HELENA — Jamie Pickens has been waiting a year to write her name on the dotted line.
And when she did, it was a relief.
Pickens, a senior at Helena High, signed her letter of intent on Thursday to play basketball for the Montana women’s basketball team. She had committed to the Lady Griz a year ago.
“I’m finally making it official, and I’m super excited to do that,” Pickens said. “The coaching staff is going to make me a better player, and my teammates are going to make me better.”
During the past year Pickens was asked several times by other programs if she was sure Missoula was where she wanted to go.
Every time, it was a resounding yes. Her family members are long-time Montana fans and that was her dream school.
“I got asked that a few times," Pickens said. "Gonzaga talked to me, they are really good school, Bozeman talked to me, but Missoula is my one love and that’s where I want to go. And I’m for sure on that.”
Still, it didn’t hurt for other teams to ask since Pickens was named the Gatorade Montana Girls Basketball Player of the Year after last season.
Pickens has been a vital part of Helena basketball the last three years. She’s helped the Bengals to back-to-back Class AA state championships.
“Since I was a little girl, I went to their games and I saw their atmosphere and it such a great family atmosphere,” Pickens said. “Their fan base is amazing. The coaching staff is amazing and the girls I’m going to play with are amazing.”
Helena coach Eric Peterson watched her sign Thursday, and was thrilled to see her fulfill a dream.
“It takes a lot of pressure off going into her senior year,” Peterson said. “For her to sign the paper, and she’s excited, that makes me excited, knowing she’s happy where she has chosen to go at the next level.”
Pickens is also eager to concentrate on basketball in college. She's a three-sport star for the Bengals, also playing volleyball and softball.
Basketball is her favorite of the three. And there were no ideas of trying to play multiple sports at Montana.
“I always knew I wanted to play basketball,” Pickens said. “I love playing other sports, but my main focus is to focus on basketball and my basketball skills.”
Pickens doesn’t know how the Lady Griz will use her, yet, but says she’ll accept any role given and plans to work hard.
Peterson expects Pickens to have a short learning curve. She a 6-foot-2 forward who can shoot or bang around under the hoop.
“She’s a special player in that when she goes to Missoula, she’s going to have an immediate impact there,” Peterson said. “She’s not one that’s going to be learning a lot on the sidelines. She’s going to be thrown into the mix. And deservedly so. She’s a special talent and we get to have one more year. But we are excited she’s going to stay close to home and be able to watch her.”
With college settled, Pickens is ready for one final run at another state title and to make her final season special.
“I’m not taking anything for granted, knowing it’s my last year, and I'll work as hard as I can,” Pickens said. “Teach the younger girls as much as I can, that’s my main priority. People will fill roles and we’ll be a good team — if we take each game, one by one, and not look at the big picture.”