The Vanceboro (N.C) West Craven product is only a rising junior. However, when North Carolina head coach Sylvia Hatchell offered Cherry a scholarship in March of last year, she could not pass up the opportunity.
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“That’s always been my dream school and ever since I was little. I’ve always been a Carolina fan and Ivory Latta has always been my idol,” Cherry said.
There were plenty of other options for Cherry, who is the eighth-ranked point guard in the class of 2014 according to ESPN’s Hoopgurlz rankings. In addition to North Carolina, the 5-foot-8 Cherry received interest from N.C. State, Duke, Wake Forest and East Carolina. Tennessee also contacted her before she committed to the Tar Heels.
Wearing the same jersey as her childhood hero played a large role in Cherry’s decision. She remembers watching Latta, who now plays for the WNBA’s Tulsa Shock, lead North Carolina to the Final Four in 2006 and 2007. Latta’s enthusiasm as well as ability to score and get her teammates involved endeared her to Tar Heel fans.
“The Carolina coaches continue to tell her that she’s an Ivory Latta type player,” West Craven head coach David Fernandez remarked. “Every time they see Jamie play it reminds them of seeing Ivory play when they recruited her.”
(Rick Crank Photography)
Like Latta, Cherry is the quintessential score-first point guard with the ability to shoot the three as well as drive to the basket. She is strong for her size and can finish at the hoop amongst bigger players. However, what sets Cherry apart from her peers is the ability to gain separation from her defender, a rarity in the women’s game. This gives her the freedom and space to shoot, drive or pass.
While scoring and shooting are her strong suits, Cherry is not afraid to get her teammates involved and will do her best to find an open teammate, even if they are only open for a split-second.
“What [UNC] is recruiting me to do is come in and, kind of like Ivory Latta style, pass, score, get my teammates open for shots,” Cherry said. “My [contribution] to the team will be to pass and score and just take shots when I get shots. Pretty much just score and get my teammates involved.”
Fernandez admits the competition Cherry faces in high school often allows her to dominate the game on athletic ability alone. As a sophomore this past season, Cherry averaged 25.9 points, 4.9 assits, four rebounds and six steals per game.
Once she arrives in Chapel Hill the competition will ratchet up not only on the opposite bench, but on her own team as well. In the recruiting class of 2013, one year ahead of Cherry, four of the top 17 players in the country are committed to Carolina.
“If you’re a competitor like she is, she wants to play with the best and against the best,” Fernandez said. “She doesn’t just expect to go out on the floor and somebody hands her the ball and says you’re the starting point guard at North Carolina now. She wants to earn that right and to be able to do that she’s going to have to go up against the best that they bring in.“
Cherry says she occasionally speaks with the members of the heralded class ahead of her. In the two years before she joins them in Chapel Hill, she plans to improve defensively and work hard towards finally achieving her lifelong goal.
“When Carolina offered me, my dream came true.”