On her way to school one day recently, Cahokia High senior J’Ava Brock was listening to music which brought her peace and good memories. The songs made her think of her grandmother Carrie Montgomery.
“My grandmother and I were close. She died of cancer but when I was listening to my music there were a couple of songs that day which made me think of her,” Brock said. “I remember she came to watch me play one day and how proud she was of me. I’ll always have that memory. When I’m on the basketball court now, I know she’s with me. Her and God.”
Carrie Montgomery was no doubt looking down from heaven last week and smiling broadly when her granddaughter had a pair of games to remember.
In a South Seven Conference game on Thursday against Centralia, Brock, a 5-foot-4 guard, made 6-of-8 shots from beyond the 3-point line and scored 33 points in a 64-62 loss by the Comanches. Two days later in a 82-78 setback against Carbondale, Brock was even better as she connected on 8-of-11 from beyond the 3-point mark and scored 34 points.
Those 67 points and 14-of-19 performance from the 3-point line may not have prevented the Comanches (6-11) from absorbing two more losses in an injury-plaugued season, but it earned Brock the honor as the Belleville News-Democrat Athlete of the Week.”
“Why the two big games? It was my grandmother and God,” Brock said. “I talk to God a lot and I can always tell if I’m going to have a good game or not. If before a game my heart is beating really fast, I’m probably not going to have a big game. If it’s slower and I’m calm, I usually do well. I did notice in the first game though that in warmups, I felt good and everything I shot was going in. I just kept it going in the game. When a shooter gets that feeling there is nothing like it. I felt like I could have shot the ball from anywhere on the court that night and it would have gone in.”
One of four sisters in the Brock family, Brock got her love of basketball from her dad, East St. Louis native Johnny Brock. J’ava Brock said that while her dad never was a star in high school, he loved the sport with all his heart. He has passed that love on to his daughter.
“My dad grew up playing basketball in the schoolyards, parks and streets of East St. Louis. He was the king of the courts,” Brock said. “He had me dribbling a basketball when I was barely old enough to walk. I started playing organized ball when I was in the fourth grade. But I played a long time before that. My dad is tough on me at times but that’s because he wants me to be the best. I never get burned out by basketball. What do I do when I’m not playing basketball? I play basketball. I have a hoop at my house and I’m always out there shooting, hot or cold. It’s all I’ve got.”
Longtime Comanches coach Fred Dancy knows what he has in Brock. A key varsity player for four years and starting guard for the past three years, Brock is averaging just under 16 points a game and is an unquestioned leader of the Comanches.
“J’ava is a great young lady first of all and she also excels in the classroom. She is an (NCAA) qualifier and there is no doubt in my mind that she can play at the next (college) level,” Dancy said. “I’m not surprised she had those kinds of games. She’s always had the ability. We’ve had a tough year with injuries and J’ava is doing what most leaders would do for their team. She’s picked up her game and is trying to do more to help this team be successful.”
Brock hasn’t let her size hold her back either. And she’s not about to let it get in the way of reaching her dreams.
“I’m listed at 5-4, but actually I’m 5-3 1/2,” Brock said, laughing. “I want to play and I will play at the college level. I’ve applied at Kansas and Kansas State, but I’m open to any offers. I know I’ve got to get stronger and I’m working hard to do that. I don’t think my size hurts me. As long as I’ve got space on the court there isn’t anyone who is going to take the ball away from me or prevent me from getting my shot off.”
Brock wants to be a coach when she graduates from college. That is if her other dream doesn’t pan out.
“I want to play in the WNBA. I’ve had that dream for longer then I can remember,” Brock said. “But if it doesn’t happen, I’ll have my degree to fall back on. We’ve had a tough season because of all the injuries. It seems like whenever we get two or three players healthy, one of two more get hurt. That’s so frustrating because we have a lot of talent. I’m really going to miss my teammates next year. We’re like sisters we’re so close.”