CR middle-schooler McCullough makes basketball Elite National Games

CAMDEN — Jada McCullough is no stranger to the women’s basketball NCAA Final Four.

The Postlethwait Middle School eighth-grader and her mom, Josette, have gone to several of them as fans.

Ironically, though, the McCulloughs planned to skip this year’s national semifinals and finals and watch them on TV.

But Jada has ended up in Dallas this weekend after all — this time as a player.

The 14-year-old was one of 48 players selected from a pool of 1,000 to take part in the Elite National Middle School All-American Games.

Jada McCullough, 14, was one of 48 players selected for the Elite National Games. (CR School District/Dave Chambers)

The event is being played at a gym near Dallas’ American Airlines Center, where the Final Four is being held. McCullough, the first Delaware student selected in the event’s six-year history, is slated to play in games today and Sunday.

“I wasn’t shocked because I know how hard she works,” said Jada’s father, Tiff. “But I was just proud of her.”

“I was shocked,” Josette said with a laugh. “Only because, who thinks about Delaware? Elena Delle Donne is kind of opening up some doors for Delaware but usually you still don’t hear much about Delaware. So just for her to have that opportunity. …”

“It’s exciting,” said Jada. “I know there’s going to be a lot of colleges there. (But) I don’t get nervous playing basketball.”

Jada is pretty serious when it comes to basketball.

She and her parents make the four-hour roundtrip to Washington, D.C. twice a week to practice with a top-notch travel squad. And that doesn’t include the weekend tournaments that stretch through the summer.

Tiff, an associate principal at Dover High, is quick to point out that Jada also maintains good grades in school. There’s a lot of studying on the way to practice and sleeping on the drive back.

A 5-foot-7 shooting guard, Jada has also travelled to showcase events in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee.

A 5-foot-7 shooting guard, Jada McCullough has also traveled to showcase events in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee. (Photo courtesy of the McCullough family)

“She gets it,” said Tiff. “She understands the commitment that it takes to be a good basketball player.

“As long as she’s committed and she wants it, we’ll do anything for her to make sure she’s as successful as she can be.”

Up until a year or so ago, McCullough might have told you that her other sport — soccer — was her favorite. She grew up playing travel soccer, too, and is on Postlethwait’s squad.

But, when she had to choose between the two, Jada picked basketball.

That makes sense since both her parents played college basketball — Josette at Delaware State and Tiff at Wilmington University. Both have also done their share of coaching.

Josette, an administrator in the Appoquinimink School District,, says they left the decision up to their daughter, though.

“I want it to be her love,” said Josette. “We’ve always loved basketball. … (but) I would never push. I want it to be what she loves but I already lived my life and he (Tif) already lived his life.”

Going to Final Four made a big difference for Jada, too, said Josette. She got to meet several of the players and be around the top teams in the country.

The McCulloughs have gone to the last four Final Fours.

“How could you not like that environment?” said Josette. “She sat there and talked to (Notre Dame’s) Skylar Diggins like they knew each other for years.

“When she came back she was like, ‘Mom, I really want to do this.’ I was like, ‘Well, if you’re going to do it, there’s no half-stepping. You’re going to have to put in the work. … It’s not just showing up at practice one day and deciding you’re going to play.’

“So she started going to some showcases and going to clinics and just trying to better herself.”

“There’s not a day where she’s not doing something,” said Tiff. “Every day, if she’s not at basketball practice or soccer practice, she’s conditioning or doing agility. She’s always doing something.”

McCullough plans to play at Caesar Rodney High next year and then in college after that. She’s a big fan of Connecticut, where one of her mom’s cousins played.

Ultimately, she’d love to play in the Final Four herself. First, however, she’ll give this weekend’s middle-school games her best shot.

“I’m excited,” said Josette. “I want her to do well. It’s a small group of kids that were selected. I’m proud of her. I want her to have fun.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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