ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — The Hollins University basketball team didn’t hit the court this past season due to concerns of COVID. That didn’t stop the enthusiasm of this growing program. One of the key pieces of the growing program is first year player Jalaya Duarte. She has come a long way to get to Hollins. That long way you may ask for Jalaya Duarte? Try 5,126 miles. This is the distance from Roanoke to Jalaya’s hometown of King Cove, Alaska. So how did a player from Alaska make it all the way to Hollins University for hoops?
“One day I was sitting in my room doing homework doing the usual day and dealing with this COVID. I got a call from coach (Emilee) Dunton and I was very skeptical at first. It is funny about how far it was. I took advantage of the opportunity,” said Duarte. “My father actually his first coaching job was in Alaska as well and so just through our relationships in Alaska we heard about this one girl that they said was going under recruited. But we think she’s one of the best stars in Alaska. She was the leading rebounder and was on quite a few state championship teams and so from there we got in touch with her high school coach and started talking to Jalaya and hit it off,” said Hollins University head basketball coach Emilee Dunton.
The tough thing for Jalaya is she lost two straight seasons of hoops to COVID…her senior year in Alaska and her first season at Hollins. “It was pretty tough because we were at regionals when it happened and they told us after the championship game that state was canceled and it was just pretty tough on the three seniors because we worked so hard the year before that the seniors tried to remain undefeated and try to get two state titles in a row,” said Duarte. With Hollins deciding to opt out of playing basketball last season, it has given Duarte a chance to bond more with her team as Hollins continues to grow coming off their best seasons in years in 2019. “I think it’s pretty neat to be apart of something that started from barely winning anything to them finally winning games and starting to get a roll on it and then us finally getting this great group of recruits in with the rest of the freshmen and I just think it’s pretty cool to be apart of it,” said Duarte. Basketball isn’t the only sports Duarte is involved in at Hollins, she is a member of the Hollins track team!