By Kyla Guilfoil, Editor-in-Chief
Sophomore Jade Blagrove has proved herself a critical player for the Manhattan College Women’s basketball team. A transfer student, Blagrove has claimed a spot on the starting lineup in the past five games, including wins at the team’s two most recent games.
A native of Barendrecht, Netherlands, Blagrove first committed to play at the University of South Florida. After her freshman season, Blagrove decided to transfer to the Bronx.
“Before I was in a program [where] they were very successful, they were like a top 25 program,” Blagrove said. “I just had people ahead of me that were just better at that moment.”
Blagrove was under the assumption that the upperclassmen would graduate giving her time to grow in the program. However, with the extra year granted to seniors after COVID canceled their last season, Blagrove did not want to go through another year on the sidelines.
“I didn’t really want to do the whole process again of not playing,” Blagrove said.
While no coach can promise a recruit exact minutes on the court, Blagrove felt that Manhattan offered a better opportunity to grow as a player and explore New York City.
“[Head coach Heather Vulin] sent me a DM on Instagram,” Blagrove told The Quadrangle. “When I saw the word ‘Manhattan’ I was really like, ‘Wow, this is cool.’ I was really looking for a school that had a good location. That is really important to me because I also like to explore outside of basketball, and it will also be easy for my family to come over and my friends.”
Blagrove started speaking with Vulin and felt that her leadership style offered the right environment for her. According to Blagrove, Vulin took the time to get to know her during their first conversation, asking Blagrove about her personality and playing style. This was important to Blagrove, as other coaches had focused their questions only on her basketball skills and stats.
After getting to know the assistant coaches as well, Blagrove felt that the Manhattan coaches sincerely cared for their players. Blagrove also appreciated Manhattan College’s full-female staff for the women’s team.
To Vulin, Blagrove was an obvious recruit. Vulin told The Quadrangle that she and the assistant coaches at MC are drawn to international recruits because of the success that they’ve had with international players in recent years. As an international student and a highly skilled player, Vulin saw Blagrove as a fantastic addition to the team.
“[Blagrove] had committed to USF so we really didn’t get a chance to really recruit her the first time around,” Vulin said.
When Blagrove’s name was put in the transfer portal, Vulin and her team wasted no time getting in touch. They believed, based on their previous evaluation of Blagrove, she would be an instrumental addition to their team.
Vulin reached out to Blagrove and immediately started building a relationship.
“I feel that my staff and my players do a phenomenal job of really making people feel comfortable in answering questions that they have and really getting people excited about Manhattan College,” Vulin said.
Since Blagrove was being recruited during the pandemic, she wasn’t able to visit campus before committing. Instead, Blagrove arrived in the Bronx in summer 2021 for summer training with the team. According to Vulin, the summer session is critical for developing basketball skills and conditioning, but also team building.
“In the summer, it was something a bit hard for me because I was the only international at the moment,” Blagrove said. “Everyone left on the weekends and I was here as an international, but it did give me the opportunity to explore the city.”
Blagrove noted that the location of MC was a huge incentive for her. She loves spending time shopping, finding new foods to try and exploring the parks throughout the city. The accessibility of these experiences added to the training that she received on the court leading up to the fall semester.
“I’m really happy that I came earlier because it gave me an opportunity to also connect with my teammates before,” Blagrove said. “I’m really happy that I had the time to check in with all the girls to hang out with them and do the workouts too.”
The extra training also helped Blagrove take her playing to the next level. After teammate Petra Juric became injured with a concussion, Blagrove earned a spot on the starting lineup. For the last five games, Blagrove has proven herself on the court.
“I’m very happy that I get the opportunity now to show what I can do for the team,” Blagrove said. “Those chances you really got to grab, like it’s hard on the court. It’s like everyone is on the team, but still everyone is competing with each other.”
Going forward, Blagrove wants to continue developing as a player. She told The Quadrangle that after the difficulties of the pandemic, she finally is hitting her stride, and can prove herself even more to the team.
“I’m just excited to give [my contributions] to the team, and team-wise [the main goal] is to win a championship,” Blagrove said. “That is what I’m working towards and I feel like by improving myself I can help the team to get that championship because that’s really what we’re working for.”
Vulin sees growth for Blagrove in the years to come.
“I think [Blagrove]’s going to have a special career here,” Vulin told The Quadrangle. “Because she’s very consistent about how hard she plays. Sometimes you coach athletes where one thing goes wrong, and they can’t move on. Jade has done a really good job of going on to the next play, trying to learn from her mistakes and just competing. So we’re very excited about the future here.”
Vulin added that Blagrove is a reliable and flexible player, so she is able to play her in both the top forward position as well as in the center.
According to GoJaspers.com, Blagrove is currently the top-six point scorer for the Lady Jaspers this season with 98 total points and a scoring average of 5.2. Her season highs include scoring 14 points against Siena on Jan. 15 and eight rebounds against St. Peter’s on Jan. 25.
For the 2021-2022 season thus far, Women’s Basketball has a record of 11-8 overall and 6-4 for MAAC games, with Blagrove continuing to fight for her starting position and the team’s victory at the MAAC Championships.