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Jackson basketball’s Lillie Cole up to double-digit college offers

Prior to her senior year, Jackson junior Lillie Cole has officially received 10 offers to play college basketball while competing with AAU team Phee Elite. Submitted photo

Following her junior year of high school basketball at Jackson, Lillie Cole has received not one but currently a total of 10 offers to play at the college level following her graduation next year.

This is due to Cole playing over the spring and summer months with one of the top AAU programs in the Show-Me State — Phee Elite out of St. Louis.

Multiple college coaches watch Lillie as she plays for Phee, while being coached by and receiving guidance from coaches from state, nationally-ranked powerhouse Incarnate Word Academy as well as Webster University.

“Phee has made a really big impact on me as a person and a basketball player by getting me ready for the next level and allowing the interest to come to me,” Cole said. “[They helped] put my name out there. They are very basketball smart and know how to coach you from the beginning to working your way up.

“When I first got there, I was honestly surprised I made it. It was a tough tryout — Phee Elite is definitely getting you ready for college practices and a college experience.”

Heading into the month of July — which is regarded as the biggest recruiting month for girls basketball players — Cole has offers from East Texas Baptist, Eureka, Geneva, Great Lakes Christian, Mission, Monmouth, Mount Mary, Northland, Principia and William Penn.

“All of my offers mean a lot — it just shows that what I’m doing and all the time that I’m putting in is working,” she said. “I would’ve never expected to get 10 offers, honestly, and there’s more to come. It’s crazy to think about.”

One of Lillie’s biggest supporters throughout her basketball career has been her dad Drew, and interestingly enough, Cole received her 10th offer from East Texas Baptist on Father’s Day. Lillie first started playing at a young age as her dad started up a travel team for her after she started out in Optimist.

“I just sat in my car, and I got a little emotional about it and thought, ‘I just hit double digits in my offers — that’s crazy,’” Lillie said. “My family is my biggest support, but my dad is the basketball figure of it. … On Father’s Day, I walk out and everybody is just chilling at the pool. I go, ‘Dad, I just got my 10th offer,’ and he was just like, ‘No way.’ … He was really, really excited.”

Cole will have the chance to be watched by more college coaches at Run 4 Roses from July 11-16, as well as the National Championship July 20-22. These tournaments will be hosted in Louisville, and she’s also played in Cincinnati as well for her final AAU season.

Besides the sheer size of a tournament like Run 4 Roses that hosts more than 1,450 teams, hundreds of college coaches are also in attendance watching these players. There is an entire wall dedicated to all of the college programs that have coaches in attendance, which can be seen in the playing area.

On the court, coaches are enamored by Lillie’s skills as a defender, which is how she’ll create offense if she’s not having a great day on offense. However, Cole is the type of shooter who “catches fire” from 3-point range.

“I just get this sort of adrenaline rush when it comes to defense,” Lillie said. “Normally, I’m guarding somebody who’s really, really good because everybody in travel ball is really, really good.

“I’m also a very, very tough basketball player, so defense is my specialty, and I love defense. … It turns my game to the next level. [To be a good shooter it’s taken] a lot of work. I started from the bottom, and I’m still trying to increase the speed of my release and my distance.”

Even while playing for a program like Phee Elite, Lillie has also done much of the recruiting work herself by contacting countless college coaches. This is Cole’s second year being with Phee as she had zero offers following last AAU season.

“The hardest thing for me to accept was, ‘What if none of this pays off,’” Lillie recalled thinking. “I wasn’t seeing any interest, but I decided to reach out to every single coach I follow on Twitter — every single coach. After coaches started watching film on me, it just kind of went off from there. It’s surreal to think about it, though.”

Even though she’s received so many offers, Cole has still very much remained humble throughout the entire process. Lillie knows there are players who are going to be better than her and have more offers than her.

“You have to accept that as a person and basketball player,” Cole noted. “There’ll be people out there with 25 offers, so I’m at the baby level with 10 offers,” she joked. You have to stay humble and keep working at it. I’m going every single day whether it’s all the time with Phee or school ball. My schedule just kind of bounces around.”

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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