GJ grad Jamie Derrieux enjoying success on court at Northern Colorado
Jamie Derrieux laughs that she didn’t even think about being nervous before her first start in a college basketball game.
There wasn’t time.
D’shara Strange, the leading scorer and rebounder for the University of Northern Colorado’s women’s basketball team, sustained a season-ending knee injury just before the season began. Derrieux, a 5-foot-10 sophomore who played in 13 games last season after graduating from Grand Junction High School, was elevated to the first team.
“Coach (Jaime White) talks about getting opportunities and stepping up when those arrive,” Derrieux said. “I was fortunate to have an opportunity come my way, but you never want a teammate injured. Luckily she can return next year, and we’ll have even more depth on our team.
“It’s been really fun, but I had no time to think about what I was doing. Just go in and play hard.”
Right out of the gate, Derrieux faced a familiar opponent: Amy Kame, a Central High School graduate who’s having a stellar senior season at the University of San Diego.
It was a rare game in which two District 51 graduates played against each other in a Division I basketball game, and both led their teams in scoring. Kame had 22 points, nine rebounds and four assists in San Diego’s 69-56 victory in Greeley. Derrieux had 15 points, two rebounds and four assists in her debut as a starter.
“It was such a cool experience,” Derrieux said. “There were a bunch of us from Colorado. We were counting, there were a number of us on the same club team, six or seven of us.
“Amy just took over the game, something she’s been able to do ever since I’ve played against her. It was a lot of fun. Obviously we were going pretty hard at each other, but after the game we gave each other a hug. It was a big family reunion.”
Even had Strange not gotten injured, Derrieux would have played a big role this season, White said. Strange is a point guard, and Derrieux plays on the wing but also helps bring the ball up against the defense.
As is usually the case, Derrieux spent her freshman year getting used to the college game, averaging 1.4 points and 1.2 rebounds in limited minutes. White knew there would be growing pains, and she sees Derrieux’s game evolving daily.
“It’s funny, I was watching film the other day and just about every hustle play, Jamie was a part of,” White said. “She works extremely hard, she’s easy to coach, she’s positive, she’s athletic, and she’s got good size. She can play the 2 or the 3 guard, she’s knocked down some big shots, she got a great offensive rebound the other night, she can finish in transition, and she probably scores more than anybody on out-of-bounds plays.
“She’s a nice kid to coach and be around. It’s been fun to see her do so well. Last year she struggled getting into the flow of everything, and I think that was a little frustrating for her, but it’s nice to see her be so successful this year already.”
Through the Bears’ first 10 games, Derrieux is averaging 11.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. She scored a career-high 19 points against Southern Utah and made 11 of 12 free throws in that game.
The game before, in a 17-point effort against North Texas, Derrieux scored the Bears’ final six points in their 75-69 win. She grabbed that big offensive rebound White referenced off a missed free throw and scored with 1:03 left to break a 69-69 tie.
In the final 23 seconds, Derrieux was fouled twice and made four free throws to seal the victory.
It’s all about her confidence, Derrieux said.
“The first year is all just understanding how everything works,” she said. “I have more confidence in my play, and my coaches are more confident, my teammates are more confident in me. We all just trust each other on the court, and that really helps.”
Derrieux has always been aggressive attacking the basket, but she is developing her outside game.
“I feel a lot more confident in my outside shooting,” she said. “I didn’t feel that great about it in high school. Now I can knock down open shots that maybe I wouldn’t have hit in high school. I’m always getting (extra) shots up. That makes a significant difference. It’s just all reps.”
It’s also about maturing as an athlete.
“A lot of it is making reads on offense. If a defender hops out here ... I didn’t realize all that went into it in high school,” Derrieux said.
The Bears have goals of winning the Big Sky Conference and getting an NCAA bid, although they need to start winning some of the close games that haven’t gone their way in a 5-5 start (0-2 in conference).
“It’s something we’ve been talking about,” Derrieux said. “What if you weren’t afraid of failure? You’ve got to go in fearless.”
It’s that kind of attitude White likes to see in her young guard, something she saw the summer before Derrieux’s freshman year when she moved to Greeley to take summer classes.
“She was large and in charge,” White said. “She was in charge of those freshmen. Let’s go here, let’s go there, let’s get this done, get that done. She was great, everything a coach really wants. Just a born leader, and that was so nice to see and have.
“I’m sure she’s a calming communicator on the floor for our other players, and it’s very rare that we see that kind of leadership in a freshman (and) now as a sophomore.”