Change of venue a welcome one for close-knit West Jordan girls basketball teamNov 30, 2023 01:14PM ● By Josh McFadden
West Jordan’s Izzy Knight (in white with the ball) is one of the top players on the Jaguars’ squad this season. West Jordan has moved to Class 5A this season. (Photo courtesy Lei Lolohea)
The West Jordan girls basketball team has a new home this season, so to speak.
After being a member of Class 6A since its inception in 2017, the Jaguars have moved to Class 5A where they participate in Region 4. Like other teams at West Jordan, the girls basketball team will face region foes Cyprus, Granger, Kearns, Taylorsville and Hunter. It’s a different look from last season’s group in Region 3 where the Jaguars were in the same league as Mountain Ridge, Herriman, Copper Hills, Riverton and Bingham.
West Jordan was 9-15 last season and struggled in region games, losing all nine contests. Things should be a little less daunting in 2023–24.
Head coach Lei Lolohea wants the team to work hard—not just on the court but outside of basketball altogether.
“Our team goal this year is to compete—compete in the classroom and especially on the floor,” she said. “Everyone needs to be on the same page, and everyone needs to do their job and play their role.”
Jelly Farmer is one of the top returning players for the Jaguars this season. The junior guard has been a starter since she was a freshman. Senior power forward Izzy Knight and guard Lexi Nelson are two other key fixtures on the team.
“[Farmer] brings to our team a strong offensive side but is also a great shot blocker and does well on defense because of her size and length,” Lolohea said. “[Knight] gives us a strong inside presence as a power forward. She is vocal, a leader and has been a great asset to our program. [Nelson] gives us an edge with her defense and speed. She is a natural leader, and her defense gives us a spark. The greatest thing these three young ladies bring to the team is that they are all 4.0 student-athletes, and they have been great leaders to our younger players.”
They’re also great all-around athletes. Knight will play college softball at Southern Utah University, while Nelson is a future Division 1 soccer player, having committed to play at Utah Tech.
Coming into this season, Lolohea sees a big team strength being the players’ genuine friendship with one another. She said the girls truly care about one another and help make each other better.
“We are a family,” she said. “One player's weakness is another player's strength, and because of the coaching staff I have on board, they help see that and use it to our advantage. It says a lot about a team when they all buy into the culture and into the program; it builds unity within our program.”
Lolohea wants the girls to play at a fast pace. This method can be challenging, as it requires great fitness and stamina. She said the girls have been working hard to get in shape and be prepared for the season.
The Jaguars host East to open the season Nov. 28. West Jordan has a big opportunity in late December when it will play in the Southern California Holiday Tournament Dec. 27–30. The Jaguars will then take two weeks off before jumping into Region 4 action Jan. 12 at Cyprus.
Lolohea is looking forward to the season and seeing the girls improve. She has stressed building team culture and believes the players are starting to develop that.
“These girls are fun to coach. From the varsity level, JV level and sophomore level,” she said. “They are fun to watch, fun to coach and fun to get to know and build relationships with. I love that this team has been a player-led team on and off the court. But it stems from our previous group of players and how they've bought into the culture, the program and the meaning of what it truly means to be a Lady Jag. Our Lady Jag pride runs deep, and because of that, we've been able to build a sisterhood.”
This is Lolohea’s seventh season as head coach. She appreciates the support the team gets from the school and community as well as from players she has previously coached.
“I’ve loved every part of [being the coach],” she said. “Being a Lady Jag has been more than about the game of basketball. Being a Lady Jag has fostered into being a great student-athlete, teammate, family member and human being. I have never been able to truly give credit where credit is due, and I want to take that opportunity now to thank my assistant coaches who were the first to buy into this program. I thank them for never giving up on me and for always having my back. To my former and present players, I am grateful for the lessons that you have taught me, but I am very grateful for your leadership and belief that this program is worth trying out for. One thing that gets overlooked is how much community service our program is involved in and especially how much good light my girls shed at West Jordan High and West Jordan City. My girls deserve a lot more praise and thank yous, and I hope they all know how deserving they are of those.” λ