Well-rounded "Maggie J" schooled rest of region in 2015-16
BY ZACK KLEMME
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
MAGGIE JACHIMCZUK carries a 4.227 grade point average, which ranks her among the top 25 in Russell’s senior class.The forward has learned to juggle responsibilities on and off the court exceptionally well.
Perhaps the best quality of Maggie Jachimczuk’s game is how well-rounded her ability has become.
Primarily an inside player growing up, the Russell senior has achieved fluency in shooting and ballhandling, too.
“I’ve always been a post player,” Jachimczuk said, “but I’m not opposed to going outside if I need to.”
The results speak for themselves: a double-double average in points and rebounds the last two seasons and a 16th Region Tournament MVP award and All-Area Player of the Year honors as a junior.
Her off-the-floor stats and qualifications are similarly impressive. Maggie J carries a 4.227 grade point average on a 4.0 scale and boasts involvement in student government, FCCLA, Key Club, KCA, Beta Club and Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“It’s extremely hard,” Jachimczuk said of managing her time, schooling and commitments, “but I make it work.”
Jachimczuk is only one of several Lady Devils for whom basketball is only one extracurricular activity. Running mate Madison Darnell, for one, missed a game last season to participate in a cello concert.
“They’re all really disciplined,” Russell coach Mandy Layne said. “They have great, supportive parents who push them to be the best they can be, and they get them involved and make sure they’re able to be successful in all the things they do.”
Jachimczuk and her coach trace her successful stature in a maroon basketball uniform as well as away from 16th Region hardwoods to the same trait: hard work.
Layne said Jachimczuk “just committed herself to the gym” between her eighth- and ninth-grade years.
“Every time I have time off the court, I just keep working,” Jachimczuk said. “I think freshman year is when I knew I wanted to play at a higher level, and I knew in order to do that, I had to work on my ballhandling and my outside shooting.”
The result? A more complete individual game, and a starting berth as a freshman.
“It was a big change, because I’d go from playing with my back to the basket to driving, and if I’m open, to shoot it, and not just want to pass it real quick,” Jachimczuk said. “It’s been really hard, but I think I’ve adjusted well.”
So does Layne.
“I consider her an ultimate success story,” Layne said. “She didn’t come up all the way through being like, ‘Oh, she’s gonna be a great player.’” Rather, Jachimczuk got that way through work ethic — which her coach said continues to this day.
“In practice, she’s still one of our hardest workers,” Layne said. “She works hard every single day to get better.”
East Carter coach Hager Easterling would believe that. He said Jachimczuk’s “motor never stops.”
That motor was one component that propelled the Lady Devils to a region final upset of the Lady Raiders last season.
A month after losing to East Carter, 69-33, Russell knocked off the Lady Raiders, 45-41, in the 16th Region championship game to collect their first region crown since 1994.
That places a target squarely on the Lady Devils’ back which they haven’t borne in a generation: defending region champion.
“We’re excited about what we did last year, but we want to build on it,” Jachimczuk said. “We come into practice each day knowing what we did last year, knowing we have a target on our back, so we work hard each and every day just to try to accomplish what we did last year, plus more.” Encouragement
Jachimczuk also shares the role of Russell’s vocal leader with fellow senior Alexis Maynard — a distinction more visible to their team than to the general public, Layne said.
“They’re vocal when they need to be, but they’re also positive encouragers,” Layne said. “They’re great at lifting their teammates up and being positive with them.”
In reference to the Lady Devils as a whole, Layne added, “They’re just great kids to have, great students in the building. I never have teachers come and complain or whatever.”
Instead, Russell’s teachers have greatly aided Jachimczuk in managing her academics, she said.
That comes in handy, since she spends many a weekday evening on school buses bound for locales like Flemingsburg, Frenchburg and Vanceburg.
“The teachers here, they help me out tremendously,” Jachimczuk said. “They’ll come in early and help me if I need it, and they’ll stay after school if I have late practice or a game and help me finish homework. The support that I have helps a lot.”
Support is a characteristic that defines Russell’s team dynamic, too, Jachimczuk said.
“We’re all best friends, we text all the time, and we do stuff together,” she said. “Me and Alex have been together since McDowell (intermediate school) years, so we’ve played together a lot and I think that helps. We know what each other are doing.”
What they hope to be doing in early March is cutting down the nets in Johnson Arena for a second straight year.
“I think we’ll play just the same that we’ve always done,” Jachimczuk said. “But now that we do have that on our backs, I think it’ll give us that fight and we’ll push harder than we did last year.”