Redd Gets a Shot at a Promising Future : Basketball: Rising from one of San Francisco’s toughest neighborhoods, 17-year-old becomes one of the nation’s becomes one of the nation’s hottest collegiate prospects at the University of Washington.

Associated Press

In Jamie Redd’s words, if it weren’t for basketball, she might be “in trouble or pregnant or something.”

But Jamie has been blessed with both talent and unrelenting drive, setting her apart from many of the guys she challenged every day on public courts while growing up.

This fall, the 17-year-old who rose from San Francisco’s toughest neighborhoods to become of the hottest collegiate prospects is heading to Washington on a basketball scholarship.


“I’ve never seen any other girls play like her,” said Brian Brewster, 17, a hot-shot high school junior who has played against Jamie. “She doesn’t play like a girl. She’s not afraid to get hit or anything.”

Chris Gobrecht, the women’s basketball coach at Washington, more succinctly described Jamie: “She’s an exceptionally gifted player.”

Jamie herself acknowledged her skill with all the bravado of a college-bound teen-agers. The 5-foot-9 guard even vows to dunk in a game situation.

So far, she’s only been able to accomplish the feat in practice or while playing with the boys.

“It will happen,” she said.

Jamie’s family lives in the Sunndale housing project, a cluster of dingy box-like apartment buildings splattered with graffiti. Many units are boarded tightly shut with plywood. Police cars prowl the streets.

Inside the modest apartment, scores of Jamie’s trophies are proudly crowded atop an entertainment center in the living room. Glancing toward the sparkling shrine, Jamie was keenly aware of the opportunities basketball has afforded her.


“I’d probably be in trouble or pregnant or something. Selling drugs,” she said “I still get pressured to do stuff now. Some people don’t like you to be successful.”

In her bedroom, Jamie proudly showed off new school clothes. Her father, who lives in Colorado, sent her the money. Not a tomboy when it comes to clothes, Jamie picked out a pair of short skirts and a dressy pantsuit.

The girlish Jamie contrasted with the basketball player who took on a group of boys at a community recreation center earlier that evening.

In the street game where theatrics are everything, Jamie trash-talked after blatantly fouling an opponent. She postured on the court, tugging at her baggy shorts and wiping the sweat from her forehead with front of her shirt. More than once she tried to dunk, but she didn’t have any success this afternoon.

During a break, Jamie said she was always interested in sports.

“Everyday I got up at 9 play softball, basketball, tennis. It didn’t matter. Actually, I was better at softball but I got burned on it,” she said.

Basketball turned out to be Jamie’s game. Her mother, Debbie Konaris, said it became clear when her daughter was about 10.


“It’s been about seven or eight years--when she was playing at Army Street she was playing with all the boys, and the people there said she was better than them,” Konaris said.

Jon Greenberg is the man Jamie calls her “guardian angel.”

Greenberg is the director of the Potrero Hill Recreation Center, which gained a measure of of notoriety last year when O.J. Simpson was arrested for the murders of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman.

Simpson, who grew up in the nearby Potrero Hill housing project, first showed his athletic talent at the center as a youngster. Among the thousands of pictures in Greenberg’s office is a 1959 photo of a baseball team. A young Simpson stands in the back row.

Greenberg first saw Jamie play about six years ago and has closely watched her progress in various leagues around the city.

“She had the spark,” Greenberg said. “She had the guts and the wherewithal. She had the attitude to be a winner.”

Greenberg, who has seen plenty of kids pass through rec center gym in his 30 years on the job, said a talent like Jamie’s appears only about once every five years. And talent alone is not enough to ensure success.


“I think her love of the game of basketball convinced her that this was a way out,” Greenberg said, adding that her skill propelled her so far that “she couldn’t fall through the cracks because there were no cracks.”

Playing primarily with boys helped, he said.

“If anything, it made her a tougher, stronger, more responsive basketball player, simply because of the efforts she had to put forth to get acceptance in playing in the boys’ game. For her, that was just another challenge, and another sense of competition that she could not get with girls,” he said.

Jamie has a treasured shoebox full of letters she got from universities expressing interest in her talent. She has set aside a special set of notes from Washington assistant coach Sunny Smallwood.

Smallwood first noticed Jamie about two years ago, about the same time many other coaches first noticed her, too.

“Once people got to know about her, she got huge,” said Smallwood.

“She could score every time she had the ball, but instead she made sure that her teammates got the action, too. She’s a great team player.”

Smallwood said Jamie’s only drawback at this point is lack of experience. She’ll have to compete to be a starter like all the other Washington players.


“You can’t ignore that fact that, yeah, she’s overcome a lot,” Smallwood said. “I tell you, I give her all the credit in the world. Everything she’s worked for, she’s deserved.”

At International Studies Academy her senior year, Jamie averaged 29.8 points, 15 rebounds, five steals and seven assists per game. She was named to the girls’ high school All-America Team by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association.

“I can beat somebody up and totally take them out of their game,” she said.

Jamie admitted she needs to work on her shooting, passing and ball handling, but she’s happy with her 3-pointers and ability to go to the hole. Working on anything comes fairly easy for Jamie. She’s held jobs since she was 10 years old.

“I’m a hustler. I used to be a ball girl (for local baseball leagues) and come home every night with $80 (in tips from teams). Everyone would say, ‘Who did you rob?” she laughs.

Her most recent challenge had nothing to do with the court. Jamie struggled this summer to get the minimum ACT test scores, which she needed to go to Washington.

Coach Gobrecht said she’s not worried about Jamie, academically or otherwise.

“I think Jamie is one of the sharpest and brightest players I’ve ever recruited. She’s unbelievable,” she said.


Jamie is not nervous about college. She leaves the impression she’s not afraid of any challenge.

“I don’t back down to anything or anyone,” she said.