BY ROCKY STANLEY
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
RUSSELL Russell basketball standout Maggie Jachimczuk fits the legacy of her college choice.
Lincoln Memorial University’s athletic teams go by the nickname Railsplitters, a term that originated long ago for people who split logs used in building fences. LMU, located in Harrogate, Tennessee, was founded in 1897 as a living memorial to Abraham Lincoln, known to have split rails when he was young.
Jachimczuk didn’t wield any axes, but while in middle school she developed a healthy work appetite that helped to set her apart at the varsity level. As a junior, Maggie J averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds while leading the Lady Devils to a 16th Region championship. She received All-Area Player of the Year honors.
Her senior year brought 16th Region Player of the Year recognition by the Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches. She averaged 15.8 points and 8.1 rebounds despite ankle injuries.
Sam Sparks, Russell’s athletic director and former high school coach, gave introductory remarks on Monday at Maggie J’s signing ceremony in the RHS library.
“In 31 or 32 years, I can’t remember many that developed the way Maggie has,” Sparks said. “It’s been through hard work. She has worked her tail off.”
A four-year starter, Jachimczuk surpassed 1,500 career points and 1,000 rebounds.
Russell coach Mandy Layne called it the ultimate success story.
“In middle school, people didn’t really talk a lot about her,” Layne said. “In high school, she ended up being one of the best players in the area, leading us to a region championship. She worked her way into being one of those that coaches talk about, one of the best. I would say it’s a storybook career, one that you will always remember.”
Layne said much of the credit for Maggie J’s rise stemmed from honing her skills under the supervision of her aunt, Anna Chaffin. Russell’s principal previously coached Russell’s girls basketball team.
“Maggie would spend tons of hours with her aunt,” Layne said. “The worked together a lot in the offseason. Every year Maggie’s game continued to expand.”
Jachimczuk’s smile broadened at the mention of Chaffin, who was beaming nearby.
“We probably put in the same amount of time in the gym as my team,” said the versatile 5-foot-11 post player. “She’s pretty much the reason I’m here.”
Maggie J wore a Lincoln Railsplitters shirt for the occasion, which was attended by several family members and friends, as well as school staff and administrators.
“This is the day I’ve been looking forward to,” she said. “I think it started my seventhgrade year with a dream of college ball. If I’m not in the gym, I’m probably home sleeping.”
Or studying, of course. For all of her impressive basketball stats, Jachimczuk’s 4.2 grade point average stands out.
“I hate B’s,” she said. “I want to go into nursing. I’ve been mentally challenging myself to manage my time wisely in college. I feel like I’m ready.”
Sparks called Harrogate a “beautiful place” that will be getting a “beautiful person. Maggie J is a huge gain for Lincoln Memorial.”
The Division II school is located about 55 miles north of Knoxville where Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia merge at Cumberland Gap.
Jachimczuk said she fell in love with the wooded, 1,000-acre campus while attending an elite basketball camp there. The invitation came on the heels of her Kentucky Premier AAU team competing in a Lexington tournament.
“I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” Maggie J said of her college decision. “Coach (Krystal) Evans contacted me. On my official visit I saw the team play a game and met the girls. I fit in well with them. Lincoln Memorial is a great school.”
She will be joining a basketball program coming off its finest season. LMU won the South Atlantic Conference championship for the first time and finished 28-5 to tie a school record for most victories.
The Railsplitters made their deepest postseason run, reaching the Southeast Regional semifinals with two wins before falling to Columbus State.
“Maggie will go from one winning program to another, so that will be a positive,” Layne said. “She’s definitely going to be missed.”
Russell’s coach looks for Jachimczuk’s attitude, determination and skill set to allow her to enjoy continued success.
“The last two years, she pretty much averaged 10 or 12 rebounds a game,” Layne said. “Maggie has such a high motor. She’s constantly moving. You had to block her out every play or she was going to get the ball.”
Jachimczuk said former Russell assistant coach Phil Cassity was another key influence in developing her post game.
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