By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
Jaelyn Haggard has had one of the more fruitful women's basketball careers in northwest Missouri history.
The St. Joseph Central alum and Northwest Missouri State point guard compiled 1185 points (19th in school history) over 81 starts in four seasons for the Bearcats, becoming the program's all-time leader in three-pointers made (256) in the process.
When the season ended in late-February, Haggard had some big decisions to make. Like everyone else, she was granted an extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19. She also wanted to continue her education in a physical therapy program.
"Missouri Western has always kind of been on my list as far as schooling goes," Haggard said. "So, I applied there in February. I think maybe a week after I applied, I was getting some texts from their head coach (Candi Whitaker) and from a couple other people who helped get my name into the transfer portal."
Haggard applied for and got accepted into Missouri Western's highly competitive Physical Therapist Assistant Program, which only takes about 20-30 applicants.
"Luckily, I had four years of schooling under my belt," said Haggard, who will receive her bachelor's degree from Northwest in just a few weeks. "As well as classes I have already taken at Northwest that kind of increased my chances of getting in. It's normally a built-in program for anyone who goes to MWSU and gets accepted. It's a two-year program.
I'm kind of doing it backwards, having my bachelor's already, but it's definitely a competitive and high demand program."
Haggard will soon realize two of her biggest goals - furthering her education and playing career in a city she's always called home.
"Within a couple of weeks of being in the transfer portal, I went on a visit to Mo West," said Haggard. "I met the team, had dinner with the coaches and it just felt right. It's in my backyard. I get to drive two minutes to school. You know, I don't think I'd want to be anywhere else."
Haggard averaged 9.3 points per game this past season - more than any player on the Griffons' roster in 2020-21.
Joined by Missouri State grad transfer Trinity Knapp and four incoming freshmen, Haggard looks forward to hitting the ground running with this group.
"I've been scrimmaging with their team for the last few weeks," she said. "It's been fun just to see how they play on their team, as opposed to being on the other side of the court. There's lots of talent there, there's a lot of potential. I think it'll be fun coming in as an upperclassman with four years of MIAA experience under my belt. I plan to be as positive and competitive as possible, and see how much I can bring them to the next level."
Haggard dazzled St. Joseph basketball fans in her four years at Central, scoring 1319 career points to rank second all-time in program history.
Going to college in nearby Maryville was convenient for her family, as her parents, siblings and grandparents were able to make nearly every game at Bearcat Arena.
But, it was still 45 minutes. Now, they only have to go down the street to MWSU Fieldhouse.
"It's going to be really nice to be in the same hometown and city," said Haggard. "My entire family pretty much lives here, so just to see them in the stands and perform in front of them where everyone can come, I think it's going to be really special."
Haggard's future is bright, but she'll always cherish the memories and relationships made over a terrific four years at Northwest.
"It's been a really exciting few months," she reflected, "just getting to see where God has placed me and what he has in store for me. I'm super thankful for my four years at Northwest, and I can't wait for this new opportunity and to make the most of it for one more year."
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