Hall of Fame

Hall of Fame

Jada Gyamfi

The bright lights of Carver-Hawkeye Arena shine down on the tan hardwood floors of the basketball court. The distinctive sounds of a bouncing basketball and the squeak of shoes running down the court echo through the empty arena. The Iowa Hawkeyes Women’s team is holding their daily practice. Among the players is Johnston alum Jada Gyamfi ‘22, one of Johnston High School’s best basketball players.

Road to the Well

Gyamfi started by playing recreational league basketball in second grade but she moved to AAU basketball in third grade, citing her siblings as the main reason.

“All of my siblings played before me, and I was really jealous, so I started in third grade. My older brothers played first, and so I really wanted to do everything that they did,” Gyamfi said.

When she was younger, Gyamfi never had much interest in college sports. Playing at the collegiate level was not a goal of hers until she reached eighth grade.

“To be honest I never really thought I would play college basketball … I was just kind of having fun with it. Then I got into high school and I was like, ‘oh wow I can get my school paid for,’” Gyamfi said.

Gyamfi first played high school basketball at Urbandale but transferred to Johnston once her sister graduated at the end of her sophomore year in 2021. 

“After [my sister] graduated I was kind of free to do whatever I wanted. Transferring to Johnston was the easiest decision for me because of the rich history of winning women’s basketball games. I love Coach Jilek and I knew some of the girls, so it was just a really easy decision for me to make,” Gyamfi said.

For girl’s head basketball coach Chad Jilek, getting a player like Gyamfi improved the scoring diversity for the Dragons from key areas on the court.

“Jada provided us with the versatility to score from the free throw line, off the bounce, and in the post. She was a difficult matchup for our opponents. This helped create scoring opportunities for her teammates,” Jilek said.

Along with her on-court scoring diversity, Coach Jilek knows the off-court work Gyamfi put in was her best trait.

“Jada put in countless hours of practice in the offseason. She worked year-round to be the player she was. You don’t earn the accolades that she did by sitting around. Jada was working to get better all the time. Her teammates also helped put her in situations on the court to be successful,” Jilek said.

Gyamfi’s hard work culminated in an undefeated senior season where the Dragons finished 26-0 and won the state championship. The state title for Gyamfi remains her favorite memory from her time at Johnston.

“We were the first team to ever do that … it was really awesome, and I grew close to the team in just the two years that I was there. To win that state championship with them for Johnston and also be undefeated was completely insane. And I think set the standard for all the teams at Johnston after that,” Gyamfi said.

It was apparent to Coach Jilek that Gyamfi could play college basketball even before she was with Johnston. Seeing her play in AAU games, Jilek knew Gyamfi had the potential to play at the next level.

“Jada stuck out at an early age. Although she wasn’t in our program until her junior year, you knew at that age if she wanted to play college basketball she was going to. She had the skill and the drive at that age to work for it,” Jilek said.

Once Gyamfi finished high school, the decision of who to play for in college was an easy choice for fulfilling a childhood dream.

“I got offered my freshman year to the University of Iowa, and I didn’t even have to come on any visits or anything, because I’d already been to so many games and I knew so much right out of the gate. But as soon as I got that offer, I kind of stopped talking to everyone else, because I was like it can’t compete. This is where I want to be,” Gyamfi said.

Unprecedented Season

The move from high school to college was an adjustment for Gyamfi as she dealt with injuries and as she moved from a central role to a support role.

“I feel like I lost a lot of the developmental part, which is how a freshman year is supposed to be, so it was hard thinking about it personally. But I’ve always been like a team-first kind of player. I don’t care if I don’t get in the game, I just want my team to win,” Gyamfi said.

While there were some bumps in the road during Gyamfi’s first season at Iowa, it pales in comparison to the 2023 March Madness run of the Iowa Women’s basketball team.

On their path to playing in the national title game, the second-seeded Hawkeyes defeated sixth-seeded Colorado in the Sweet Sixteen, followed by a win against five-seed Louisville in the Elite Eight. Lastly, a victory against arguably the best team in the nation; number one seeded South Carolina in the Final Four, advancing the Hawkeyes to the title game. 

The Hawks’ title hopes were unfortunately halted though by the LSU Tigers in a highly anticipated matchup for the national championship. Despite the sour end to their season, Gyamfi still looks back on that stretch fondly.

“It was awesome. And even with the loss, we still celebrated like we won a national championship … Everyone supported us, loved on us, and they still do … it’s a really positive experience. And it’s something that literally 10% of college athletes get to do,” Gyamfi said.

Competing with Clark

Currently, in her second year with the Hawkeyes, Gyamfi has had the special opportunity to play with basketball phenom Caitlin Clark.

From her time playing AAU basketball, Gyamfi got to know Clark pretty well before they were teammates at Iowa.

“I’ve known Caitlin since I was in third or fourth grade. We used to play against her. And then we became friends through our AAU program, then I committed to Iowa and she just welcomed me with open arms,” Gyamfi said.

Along with being teammates and friends, Gyamfi says her favorite thing about Clark is her personality.

“In my eyes, I think she’s an amazing person. She is so goofy, she’s lovey … and she’s so sweet. She has the kindest heart … she really is an awesome person outside of basketball,” Gyamfi said.

During their practices, Gyamfi is often in awe of the things Clark can pull off every day.

“To go in every day and watch her play. It’s insane. She’s just amazing. She literally does stuff in practice every day that I’m like, ‘Are you serious’, like, I wouldn’t even think to do that. And she does it effortlessly,” Gyamfi said.

And it is that same talent and skill that Clark displays that Gyamfi says pushes her to be the best player she can be.

“I mean, she competes at such a high level, all the time. So you want to be right there with her … And I think that she has brought out the best in so many of our players. She’s a leader, so she will go in on you if you are not at your potential if you’re not reaching maximum effort. But it’s her job and she has just a great way of bringing out the best in everyone,” Gyamfi said.

As the season ramps up to postseason play, all the hours spent practicing, lifting, and playing pay off. And the playoff mentality reveals itself.

“When it gets to this part of the season, you can like feel it, that part of you kind of thaws inside. It’s like the postseason is coming. And that’s when we turn it up,” Gyamfi said.

As Gyamfi and her teammates gear up for March Madness, she also has an eye on a future without basketball.

“I think after college, I am going to be really excited to live a somewhat normal life without sports … I am in school to be a teacher. And I’m really excited for that chapter of my life. And although I love basketball, and I love playing, I’m also really excited for that chapter to kind of come to a close when the time is right,” Gyamfi said.

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