Driving for the Dream

Three-sport standout at Andover headed to Atlanta’s WNBA team

Written by Joe Stumpe

Jaylyn Agnew’s athletic career got off to a rocky start at age 5 when she crossed her arms and stood at mid soccer field, refusing to take part in her first organized game.

Her father, longtime high school coach and athletic administrator Jay Agnew, took her aside afterward. “We had a little heart-to-heart,” he remembers, chuckling at the memory. “Like a coach-to-player talk. We always say that’s where it started. She got back out there. She did well.”

Did she ever.

Agnew went on to become a three-sport star at Andover High, then capped an outstanding basketball career at Creighton University by being named the 2019–2020 Big East Conference Player of the Year. Last month, she headed into training camp for the Atlanta Dream of the WNBA, becoming just the second Wichita-area player to reach the women’s professional league.

Although she dreamed of playing in the WNBA growing up, Agnew said the reality has taken some getting used to. “I’m just happy for the opportunity and hopefully will be able to contribute in some capacity, whether it’s on the court or just being a great teammate on the bench waiting for my time,” she said.

That unassuming attitude and the drive to keep getting better define Agnew. In high school, she was an All-State basketball player, All-Metro volleyball player and four-time state champion in the high jump. She didn’t just rely on natural athletic ability; to increase her leaping ability, Jaylyn did plyometric jumping exercises on her family’s Ikea furniture, her dad says. To become a phenomenal free-throw shooter — she made 52 straight during her senior year at Creighton — she developed “a pretty distinct routine” and practiced relentlessly.

Agnew says his daughter benefited from a number of great coaches growing up. She also looked up to a couple of local role models: Tiffany Bias, a 2010 graduate of Andover who went on to play in the WNBA; and Susan Woolf, a 1996 grad who still holds all the school’s scoring records.

At Creighton, Agnew improved each season, despite having to play through injuries her junior year. As a senior she led the team in scoring, rebounds, assists and blocks. Thanks to her jumping ability, coaches used the 5-11 Agnew to jump ball against much bigger opponents. She would have led the Bluejays back to the NCAA postseason tournament if it hadn’t been cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Asked to name her biggest accomplishment at Creighton, Agnew doesn’t mention any of those accolades, instead noting that she was able to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees (in marketing and organizational leadership) within five years — and get it paid for. “Not a lot of people have the opportunity to do that.”

Agnew was drafted early in the second round by the Washington Mystics, the defending WNBA champions, but was cut without ever getting to training camp when the pandemic delayed the pro season. Soon after, she was picked up by the Atlanta Dream. In the meantime, she also signed a contract to play with a top-tier Russian team when the shortened WNBA season ends.

Like other WNBA players, Agnew reported in early July to Bradenton, Florida, where plans called for players to stay and play within a “bubble.”

Jay Agnew thinks his daughter is ready for the challenge, mainly because she’s never stopped developing as a player.

“She knows she’s not there yet, but she knows she has the potential.”

Jaylyn Agnew

Parents: Traci and Jay Agnew, Andover
Academics: Division 1 Scholar Athlete Team, 3.79 GPA
Awards: Big East Freshman of the Year (2016–17); Big East Player of the Year and Honorable Mention All-American (2019–20)
Record: Creighton single-game scoring (43 points against Georgetown in final home game), Big East single-season free throw percentage (43-for-43)

 
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