Player Profiles: Heather Butler and Jasmine Newsome
At a women's basketball game, two distinct things can be seen: a cohesive team that has their heads in the game and a pair of players that always gives the crowd a good show.
These two ladies are not ball hogs, but they are the two Coach Kevin McMillan trusts to get the team to the basket. Who are these two ladies? They are junior guards Heather Butler and Jasmine Newsome.
Both women found the love of basketball at an early age. Both watched their older siblings play, which helped to nurture the love of the game in both of them.
"My older sister played," said Butler. "I just wanted to be like her. Then I started practicing when I got older. It was around fourth grade, and it just grew from there."
Somewhat like her counterpart, Newsome was in the same boat.
"I got my love of basketball from my older brother. When I saw him play, I wanted to be just like him," said Newsome.
Though their siblings were the biggest influence in their lives, it was their love of the game that gave them the power they needed to play. They played all through elementary school and middle school. It wasn't until high school that they got the most recognition.
Like almost all college basketball players, Butler and Newsome had some amazing careers in high school.
Butler attended Gibson County and played for the Lady Pioneers. According to utmsports.com, she led her team in her junior year all the way to the Tennessee State Championship. Also in her junior year, she was named regional tournament MVP. She was named The Jackson Sun's All-West Tennessee Player of the Year her senior year.
Newsome's accolades didn't start until she settled in at Millington Central High School.
"I was an army brat so I moved around a lot," said Newsome.
She found a home on her high school's gym floor. While at Millington Central, she helped her team finish runner-up in substate her freshman and junior years. She also helped them pick up three consecutive crowns at the Dragon Fire Tournament. She played all four years at Millington Central and was named the Memphis Commercial Appeal's Best of the Preps.
Going into their senior years of high school, the ladies had no idea where they were going to college. They had heard of UTM, but they were dead set against going to a school that they hadn't heard of too much. Luckily their lives were changed, and not because they had scored scholarships.
"I talked to all the coaches and saw the campus. Then Jaclissa [Haslip] was coming so I came here," said Newsome.
Butler's reasons for coming to UTM were a little bit different.
"When I first heard of UTM, I was like 'UTM who?' I knew of them but there was no way I was going. In the end, I came because of Coach McMillan," said Butler.
Coach Kevin McMillan had been the head coach at Gibson County while Butler was a junior and a senior. When he moved to UTM, he brought Butler with him.
Once they got to UTM, Butler and Newsome were put together on a team. While playing in high school, the ladies played AAU, or Amateur Athletic Union Basketball. They played for different teams and were rivals.
"We weren't the best of friends coming in. We always played against them [Newsome's team] in AAU. We were rivals. Then when we came here we bonded," said Butler.
Since they came in together, they both had a hard time adjusting to college life. These ladies were homesick.
"I was nervous coming in," said Newsome. "I wanted to be back in high school. We all went home every weekend. We never spent the weekend here until the season began. Even then, after games we went home."
As they bonded with their team, and each other, they began spending more and more time together. They learned it the hard way, especially when the season is going full force.
"We have to keep up with everything," said Butler. "It's really heard with classes, traveling and games."
Home games aren't too bad. It's the away games that get everyone.
"You have to study on the bus after a game, win or lose. You might have practice the next day. Your body's tired and you're tired. You have so much work to do. You still got to do it," said Newsome.
Even though the work is hard, the ladies still work until they can't work anymore. They find time to let loose, though. When someone looks at the two of them, he or she sees tough women. In reality, they are completely different.
"I love to shop in my free time," Butler said.
Newsome would rather stay away from crowds, preferring to stay in her room.
"I play Xbox," said Newsome.
Though they enjoy time away from each other, they'd much rather spend it together or with their team. They love movies and television shows; Catfish, Love and Basketball, America's Next Top Model, Teen Mom and The Vow are just a few to name. Recently they enjoyed Pitch Perfect.
Like all college students, they love food.
"I'll eat anything with alfredo in it, and my favorite restaurant is Red Lobster," said Newsome.
Butler isn't a fan of seafood, so she could do without Red Lobster. Anything else she will eat.
"I just love food. I'll eat just about anything. I really love T.G.I. Friday's and Cheddar's," said Butler.
One thing they agree on is candy. Both love chocolate, ice cream and Skittles in the purple bag. Newsome loves sour gummy worms. She said she can go through a bag of them a week.
Aside from eating, they love being on the court. Before the regular season even started, the Skyhawks played Baylor, Stanford and Hawaii in the Wahine Classic in Hawaii. The Skyhawks didn't just lie down while playing these teams, especially against national champions Baylor.
"We played as a team against Baylor," said Newsome. "They had to work for everything they did. We didn't give up. We played hard defense."
Playing three big teams in one tournament was a great achievement. Even though they lost, they played with heart. All of this proved they can take a challenge.
"I love playing big teams," said Butler. "They give us a challenge and I love challenges."
Also this season they are 5-3 in the OVC. Losing takes its toll on them like it would anyone else.
"You're mad at yourself before you're mad at anyone else. You blame yourself more than you blame your teammates," said Newsome.
Even if they lose, they are not going to give up. Their goal is to get to the OVC Tournament again.
"It would be great to win another OVC Championship because it would be a back-to-back win for us," said Newsome.
To win would put another banner in their gym but that's fine with them. Whether they win or not, they will continue to work hard.
"We don't want to get satisfied," said Butler. "If we get satisfied, we lose in the tournament."
Butler and Newsome came in as freshmen to a change in their workouts, in the way they play and how they manage school. In lieu of the hardships, some really cool things have come their way.
During her career, Butler has hit 241 3-pointers and 1,772 field goals to date. On Jan. 16, 2013, during a match against Southeast Missouri State, Butler passed Mary Kate Long for the title as UTM's all-time leading scorer. As of Saturday, Jan. 25, Butler only needs to hit a 3-pointer in the next game to tie for the title of most consecutive games to have hit a 3-pointer. The current title is 69 games.
During it all, Butler has kept a level head.
"I'm a very humble person. It's just me," Butler said. "People always congratulate me. It's just another achievement, but I'd rather have a team achievement instead."
As Butler's best friend, Newsome is behind her 100 percent. The ladies depend on each other on and off the court. While on the court, they depend on each other to the point when one goes off the flow of the game seems to change. They know where each other is at all times.
Like most best friends, they are totally different, but they know how to make it work. They know their strengths and weaknesses and they recognize them in each other.
"Jasmine is a very goofy person," said Butler. "There's never a time you will not see her without a smile on her face, or doing something silly. That's what I love about her. If I'm down, she'll do something silly that makes me laugh. She acts hard but she's not. She's not touchy feely, though."
To Newsome's goofy sense of humor, Butler's attitude balances her.
"Butler is very caring. She doesn't always take my side on things. We see things totally differently," said Newsome.
Best friends have a totally different wavelength than the rest of humanity. There are things they just know.
"I know when Butler's in a bad mood," said Newsome. "I just don't say anything to her. I know what she's thinking. We just look at each other and we're like 'yeah.' We're so much alike but we're so different. You can always count on her to be there for you no matter what."
With more than half the season over and their senior year left to go, the fans and the team are excited to see how much further these two will go.
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