Skowhegan High School girls basketball coach Mike LeBlanc said he sometimes has to kick his star point guard, Jaycie Christopher, out of the weight room because she spends so much time in there.
“I have to shut her down. She has a tendency to overwork herself. She’s that type of athlete,” LeBlanc said.
Christopher said that she is “never satisfied” with her game, which leads her to the weight room.
“I want to do whatever I can to get better. When I take a day off, it stresses me out. I have to do something,” said Christopher after leading her undefeated River Hawks to a 56-43 win over Bangor with 18 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals.
“They will make me rest for a couple of days and that’s really hard on me,” the 18-year-old added.
The time in the weight room is paying off. The 6-foot Christopher came into the Bangor game averaging 23.4 points, 11 rebounds, eight steals and eight assists for Class A Skowhegan, and was the only sophomore chosen to the Bangor Daily News’ All-Schoolgirl Basketball first team two years ago. The 1,000-point scorer will take her talent to Boston University in the fall — but first hopes to win a state championship with her team.
“She’s one of the best players I’ve seen over the last handful of years,” said eight-year Brewer High coach Chris Horr. “Besides her physical talent and skills, she is smart. … She lets the game happen for her. She doesn’t force anything. She’s strong, fast, can shoot and can handle the ball.”
Hampden Academy coach Nick Winchester said she can score at all levels: 3-pointers, at the rim, off the dribble, going left and going right.
“She’s incredibly unselfish which keeps her teammates fully engaged knowing if they get open, she will get them the ball,” Winchester said. “And her basketball IQ is off the charts. She is able to process information very quickly and she always seems to make the right play at the right time.”
Bangor High School junior point guard Emmie Streams said Christopher is “always thinking a couple steps ahead” of the competition.
“She is very tall and long. She can shoot off the dribble and is very much a team player so you never know what she’s going to do,” said Streams, who guarded Christopher on Tuesday night.
Christopher said her passion for basketball took a big jump in fourth grade.
“I started playing AAU basketball. I had played my whole life but [AAU] was competitive. I said to myself, ‘This is fun.’ From that moment on, I thought this is what I want to do,” Christopher said.
Christopher said that her decision to attend BU “felt right,” but that right now she’s focusing on her team and winning a state championship.
Part of the burning desire in her to win a state comes from previous disappointments.
Her freshman year, her undefeated River Hawks scored the game’s first 10 points in the Class A North final against Hampden Academy and were ahead 28-25 with 4:50 left but wound up losing 32-28.
“People will bring that game up. It drives me nuts. I didn’t play very well. I played like a freshman,” Christopher said.
The next year, her team lost to Gardiner 41-34 in the semifinals.
“That game still eats at me. I turned the ball over seven or eight times. That’s not good enough to win a semifinal game,” she said.
There was no tournament last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Her focus coming into this season was developing a “change of pace, a change of direction, different footwork options. I also wanted to get stronger and quicker and be able to jump better.”
The most influential person in her career has been her father, Jon, the athletic director at Skowhegan High School.
“He rebounds for me every night. Six-hundred shots,” Christopher said. “He is also my biggest critic. Sometimes it’s hard to take, especially when we’re watching games on the projector at school. But I appreciate everything he does for me. He keeps me grounded and I’m really grateful for that.”
Regardless of what happens this season, Christopher is already a state champion. She is the shortstop for the softball team that beat Biddeford in last year’s state Class A title game 7-4. She is also on the golf team.
But it is the basketball state crown she covets.
Then it is on to BU.
“I just want to play basketball for as long as I can. Getting to play at the next level is a dream come true.”