Jordan Horston almost couldn't believe it when her first Division I college scholarship offer came from North Carolina two years ago.
Horston was just a freshman for the Africentric Early College girls basketball team at the time, and she wasn't that far removed from considering soccer to be her "main" sport.
Horston also hasn't forgotten the obstacles she's had to clear over the years, including knee issues related to a growth spurt.
"I just try to stay hungry and humble because this is a blessing," said Horston, who has grown more than two inches since her freshman season. "When I was younger, I had knee problems. I always had growing issues. I didn't know I was going to be this tall, but when I look back, now I see it. I used to have big fat knots on my knees, so I'd have to wear knee braces. Overcoming that made me a lot stronger. I'm just happy my knees are cooperating more now."
Now the 6-foot-1 1/2 junior point guard has moved toward the top of the wish list of numerous colleges because of her ball-handling skills, speed and experience.
She's ranked sixth in the 2019 recruiting class and a five-star prospect in the ESPN HoopGurlz Super 60 rankings. The only player from Ohio in her class ranked higher is Canton McKinley's Kierstan Bell at No. 4.
Horston possesses more than 30 scholarship offers, with Ohio State, Duke, Michigan State, Kentucky, Maryland and Louisville also among the schools recruiting her.
In June, she traveled to Argentina to represent Team USA in the FIBA Under 16 World Championships.
Horston was averaging 16.7 points through six games this season after averaging 15.7 points, seven rebounds and 6.5 assists last season when the Nubians went 25-4 and reached a Division III state semifinal.
She scored a career-high 37 points in a 101-22 win over South on Dec. 5, and coach Will McKinney believes more performances such as that one could be in her future.
"That was probably the best shooting performance she's ever had with six 3s," McKinney said. "She still has a lot more she can develop. There's a load of upside with her."
Horston hardly remembers a time that she didn't have a ball of some sort either at her feet or in her hands.
Her father, Leigh Horston, was Whetstone's boys basketball coach in the 2006-07 season after previously assisting at Northland. He now coaches at the middle school level.
"I always loved playing with a ball at a young age," Jordan said. "My mom always called me 'Tigger' because I didn't want to sit down. I just love it, honestly. I started playing serious basketball in rec leagues when I was 4, but I started AAU in third grade and just loved the game, loved traveling and being with teammates."
Africentric, which went 24-5 and won the Division III state title during her freshman season in 2015-16, was 6-0 overall and 4-0 in the City League-South Division before playing West on Dec. 19. The Nubians beat Independence 90-27 in a league game Dec. 15 and defeated Westerville South 47-42 on Dec. 16.
Horston provided a dose of what was to come during the Nubians' 59-37 win over Marion Pleasant in the 2016 state final with 11 points, seven rebounds, three assists and five steals.
She's now the top player on a roster that also includes a pair of Central State recruits in seniors Iyanna Hairston and Antoinette Williams, as well as a talented sophomore guard in Alexia Smith.
"We've been doing pretty well," Horston said. "Our practices have been intense, just getting after it every day. I always feel like I have to improve on something, but me bringing my height and leadership and different things to the table every game, I feel like that's going to help the team a lot.
"The freshmen are coming in ready to play, wanting to get better, listening. It's a good group of girls and we all get along really well. We've got two seniors going to Central State, and they're good leaders, so that's why we're doing so well."
Cougars, Vikings girls start strong
Despite losing nearly all of its key players to graduation, the Beechcroft girls basketball team won three of its first four games.
Junior forward Grace Gales, who is the only key returnee from last season when the Cougars went 12-9, had 18 points and 20 rebounds in a season-opening 48-46 win over East on Dec. 5.
She's also had help.
Freshman guard Labriar Franklin-Page had 15 points against East and 12 in a 28-20 loss to Mifflin on Dec. 8, and junior guard Liza Farley had 24 points in a 61-49 win over Centennial on Dec. 12.
Beechcroft was 4-2 overall and 2-2 in the City-North before playing Linden-McKinley on Dec. 19. The Cougars lost to Whetstone 61-49 in a league game Dec. 15 before beating Horizon Science Academy 63-28 on Dec. 16.
"We're a young team and we've faced a little adversity," coach Mike Moncrief said. "Grace Gales had 18 (points) and 20 (rebounds) against East, and hopefully we can ride that for the rest of the year. Labriar Franklin-Page is a freshman who has just been working. She kind of just walked into the gym and you could see this girl had a little talent."
Northland was 9-1 overall and 4-0 in the City-North before playing Whetstone on Dec. 19. The Vikings beat Linden 49-42 in a league game Dec. 15 and defeated Southfield (Michigan) Arts & Tech 46-42 on Dec. 16.
Senior guard/forward Jeana Weatherspoon was averaging a team-high 18.8 points through eight games and senior guard Charlea Henley and junior guard Alexandria Hamilton both have been averaging more than eight points.
Bowling season starts for City teams
Two of central Ohio's top girls bowlers a year ago, Briggs sophomore Dakota Fink and Eastmoor Academy senior Averi Brown, are off to strong starts.
Fink, who won the Division I state championship last season at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl with a 677 three-game series, had a 218 game average through three matches.
Brown, who was the Division I district runner-up a year ago with a 663 and finished 37th at state with a 529, had a 192.5 average through five matches.
In boys bowling, Beechcroft senior Derek May was averaging 215.2 through his first three matches to rank among the top scorers in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference.