Two years ago Jasmine Riddick was more concerned with learning how to walk again than what she might do after graduating from Southwest DeKalb High School.
Spinal surgery in June 2010 corrected a severe case of scoliosis, changed the disproportionate length of her legs and made her two inches taller. Eight months later Riddick was on a tennis court rediscovering the game she had only started playing competitively a year before the surgery.
Riddick’s rehabilitation came full circle May 24 as she was one of four Southwest DeKalb tennis players recognized for earning scholarships. Earlier this month Riddick signed an athletic/academic scholarship to play tennis at Johnson C. Smith University, an NCAA Division II school in North Carolina. She also was recruited by Savannah State and Fisk University.
“I don’t like getting my hopes up about things and when I started hearing about the possibility of a scholarship I shied away from it,” Riddick said. “I thought who would want somebody who just had back surgery?”
Riddick, who ended her high school career with a 3.89 grade-point average, was granted $9,000 a year in athletic scholarship money and $15,000 a year in academic scholarship funds.
Three of her teammates also celebrated signing tennis scholarships at the ceremony in the school’s media center. Felicia Penn, who gave up basketball to play two years of tennis, earned a scholarship to Tuskegee University. Penn, who has a 3.26 GPA, will receive $24,000 yearly in athletic scholarship money and $2,000 per year in academic money.
Two members of the boys’ team also signed scholarship—Kalin Harrison and Odell McCree each signed with Fisk University in Tennessee. Harrison was 11-6 this season at No. 1 singles after going 5-7 as a junior. Harrison was awarded $20,000 annually, divided between academic, athletic and leadership scholarships. McCree, who earned an athletic scholarship of $10,000 per year was part of Southwest’s No. 1 doubles team that posted a 9-6 record this season.
Before this season, there had been only one Southwest player to earn a tennis scholarship.
“I didn’t expect [the scholarship],” Riddick said. “It made me very happy and I’m grateful.”
Riddick spent her junior season working through the pain of the surgery. She went from 4-10 at No. 1 singles as a junior to 5-3 this season. The Panthers finished 8-8.
She also placed in the top six in two USTA junior satellite tournaments last summer in the 16-year-old division. Riddick placed sixth at the North Atlanta at Sandy Springs tournament and fifth in the One Love Summer tournament at Racquet Club of the South.
“Even now I can tell it’s not as easy to get to shots as it used to be,” Riddick said. “It’s a little bit harder since the surgery but now I know I can do it. I feel a lot better, but athletically, it’s a little harder.”
Southwest tennis coach Lance Davenport and assistant coach Thomas Pickens stayed in contact with college coaches to help his players earn the scholarships.
“We didn’t realize a scholarship was a possibility until probably a few weeks ago,” said Riddick’s mother Janet Riddick, who attended the signing ceremony with her husband Peter. “We’re really proud of her.”