Editor’s note: This is the third in a five-part series previewing the top five girls basketball players in the Class of 2023. The series counts down to No. 1 and aligns with the start of the 2022-23 high school season. Click here to see the latest rankings from the Class of 2023. Counting down: No. 5 Hannah Hidalgo | No. 4 Aalyah Del Rosario | No. 3 Jadyn Donovan | No. 2 Juju Watkins | No. 1 Mikaylah Williams.
The prospect of leadership can be daunting.
At a girls’ basketball program like Sidwell Friends School (Washington, D.C.), the reigning SCI national champion, the standard is high. The Quakers earned the title of the nation’s best team during last year’s undefeated campaign led by Kiki Rice, the reigning JWS high school basketball Player of the Year and Gatorade Female Athlete of the Year.
Some athletes might rely solely on their court performances to guide their teams to victory, when stepping into the shoes of star players before you requires so much more.
But that isn’t the type of player Sidwell Friends produces. That isn’t Jadyn Donovan.
The two-time gold medalist uses her length, athleticism and red-hot shot to keep any matchup competitive. As a junior at Sidwell Friends, Donovan averaged 15.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.3 steals per game. She’s a vocal leader with an understanding of what her team needs from her on and off the court.
Donovan, a 6-foot guard, has already made her mark at Sidwell Friends, and she has one final season at the high school level to build upon her legacy.
Tamika Dudley, the reigning Naismith High School Coach of the Year, leads the charge for the Quakers as they look to reach similar heights this season with Donovan as the centerpiece.
“Her athletic ability is unmatched,” Dudley said. “There’s not a girl in the country right now — I don’t care what class — that’s as athletic as she is. Her ability to finish around the rim and her mid-range shot, it’s remarkable.”
Sidwell Friends returns four starters, all of whom are ranked in the top-100 in their respective classes, but a repeat of last year’s historic success isn’t promised.
“It’s about how the team comes together and how we can get them to buy into the rules,” Dudley said. “Hopefully, [Donovan] will pick up where Kiki left off, in terms of leading by example, helping our young kids assimilate to our culture and our way of doing things.
“I think Jadyn leads in her own way. We’re not looking for the same thing; we’re just looking for leadership to affirm or reassure who we are.”
When she arrived at Sidwell Friends, Donovan was used to playing in the post. Dudley and her coaching staff worked to shift Donovan’s position to where she felt most natural, which was on the perimeter.
“In our program, she was a unicorn,” Dudley said. “We were able to get her to focus on playing the game the right way and get her out of her comfort zone. We evolved her to the perimeter. We focused on putting her in those uncomfortable positions on offense.
“Just getting her to be more disciplined and refined was one of the focuses of her development.”
Donovan spent her second consecutive gold-medal summer with Team USA, this year starting five of seven games for the U17 national team in Debrecen, Hungary. While averaging just over 19 minutes per game, she contributed 10.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game.
Nobody on the team shot better than Donovan, who was 32 of 53 from the field throughout the tournament.
In August, Donovan announced her commitment to play for coach Kara Lawson at Duke, where she will remain close to home and pursue a degree from one of the nation’s top universities. The first recruit in Duke’s 2023 class, she chose the Blue Devils over Notre Dame. She is also the highest-ranked Duke recruit since the hiring of Lawson, who spent her freshman year of high school playing for the Quakers.
CAMERON HERE WE COME!😈#karaera #thesisterhood pic.twitter.com/Pr53t7djkZ— JD2 (@DonovanJadyn) August 23, 2022
CAMERON HERE WE COME!😈#karaera #thesisterhood pic.twitter.com/Pr53t7djkZ
Donovan will continue to build her brand after signing with agency SIG Sports in early October.
Caroline Makauskas is a contributing writer for Just Women’s Sports. She also covers a variety of sports on her TikTok @cmakauskas. Follow her on Twitter @cmakauskas.