John Tyler seniors Ashtyn Beal, Sha’Kendra Tilley and Kandice Jackson racked up plenty of wins during their time playing for the Lady Lions, be it on the basketball or volleyball court.
Those winning ways helped the JT trio secure a college education - and a chance at even more victories.
All three signed letters of intent to play college athletics on Wednesday at the Lions Den. Beal will play basketball at Collin College, Tilley is headed to Cisco College for basketball and Jackson will take her volleyball talents to Jarvis Christian College.
All three played at least some role in 104 basketball victories over four years at JT, none more so than Beal, who was a key contributor as a freshman. Tilley joined the varsity squad as a sophomore while Jackson played a couple games her senior year before deciding to focus on volleyball.
“They’re a great representation of what we do at John Tyler,” JT girls basketball coach Mike Smith said.
Beal, who was named District 16-4A Newcomer of the Year as a freshman, earned league MVP honors as a sophomore before finishing her career with back-to-back first-team all-district selections.
She chose to go the junior college route at Collin, located in McKinney, over Cisco and a couple NCAA Division II offers, hoping to eventually make the jump to a Division I school.
“It feels great to know that all my hard work is coming into play now and just the idea of free college is making me happy right now,” Beal said. “I’m blessed to have the opportunity because a lot of people don’t get to make it that far. No matter if it’s juco, D-II or D-I, a lot of people don’t get to make it to play college basketball.”
Beal will graduate as the class salutatorian to cap her four-year career with the Lady Lions.
“I hate to see it end; I’m proud to be a John Tyler Lion,” Beal said. “I’ll always remember my teammates and the people that have been around me and I’m going to miss it.”
Teammates for years, Beal and Tilley will be opponents on the court next season as Collin and Cisco are NJCAA Region V rivals. Collin finished league play 13-1 (26-6 overall) while Cisco went 7-7 (11-18 overall).
Tilley, more commonly known by her nicknamed Bean, is a multi-sport star for JT, having earned first-team all-district honors in volleyball and second-team honors in basketball, her favorite sport.
“Bean is an outstanding athlete,” Smith said. “Bean is one of those young ladies who does everything well, from the classroom, volleyball, basketball, track, she’s never not busy. She’s just constantly giving everything she has.”
Tilley said she chose Cisco for the welcoming environment at the school, having also considered Centenary, among others.
“It’s a blessing,” she said. “A lot of people don’t get the opportunity to follow their dreams and pursue sports after high school, so I just thank God for the opportunity.”
Both Tilley and Jackson fondly remember the self-proclaimed goofiness of their time on the JT volleyball team and will hope to find similar chemistry at the next level.
Jackson dabbled in basketball before focusing on volleyball, where she can be found filling in at just about every position. She was a first-team all-district selection as a senior setter.
“Kandice is one of the ones that was very athletic,” JT volleyball coach LaMessa Derrett said. “She was one of those kids that you could put in any position and do well in it.”
Jackson, who also plays softball, found her love for volleyball while her mom, Michelle Williams, was the head volleyball coach at Texas College for four years.
She’ll be carrying on another family tradition at Jarvis, which she chose over East Texas Baptist.
“My dad, my aunt, they all graduated from Jarvis so I just continued the legacy,” Jackson said.
Jackson, Tilley and Beal left a legacy of success at John Tyler, something they’ll hope to continue at the next level.