Goulds basketball player memorialized
By Chris Lewis | Vol. 12 No. 17 (August 28, 2019)
There were plenty of somber faces present at the Goulds Recreation Complex this past weekend.
Jessica Powell was a 23-year-old resident of Goulds who was killed in a car accident on Thursday, July 6, 2017. More importantly, she was an avid fan and player of basketball, as well as a proud employee of the Gould Recreation Centre.
On Saturday, Aug. 17, her name was memorialized for generations to come after the outdoor basketball courts in the community were re-named to “Jess’ Court.”
Nicole Chafe was Powell’s supervisor during her time working with the Gould Recreation Centre, all while being her teammate on their senior ladies’ basketball team. She was on deck on Saturday to speak to the dozens of people who showed up to commemorate the moment, and to recall some of her fond memories of Powell.
“We talked a lot about her basketball career and where it was going, we talked about her schooling, we talked about her future, we talked about so much,” Chafe said, later going on to name Powell as one of her favourite employees at the Goulds Recreation Complex, as well as one of the teammates she connected with the most.
“She definitely was not a quitter, and always lived life to the fullest. She was an awesome role model to all the young girls in our programs, and especially the ones in our basketball program.”
Chafe spoke highly of the important role Powell played on her team, highlighting the number of points Powell would have accumulated by the end of a game. However, it was Powell’s attitude that really made her stand out to Chafe and her fellow teammates.
“She would never take credit. When you would congratulate her on playing a good game, it was usually followed by a compliment back,” Chafe said. Now, the team’s jerseys sport a basketball on the shoulder, embroidered with Powell’s initials, JP.
“Every time we step onto the court, she’s with us,” Chafe added.
In the fall of 2017, that same team hosted a memorial tournament in Powell’s name, which Chafe described as a huge success - even more successful than the team had originally anticipated. The proceeds from that tournament went toward a number of ways to remember Powell, including an award named after her that is given to the ‘teammate of the year’ each year.
On top of that, the player who wins the award is given a pair of work socks with the phrase “tough as nails, beautiful as a rose” embroidered along the edge.
“Jess used to come to our basketball games with an old pair of sneakers on, taped up with duct tape, and would often be wearing her works socks. So, we thought that would be perfect to give the winner of the award,” Chafe explained.
The On the Ball basketball program also received a donation as a result of the tournament, which will help offset the registration cost of some of the program’s athletes. Dorian Pond, founder of the program, was presented with that cheque during Saturday’s naming ceremony.
Not only was the sign unveiled Saturday, marking the court as “Jess’ Court,’ a bench was unveiled as well, which will serve as well to carry on Powell’s name. The bench reads “You’ll forget the plays, the fouls, the scores, but you’ll never forget your teammates. Forever missed by the ladies basketball team.”
Jessica’s mother Tracey attended Saturday’s ceremony wearing Jessica’s Goulds Hoopsters jersey from a national tournament in which the girls had won bronze
“Basketball became her life. When [older brother Alex] began playing in grade three, she was down with that ball every chance she could get. She went to every one of Alex’s games, and when he had major tournaments, she would run around the gym with the flag,” Tracey recalled of her daughter’s undying love of basketball.
“Her home became the basketball court … when she finished, she wanted to teach kids basketball,” Tracey later added, speaking to the enthusiasm Jessica had about getting hired at the Goulds Recreation Complex.
A basketball was passed around on Saturday as well, signed by those in attendance at the ceremony. The ball was then given to Alex, Powell’s older brother.
Alex recalled many fond memories he had of teaching his sister to become the prolific basketball player she grew up to be. He spoke specifically to her affinity for free throw shots and how easily the shot came to her over time. He, on the other hand, admitted to his own shortcomings when it came to the same shot.
“Jess as a basketball player? She was amazing. Looking at the NBA today, there’s no Shaquille O’Neal anymore, you know? You’ve got to be able to dribble the ball, be able to pass it, be able to shoot threes … Jess could do all that. She was one of the first people I’ve seen that was able to do it all. The reason she could do all that, is because Jess is the epitome of the can-do attitude,” Alex said.
After the ceremony, Alex could be seen shooting the ball from the free throw line.
“Her memory lives on forever. It might be 100-years down the road, and some kids will come by this court and say, ‘who’s Jess?’ and, hopefully, someone will be around to tell them until the end of time,” said Alex of her sister’s legacy.