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A basketball bond

The two best girls basketball players in Pinellas County are also the best of friends.

By PETE YOUNG

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 5, 2000


Dominique Redding and Kelcey Roegiers-Jensen are the two best girls basketball players in Pinellas County. They got that way by playing with and against each other, incessantly, for years.

They're at it again on this overcast Saturday afternoon in stuffy Roberts Park gym in St. Petersburg. Roegiers-Jensen backing in on Redding, Redding slicing past Roegiers-Jensen. Every basket a battle, every rebound a tussle, every weakness exploited.

The one-on-one victories earned during years of gut checks have made them two of the best Florida has to offer. They have combined to lead their AAU team to five consecutive state titles. Redding was last season's Pinellas County high school Player of the Year, nudging out Roegiers-Jensen.

Here's the juicy part: They're 15. They're sophomores with three years of high school to go.

The best is yet to come.

* * *

They are head and shoulders above their peers, and as close off the court as on. Redding is 6-feet tall, black and lives in Clearwater, and Roegiers-Jensen is 5-7, white and lives in St. Petersburg, but they might as well be twins, joined by basketball.

The similarities start with their games, which, molded by years of gut checks, are advanced well beyond their years.

Roegiers-Jensen, who averaged 14.6 points last season in leading south county power Boca Ciega to a 23-8 record, is a point guard. She's an exceptional penetrator, passer and floor leader who also can score.

Redding, who averaged 18.3 points to propel north county power Clearwater to a 27-7 record and the Class 5A final four, usually plays the post, but it's obvious she'll be a small forward, or maybe even a shooting guard, in college. She's a good outside shooter and fluid slasher with hops; she can touch the rim.

Watching them gut check, as they say they do just about every Saturday (Redding confessed that Roegiers-Jensen usually wins), it is immediately obvious how they got so good so fast: passion.

"It's the rush it gives you. I just love to go out and play and compete," Redding said. "If I'm having a bad day, I can just go out and shoot. It takes your mind off it."

"It's definitely the rush it gives you," Roegiers-Jensen said. "I love playing in front of the fans. I get hyped."

They've played tournaments at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Dean Dome and dozens of other college venues. The recruiting experts say they are among the top four sophomores in the state and among the top 50 in the nation. Some rate them higher than that. USA Today listed Redding as one of the nation's Top 20 freshmen last season.

"They're no secret. They were both all-staters as freshmen. They'll both be highly recruited. They're obviously very talented," said Bob Corwin, a Florida-based girls basketball analyst. "I personally would rate them (second- and third-best among sophomores in the state), and you could argue the order."

"They're awesome," said Bret McCormick, a scout for the All Star Girls Report, a recruiting publication. "Dominique, Kelcey, they're both big-time players. In the Florida Class of 2003, they'll be two of the top four or five, and they'll end up in the top 50 in the country."

The one girl in Florida who Corwin thinks is better is Jacksonville Ribault point guard Dorian Williams. The only time Corwin has seen them all play in the same game was in 1998, when Redding and Roegiers-Jensen's Clearwater Green Wave battled Williams' Jacksonville team for the AAU 13-under state title.

"It was the greatest game I've ever seen played by (middle school) kids," Corwin said. "It was an incredible battle."

The Green Wave won. Just another gut check.

* * *

They met on a basketball court five years ago. They didn't like each other.

Roegiers-Jensen had been playing in the coed recreation league at Roberts Park for a few years when Redding, at age 10, decided to join. Redding had gained skills quickly playing with her older siblings, so she decided to try the league in St. Petersburg.

Right away, Redding found the panache of a certain point guard distasteful.

"I thought she was a show off," Redding said.

Roegiers-Jensen confesses to having a little Jason Williams-style flash.

"I just like to give the fans what they pay to see," she said.

They got to know each other a little, and Roegiers-Jensen invited Redding to her 11th birthday party. The pair, born only two weeks apart in 1985, have been intertwined ever since.

A three-headed parental unit of Chuck Jensen (Kelcey's father), Kathy Roegiers (Kelcey's mother) and Mary Adams (Dominique's mother), has overseen their careers, driving them to practices and games and school and camps and gut checks.

Jensen, who works in construction, coaches the Clearwater Green Wave AAU, the juggernaut on which his daughter and her best friend (and several other local girls, including juniors Megan East of Palm Harbor University and Bernice Mosby of Hernando) have cornered the market on state titles.

On the Green Wave, Redding wears No. 13, and Roegiers-Jensen is No. 12. Their motto: 13 minus 12 equals No. 1 duo.

Jensen lives a few miles from his ex-wife, and they amicably oversee the lives of their three children: Kelcey, her older sister, Lexi, a senior who plays basketball for Pinellas Park, and younger brother Zach, 5, who all live with Roegiers (ROW-zhiers).

Redding is by far the youngest of Mary Adams' five children; there is a nine-year gap to the next-youngest. All three sisters and her brother played basketball at Largo before Adams, who works at Morton Plant Hospital in psychiatric intake, moved to Clearwater. One of Redding's sisters, Felecia Adams, played in college, for Shaw (N.C.) University.

Redding takes her father's surname, but that's it. She said he lives in the Panhandle and is not a part of her life.

Which leaves her with three parents.

"It's like one big family. We take care of each other," Jensen said. "Myself, Kathy and Mary, we've made a combined effort. Lexi, Dom and Kelcey, they're all like daughters to me, and that's the way it is for all of us."

Among the extended family are Adams' friends at work, who monitor her daughter's exploits.

"Kelcey's my daughter as well, and vice versa," said Adams, who arranges her work schedule around Dominique's games. "We're all in it together."

* * *

Wearing identical outfits -- University of Florida basketball camp T-shirts, baggy mesh shorts and mid-cut sneakers -- Redding and Roegiers-Jensen wander through Tyrone Square Mall on a rainy Saturday afternoon as just another set of 15-year-old best friends.

Suddenly, Redding comes to a dead stop.

Her feelings are hurt -- or at least she's pretending they are. A mild trash-talking exchange ended with Roegiers-Jensen, in her slight Southern twang, saying something about a free throw Redding missed at a big moment in a big game. Usually Roegiers-Jensen's digs have to do with Redding's occasional lapses in concentration on defense. The free-throw dis apparently crosses the line, though.

Redding stops, mock-pouting. Roegiers-Jensen keeps walking for a few strides. Then she stops, turns, says "I'm sorry," and life goes on, same as before.

The slam-on-the-brakes routine is obviously a familiar one to these two. Earlier, Redding suddenly stopped as they left Roberts Park.

A miserable rain had left the ground between her and the car a mucky mess, and she was wearing new, untarnished sneakers. So Roegiers-Jensen walked back to Redding and gave her a piggy-back ride.

Sneakers are very important in their world. When the Green Wave were in Amarillo, Texas, in July for the AAU national championships, Roegiers-Jensen picked up a pair of white-and-gray Nike Cross Trainer IIs that Redding loved. However, Redding couldn't find her size, 12, so she settled for the same model in all white.

Ah, the tribulations of a 6-foot female basketball star: Redding has been scouring the malls of Pinellas County ever since, unable to find a store that stocks her size in that color of that model.

The girls are much less particular about other apparel. Like a point guard on the break, Roegiers-Jensen makes snap decisions on clothing purchases without even trying things on. She looks at it, she likes it, she checks the price, she buys it.

Off the court as on, they are confident and poised -- when they're not being giggly teenagers. Redding even tries unsuccesfully to negotiate the price of a top with a sales clerk, from $28 to $20. After all, she found it on the $20-and-under rack.

"I'm definitely not one of those girls who tries a hundred things on," Roegiers-Jensen said. "I know what I like ... and I don't like wasting time."

* * *

"Movies, mall, eat and watch WNBA games," are what Redding says fills the gaps between the twin behemoths of their lives, basketball and school.

The WNBA has been a boon to American girls with dreams of a professional career, though college, of course, comes first. Every major program has contacted them through the mail. They say they are a package deal, that they'll attend the same lucky university.

As with most things, Redding and Roegiers-Jensen agree: Tennessee and Florida are their favorites. Academics shouldn't be a problem, as each has a 3.2 grade point average.

In Roegiers-Jensen's trophy room, which is flooded with pictures, awards and mementos, a corner of shelf space is devoted to Tennessee women's basketball memorabilia. A small stuffed animal sports a bright-orange Vols jersey.

Both girls have been to camp at Florida and like coach Carol Ross, but the Volunteers are the pinnacle of the sport, its Roman Empire. Tennessee coach Pat Summitt is like a deity.

"She is the best," Redding said. "It would be unbelievable to play for her."

Clearwater coach Tom Shaneyfelt, who coached 1999 Florida Miss basketball Shinikki Whiting, said Redding might be even more talented than Whiting.

"Dominique is very mature, and she has no natural weaknesses. There's not much doubt that she could play in college right now," Shaneyfelt said.

"It's just a matter of how far she wants to go, how hard she's willing to work at it. There aren't a lot of people who can say that. It's all up to her."

As much as they enjoy playing and hanging out together, they don't ever expect to play for the same high school. Redding said her mom wouldn't want her to go to school farther away. Roegiers-Jensen is determined to work with new Boca Ciega coach Nathaniel Southern and maintain the Bogie legacy. The Pirates won state titles in 1995 and '96.

Last season, Boca Ciega and Clearwater played five times, and each garnered some bragging rights. Bogie won the series 3-2, but Clearwater won the bigger games, for the county and district titles.

It is a topic best avoided: The girls could argue themselves to sleep over which team got the best of the other.

* * *

At this juncture of their lives, things could hardly be better. However, over the next three years, as they attend the premier national camps sponsored by the big sneaker companies and play against the elite competition from around the country, adversity is sure to arise. There are better players out there, though just a handful.

Roberts Park is just a half-mile from Kathy Roegiers' home. It's where Roegiers-Jensen's middle school bus picked her up and dropped her off. It has served as the backdrop for hundreds of gut checks, Kelcey vs. Dom, Dom vs. Kelcey.

How will they handle the adversity? Stop by Roberts Park during the weekend. There's a good chance two talented basketball players will be there, playing one-on-one.

The best is yet to come.

Dominique Redding

BIRTHDATE: Feb. 10, 1985.

FAVORITE MOVIE: Coming To America.

FAVORITE TV SHOW: The Golden Girls ("I got Kelcey hooked on it. She used to make fun of me for it.").

FAVORITE MUSICIAN: Lauryn Hill.

FAVORITE ATHLETE: Kevin Garnett.

PERSON WOULD MOST LIKE TO MEET: Maurice Greene.

FAVORITE FOOD: Lasagna.

FAVORITE PLACE VISITED: Texas.

FAVORITE WNBA TEAM: Phoenix Mercury.

Kelcey Roegiers-Jensen

BIRTHDATE: Jan. 25, 1985.

FAVORITE MOVIE: Love and Basketball.

FAVORITE TV SHOW: (tie) The Golden Girls and The Three Stooges.

FAVORITE MUSICAL GROUP: Jagged Edge.

FAVORITE ATHLETE: Sheryl Swoopes.

PERSON WOULD MOST LIKE TO MEET: Marion Jones.

FAVORITE FOOD: Pizza, or anything Italian.

FAVORITE PLACE VISITED: A horseback riding canyon near Amarillo, Texas.

FAVORITE WNBA TEAM: Houston Comets.

Prep focus

Dominique Redding and Kelcey Roegiers-Jensen are the two dominant girls basketball players in Pinellas County, and they are best friends. For the next three years, they will face the peaks and valleys of playing a high school sport at the highest level. The Times will chronicle in an occasional series of articles their growth as players and people. We plan to be there as they square off, play for championships and handle the madness that is college recruiting, all on top of dealing with the off-the-court challenges every teenage girl faces.

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