Community News Hamilton Heights Christian Academy seniors receive McDonald's All-American honor

Community News Hamilton Heights Christian Academy seniors receive McDonald's All-American honor

March 14th, 2018 by Kaitlin Colon in Community East Hamilton

Hamilton Heights Christian Academy seniors Jazmine Massengill, left, and Elizabeth Balogun show off their acceptance letters to play in the McDonald's All-American Games.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

As the winners of McDonald's All-American honor were announced and Jazmine Massengill's name and face flashed on the screen, she, her teammates and her coaches were filled momentarily with equal parts excitement and sadness.

Jazmine and fellow Hamilton Heights Christian Academy senior Elizabeth Balogun were both nominated for the honor. Having one student selected to play in the McDonald's All-American Games was outstanding. Two students would be an anomaly.

When Elizabeth's face popped up next, however, there was outright shock followed by immediate celebration.

Art Holekamp, owner of the McDonald's nearest to the academy, presented the girls with certificates and jerseys on Feb. 9 at Hamilton Heights. Elizabeth and Jazmine, two out of 24 girls selected nationally, will play at the 41st All American Games in Atlanta, Ga., on March 28.

Holekamp has been involved previously with presenting the highly coveted award, but has never seen two people from the same city, let alone the same school, be selected.

"I've never seen more than just one participant out of Chattanooga itself, so it's kind of amazing," said Holekamp.

The honor is given to talented athletes that maintain good grades and exhibit strong leadership qualities. Jazmine and Elizabeth are co-captains of the school's team and natural born leaders, said Raven Ray, the girls' assistant coach.

"They both work really hard, and we depend on them to lead our practices and our games," said Ray. "They're really great kids."

Elizabeth and Jazmine have played basketball since childhood, starting at 3 and 4 years old, respectively. They naturally gravitated to the sport; Jazmine said most of her family played, and Elizabeth's father was a coach.

Despite their hard work and dedication, they said they were both shocked by the announcement. The McDonald's All American honor is the highest award that a student athlete can receive, said Zach Ferrell, head boys' basketball coach for Hamilton Heights.

The award is a gateway into college basketball. Since its establishment, there have been 1,344 McDonald's All Americans, and more than 96 percent of those student athletes have gone on to play in Division 1 of the NCAA, according to the McDonald's All American Games website.

"Everybody dreams of it, not everyone gets it," said Jazmine, a Chattanooga native.

They attribute their success to leadership, which they said their coaches preach to them. Both young women are driven to make their families proud.

"I do it for my mom, she drives me every single day," said Elizabeth, who is from Nigeria. Her family still lives there, but will be coming to see her play in March.

They both said they are excited for the big day and can't wait to play. The girls, who have played together for five years, will be on competing teams — with Jazmine playing for the East Coast and Elizabeth for the West Coast.

They giggled at the idea of playing against each other and said it would be strange because they have been a team for so long.

"It'll be weird to not make eye contact with [Elizabeth] running down the court and pass her the ball," said Jazmine.

They will be attending separate colleges in August. Jazmine has been accepted to University of Tennessee at Knoxville, where she plans to study broadcast journalism. She wants to play basketball professionally and hopes to eventually transition into a career as a sports announcer.

Elizabeth was accepted to Georgia Tech and plans to major in business administration. An entrepreneur at heart, she said her dream is to own hotels.

Email Kaitlin Colon at kcolon@timesfreepress.com.