When Boise State women’s basketball alumna Joyce Harrell learned that her best friend and long-time teammate Jayde Christopher was looking to transfer from Kansas University, she made a beeline for head coach Gordy Presnell. Before Christopher’s official transferring process even began, Harrell had it all sorted out.
“I went to Coach P and was like, ‘My best friend is gonna transfer, we need to get her ASAP. Just trust me on this, you’ll love her,’” Harrell said. “…I didn’t really give her an option. I was telling the team, ‘Hey, my best friend is coming to Boise State.’ I was going around telling everybody, so she had to commit or I would have [sounded]crazy.”
Harrell had played alongside Christopher for several years, from high school to club, and Christopher never fails to impress her.
“The first time I ever played with Jayde, she passed me the ball and it hit the backside of my head, and she was just like, ‘Well, you were open,’” Harrell said. “Ever since that, since she clocked me in the head, I was always looking for the ball when it deals with her because I was like, ‘You’re never gonna hit me the head again.’”
Along with Harrell, Christopher knew Ellie Woerner and Marijke Vanderschaaf from playing on the same club team. Harrell’s theory that Christopher would fit in with the rest of the Broncos quickly became reality after a weekend visit.
“What I was coming here for, or looking for, was a family atmosphere, and that’s kind of what they gave me,” Christopher said.
During her time at Kansas, Christopher began not feeling like herself and decided it was time to make a switch.
“I kind of just had stuff built up and I wasn’t like ‘goofy Jayde,’” Christopher said. “I just started kind of like falling off… I wasn’t really happy. When you’re not happy or you feel yourself start to change that’s when you’re like, ‘Okay, I think we need to make a change.’”
The Broncos attempted to gain immediate eligibility for Christopher from the NCAA, but the request was denied. For Presnell, the appeal’s denial turned out to have a silver lining: while Christopher would have to spend the 2017-18 season on the bench, it meant that the program got to have her around for another year.
When Christopher made her long-awaited return to the court in 2018, she did what she does best: share the ball. She quickly surpassed her 82 career assists at KU and ended the season with 182.
Several of Christopher’s stats nearly doubled in her debut season with the Broncos. She went from averaging 3.0 points and 1.7 rebounds per game to 6.3 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. She finished her last season at Kansas with 91 points, 28 steals and four blocks — her opening season with the Broncos ended with 208 points, 46 steals and 10 blocks.
“[Christopher’s redshirt year] was a blessing in disguise because it gave her time to work on her shot and get to know the team, because when you come in at point guard, you have to know everybody,” Harrell said. “It was so beneficial to us because it gave us someone to practice against that we wouldn’t really see, and so it sped up our team… When she came in the year after, she didn’t miss a beat.”
When Christopher first arrived, her experience in the Big 12 showed in her speed. Having been accustomed to pushing the ball up the floor, Christopher’s style prompted the rest of the team to communicate more and speed up their own game.
“The best thing about her is she’s so coachable,” Harrell said. “We ran a completely different system for her than at Kansas and she took the time to stay after practices and meet with coaches to learn everything.”
While it may be obvious that Christopher’s passing skills come from her visibility and creativity in the game, it is also fitting that her personality off the court matches her generosity and positivity on the court.
“She is a light. She brings the best out of people, personality-wise. She is a magnet in that people are drawn to her because of her sense of humor and her lightheartedness, and she’s just a really good person,” Presnell said. “She is able to create shots for other people… Having the personality that she has – giving, caring, humble, sharing – is very similar to what great point guards have…It just so fits her position on the court; she wants people to be happy. She lives very humbly.”
Now, through just 20 games of 2019-20 season, Christopher has earned herself a national ranking which perfectly complements her giving nature: she leads the country in assists with 154.
Christopher is well on her way to breaking the Boise State single-season record of 192 (Yaiza Rodriguez, 2016-17), and is doing it all with a smile on her face.
“You do this for 33 years and sometimes it becomes a little bit routine and you don’t always see the fun,” Presnell said. “And [Christopher] has made basketball really fun.”