Kaminski leaves lasting legacy at Jefferson

Jess Kaminski helped Jefferson win a CACC championship. CONTRIBUTED

In 30 years as head coach, Tom Shirley has seen a lot of women’s basketball players come through his program.

The longtime coach of Jefferson University, which was formerly Philadelphia University, has coached a lot of women who could do many things on the court.

But none have been as versatile as Jess Kaminski.

Kaminski, a graduate student, is in her fourth year as a member of the Rams, and while she’s had a great career, she definitely saved the best for last.

Her coach has noticed.

“During our senior day, he said that I’m in the top 10 in points, rebounds, assists and steals,” said Kaminski, an Archbishop Wood High School graduate who lives in Somerton. “He said that, and then he said if he could, he would drop the mic there.

“I can’t believe I had that great of a career. I like doing the little things. Scoring is great, but it’s the other things that mean big things. Defense, rebounding and setting up your teammates are just as important as scoring.”

It’s safe to say Kaminski did it all. She was a strong player when she arrived at Jefferson, having come off two state championship victories and three appearances during her days at Wood. But she exits one of the most accomplished players in program history, which was capped off with the perfect final season.

While going for her master’s degree, Kaminski averaged 17 points per game to go along with 3.8 assists and 1.5 steals. For her efforts, Kaminski made the All-Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference First Team, and was also named CACC Player of the Year and CACC Defensive Player of the Year.

She leaves the program with just under 1,500 points. In program history, she ranks ninth in points, eighth in rebounds, fourth in assists and fourth in steals.

She credits her coach for helping her evolve as a basketball player.

“When I got here, I was a point guard, that was what I was comfortable doing,” Kaminski said. “But they had a point guard, so they wanted me to get used to playing off the ball.

“He told me that he was confident I could score. And I changed the way I played. Before, I would try to shoot a lot, but he encouraged me to drive to the basket. This year, I hardly took any (three-pointers), I would just try to get to the basket. If you told me this was the way I’d be playing when I got here, I wouldn’t have believed you.”

As Kaminski got better, so did the Rams.

The team finished 29-3, which established a school record for wins in a season. The Rams also won a CACC championship and won 20 straight games to open the season.

Their season came to an end Friday with an 86-77 loss to Stonehill in the NCAA East Region quarterfinals.

“This was a great year, not just because of the way I played but because of the way we played together,” said Kaminski, who graduated last May with a degree in psychology and is going for a master’s in business administration. “I knew this was going to be the last year I was going to have to play in a high-level league and I wanted it to get great, so I’m happy with the way it went.”

This year was a busy one for Kaminski, who spends two days a week working with Metro Public Adjustment in Bensalem, where she works in the payroll department to prepare for graduation.

She still found the time to get to practice every day.

“It’s great experience to work there,” Kaminski said. “I had a five-year scholarship and I graduated in four years. I liked psychology, but I really wanted to get a second degree. It’s been a lot of work, but I’m glad I did it.”

While Kaminski’s days of playing for the Rams are over, her days around basketball are far from behind her.

Like both her parents, Kaminski hopes to someday coach basketball.

“I don’t think I’ll be coaching at Jefferson, they don’t usually bring back players right away and have them coach,” Kaminski said. “But I hope to coach. I might start right away at Somerton. I’ll go over there and help out any way I can. I know I would want to help coach, I love the game and I want to stay around it.”

Kaminski isn’t happy she has to go out, but she’s happy that she’s going out on top.

While she would have preferred a long run in the tournament, she’s happy with the outstanding record and individual numbers.

“This was my best season by far, 100 percent, it was great,” Kaminski said. “It means so much, everything means so much, especially player of the year and being told I’m one of the best players in program history. I never thought that, but it’s really nice to hear it.

“This year, we played at a high level, we all worked together and we won the CACC. It (was) a great season, 100 percent. I’m very happy with it.”