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Billings Central's Jori Haugen playing for younger self who fell in love with basketball

Posted at 5:09 PM, Jan 18, 2024

BILLINGS — Billings Central senior Jori Haugen moved from Hardin early in in elementary school, and it was during those formative years that Haugen developed her fondest basketball memories.

“What really got me into basketball was my uncle. I have this vivid memory — I think it was the very first time we ever worked out together in front of his house.

"I learned how to do between-the-legs for the first time. I was like, 'Watch this!' I started doing it and he was like, 'All right, now pick up the ball and try and dribble between the legs.'"

Haugen is now making an impact for the No. 5-ranked Rams as one of just two seniors on the roster.

“I'd say just being (the) hype man," Haugen said of her biggest impact. "I just want to have fun most of the time. Yeah, there's times where it's rough, but I always think of positives."

Haugen’s upbeat personality is contagious, and she brings the energy for Central day-in, day-out. Though it can be grind, she’s never lost sight of her reason for playing.

“Whenever I'm playing or I keep playing, I'm like, 'Play for that little girl. Don't stop playing. You're meant to be here. You're obviously here for a reason,'" Haugen said.

"One thing I do challenge all of them with is play for the little girl that fell in love with the game a long time ago," Billings Central head coach Jetton Ailes said. "It doesn't always have to be hard and hard-nosed. The game is going to be hard, but the more we can have fun with it the more memories they can make and the easier the game can be."

Central’s girls enter Thursday night’s showdown with rival Hardin at 7-1.