Basketball or soccer.
As the daughter of a basketball playing father and a soccer playing mother, it was seemingly inevitable that Jasmine Hale would try her hand at each sport and ultimately have to pick between them.
The suspense didn’t last long, however, as young Jasmine made her choice early, effectively retiring from soccer after her one season of participation as a kindergartner.
“I wasn’t into it,” Hale said. “I’d just stand in the middle of the field and braid my hair. I’d be running the wrong way. I just wasn’t paying attention, I wasn’t into it.”
Hale said her mom, Stephanie, who played soccer at Florida State, got over it … “eventually.”
These days Hale is into playing basketball as a freshman guard with the University of Wisconsin women’s team.
In so doing she is following in the footsteps of her dad, Ron, a two-time all-ACC third-team selection during his career at Florida State. She was just a toddler when he began his professional career in the Philippines, but among her earliest memories are of him playing in Japan.
“I really enjoyed watching him play,” Hale said. “He’s one of the main reasons I play basketball, just watching him play and how passionate he was. I could see it all and I was like, I want to be like that, I want to play basketball. It was just how much fun he had out there, I wanted to do the same thing.”
After going back and forth between Japan and her father’s home in Florida, the family settled in her mom’s native Cincinnati area when Jasmine was in second grade.
She developed into one of the top prep players in the area and caught the eye of UW coach Jonathan Tsipis with her performance at the Classic in the Country Challenge in Ohio.
“She just showed out,” said assistant coach Myia Johnson, a Cincinnati native who recruited Hale. “She had a great performance and Coach was extremely impressed with her game. After that we were at almost every tournament, every game she played.”
What Tsipis and Johnson saw was a player who could add a new level of athleticism to the Badgers roster.
“I loved her aggressiveness offensively,” Johnson said. “She can get out in transition. She can score one-on-one. I loved her explosiveness to the basket and she was able to do multiple moves through traffic, had a nice pull-up jumper and she could also shoot the 3. Defensively, she was just real aggressive, playing in the passing lanes, pressuring offensive players, mixing it up. Every time she came in a game something positive happened.”
Hale has shown flashes of those traits during her freshman season, but they have been accompanied by many learning experiences as well.
She’s averaging 2.2 points in 18 games for the Badgers (11-12, 2-9 Big Ten) heading into today’s game at Illinois (9-14, 1-11).
“As a freshman I expect to have ups and downs,” Hale said. “It’s a test, a mental test. It’s just preparing me for my future. I know I still have a lot to learn, like staying in the weight room, staying focused and focusing on bettering my game so I can contribute more to the team.”
Hale averaged 15 minutes during the nonconference season, but has seen her playing time cut in half in Big Ten action. Her role of late has been filling in for redshirt senior Kelly Karlis because she most closely replicates Karlis’ length and quickness on the perimeter.
“I think Jasmine does have an ability different coming off the bench than the other players,” Tsipis said. “She brings activity that’s different than Suzanne (Gilreath) and Alex (Luehring) off the bench on the perimeter. She’s able to get an offensive rebound. I think she’s an active defender. She’s still working through understanding Big Ten play that the physicality.”
The 5-foot-9 Hale said she never really did much strength and conditioning work before coming to UW and understands she will need to add some muscle to her slight frame to hold up in the Big Ten.
“I’m small and I need to adapt to the physicality of being on a Big Ten team and playing against bigger girls, stronger girls, faster girls,” Hale said. “Now I know. Now I’ve experienced it and I can take that back to the weight room and work even harder.”
She also needs to work on her perimeter game. She’s shooting just 23.4 percent for the season and is 0-for-17 from 3-point range.
Her biggest adjustment, however, has been the faster pace of the college game and the more complex offensive and defensive schemes.
“College basketball requires a much quicker basketball IQ than high school,” she said. “It’s a huge change, how to adapt to the quickness of the game in college.
“I’ve kind of just got to know my place this year. There’s obviously a few people ahead of me and they always know what to do at all times on offense and defense. That’s something I have to work on as a freshman, trying to learn all the plays and the defenses, what exactly we’re trying to do on defense and what outcomes we’re trying to reach.”
Hale admits that her confidence has been shaken at times, but she’s trying to work through things.
“Sometimes you get those negative thoughts, what am I going to do?” she said. “I’m having a hard time. But you’ve got to think again, I’m going to make something out of it. I’m going to have a good future. It’s just your mindset, really.”
And whenever she needs a little perspective, she knows where to turn.
“I talk to both of my parents a lot because they were student athletes and they’ve been through the same thing,” said Hale, whose brother Donavan is a wide receiver on the Indiana football team. “They’re definitely my go-to based off of them going through what I’m going through. I feel they can give me the best advice possible and they support me on everything no matter what.
“They tell me just to stay positive and keep working hard. They tell me how it’s always tough freshman year and I have to just accept that. I can’t give up on my first year, I have to keep going and see what’s in store for me because everything is for a reason. I have my downs and it’s all a test for me to see how I respond.”