River’s Caretti Chooses to Play for Buckeyes
HANNIBAL – When Jensen Caretti put her name to paper Friday afternoon, it only took a few seconds.
The road to get there took years.
So when the River High School senior looked out amongst her classmates as she made her decision as to where she would play college basketball, the emotions finally hit her.
The tears flowed in droves as she thanked her family, coaches and teammates, leading up to her announcement that will continue her academic and athletic careers at The Ohio State University.
Caretti chose Ohio State over powers such as Louisville, North Carolina, South Carolina and Pitt.
”It was hard, as an 18-year-old, to choose where I wanted to spend the next four years of my life,” Caretti said in remarks to the gathering, which culminated with her pulling a black Ohio State cap from a bright, red bag. The cap had her name emblazoned on it in bold, white letters.
”And since it all came so fast, I only had about 4 1/2 months to make a decision.”
While Caretti has been thought of as a gem of a player throughout the Ohio Valley since her freshman season, word didn’t really get out nationally about how good she was until this past summer.
”This summer I wanted to take the kids out west,” River head coach Rick Isaly said. ”I know basketball is big in the northwest part of Ohio, so we went to Ohio Northern University, Tiffin and Ashland for a weekend. We played in one place Friday, one place Saturday and one place Sunday.
”I had people and coaches coming up to me asking about her. Word just kind of started to spread from there.”
And when Caretti started playing for Next Level AAU, the gospel about Caretti really got out.
”It started in July,” she said of the onslaught of attention. ”I had some 50 (NCAA) Division I colleges wanting me to come to their school. It took us a while to narrow down the list. And when we finally figured out the top schools, we went on official visits and such.”
Caretti said having some of the top coaches in the country stepping into her Clarington home was certainly an ”eye-opening” experience. It was one she never imagined she’d see.
”I always wanted to go ‘big,’ but I really didn’t see the day coming,” she said, noting not many offers came following a junior season that saw her average 24 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks per game.
”But after word got out, then I believed it.”
Caretti described the recruiting process as overwhelming, made easier by the counsel of her parents – Sharon and Dan.
”Oh, they helped me tremendously,” Caretti said. ”Almost every day during the month of September was either filled with a volleyball game or a home visit from a coach.”
In the end, Caretti said she looked at the pros and cons of her ”finalists,” with Ohio State coming out on top.
”I think they’ll be a really good team,” the 6-1 stalwart said. ”Plus, I’ll be able to see my parents more. They’ll be able to come visit more, as well as the rest of my family that lives in the area.
”Also, I’ll be playing the position I want – shooting guard, which is kind of a 2 or 3. And, I’ll get to represent the State of Ohio.”
A 5-star recruit by ESPN, Caretti is currently ranked No. 22 in their 2016 class.
In announcing her signing Friday, Buckeyes head coach Kevin McGuff said he’s eager to see what Caretti – who said she’ll study sports management in Columbus – can bring to the Scarlet and Gray.
”Jensen is one of the most athletic kids I’ve seen in a long time,” he said through an Ohio State news release. ”She’s a really special player and has a tremendous amount of potential.”
Isaly agreed. Watching her sign her National Letter of Intent made him reflect on all the hours he’s spent with her in the gym.
”That’s the first time I’ve ever seen her get emotional like that,” he said. ”It made me feel emotional, too, for her. This is a big-time moment for her and a big-time moment for River High School.”
Now that her announcement is out of the way, Caretti said she can return to getting focused on the upcoming season with her teammates who, she said, have helped make her the player, and person, she is.
”They’ve always pushed me to be the best I can be,” she said. ”Every time I did something that wasn’t good, they always just told to try to do better the next time.
”They always told me to dream big.”
Now, those dreams have turned into reality.