s a good finisher at the basket as well. … She has a really great skill set.”
Jada’s talent was on display this past summer at the inaugural Jr. NBA World Championship, a 16-team tournament in Florida that featured top 14-and-under squads from around the world. Jada averaged a team-high 13.5 points and 4.5 rebounds over four games for her Tree of Hope Pacific AAU team, which played in a nationally televised game on Fox Sports 1.
“That was the coolest experience of my basketball life,” she said. “That was amazing.”
Complementing her physical talent is a high level basketball intelligence, stemming from her lifelong exposure to the game.
“Just watching (my parents’) practices and games, you pick up on a lot of things,” Jada said.
It also helps that King’s runs a similar motion offense to the one her parents run with the Huskies.
“When it comes to that piece,” Taylor said, “she’s able to help coach our girls in some things, and has taught me some stuff as well.”
Taylor said he was particularly impressed this past December during the Knights’ holiday tournament trip to Southern California, when at one point he spotted Jada watching film on her phone in the hotel lobby.
“Most teenagers are watching YouTube or Instagram or whatever they do, and she was watching Hudl,” Taylor said. “She was watching our film stuff. I was really impressed that somebody as a freshman was doing that already. … That’s going to speed up her growth process even faster.”
It’s already been a quick acclimation to the high school level for Jada, who drained five 3-pointers and scored a season-high 28 points during one of the holiday tournament games.
Jada experienced a minor setback recently after suffering a concussion that sidelined her for the past two postseason contests, but she’s returned to practice and Taylor said Monday that she’s on track to play in the Hardwood Classic.
And if the Knights are to make a run in Yakima, Jada figures to play an important role.
“I keep forgetting she’s a freshman,” Taylor said. “Because of her knowledge of the game and because of her physical capabilities, I completely forget sometimes.
“She’s always had these glimpses of greatness throughout the season,” he added, “and I just look forward to more to come. More growth, more strength, more quickness (and) more experience is just going to make her more deadly.”