HELENA -- On April 16, Jamie Pickens entered the NCAA transfer portal. On April 17, she had a new squad: the Carroll College Fighting Saints.
"I wasn't really thinking about it until all that stuff went down," Pickens said, referring to Shannon Schweyen not returning next season as the Montana Lady Griz coach. "I guess when that happened, I thought I needed to make a change. So I contacted (Carroll College coach) Rachelle (Sayers) after I got into the portal, and I guess that's how it all started."
The transfer for Pickens opens up a new chapter in the same book. A former Helena High School star and two-time Gatorade Girls Basketball Player of the Year, Pickens will head back to her hometown to play under a coach and in a program she grew up watching and learning under.
"I went to Rachelle's camps when I was little. I honestly grew up in that gym. I was there all the time watching games and learning from older players," said Pickens. "I think playing in front of a home crowd is something so special, and not a lot of people get to do, obviously. So, that's a big deal to me."
Though news of her transfer will make waves across the Frontier Conference, it marks the third time in two years NCAA Division I players have transferred to the Fighting Saints' program. Emerald Toth left Boise State for her senior season at Carroll, and Kamden Hilborn, another former Helena High standout, left Montana State after her freshman year.
During their time together at Helena High, Pickens and Hilborn won two Class AA state championships under then-coach Eric Peterson, and once again will join forces in Helena, something Pickens is excited about.
"We were successful, obviously, but we had a lot of fun doing it and we grew up together," said Pickens. "We have a lot of chemistry on the basketball court. So I'm super excited and I know a lot of girls on the Carroll team, actually. So, I'm super excited to get to work with them and be able to share my experience with them."
As for right now, the future Carroll College sophomore is at home patiently biding her time amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but that doesn't mean the time is going to waste.
"I'm hoping to get into the gym and get shots up as soon as possible. Luckily, my neighbors next door have a basketball court, so I've been able to get on there a little bit," Pickens said.
Pickens joins a Fighting Saints team that was set to head to the NAIA national tournament for the third consecutive year until the tournament was canceled. Sayers has coached Carroll to six national tournament appearances.