Her mom sneaked it out of the bedroom for Wednesday’s special occasion.
In front of friends, family and the basketball, Nelson signed a national letter of intent to play women’s basketball for the University of Alaska Anchorage.
“I didn’t know she was bringing it (the ball). It is usually just on my bed,” said Nelson, who referred to the ball as her favorite.
Nelson is the second member of Kodiak’s undefeated girls basketball team to sign to play for UAA next season. Hannah Wandersee signed her letter of intent last week.
“We are already really close friends and we will be staying together in the dorms and playing on the same team,” Nelson said. “It is good to have that familiar person that knows a lot about you.”
Kodiak coach Amy Fogle said it is rare to have two players graduating in the same year end up on the same college team. Fogle coached Nelson for one year and is anxious to see the 5-foot-4 guard play at the next level.
“She is very, very quick and is really a true point guard ... She has a lot of abilities to score and I’m excited to see her go to UAA. I hope it is a good fit for her,” Fogle said.
Nelson grew up in Kodiak and moved to the Mat-Su Valley with her family during her seventh-grade year. Her family moved back to the island the beginning of her junior season.
The Bears went 49-8 during Nelson’s two years on the team and this season she was named the Northern Lights Conference Player of the Year and was a first-team all-state honoree.
Playing college basketball has been the ultimate goal for Nelson.
“It has always been the dream ever since I was little,” she said. “Now that it is finally happening it is like everything is coming true. We won state. I’m going to college. I’m playing basketball. It just feels really good.”
The decision to play at UAA was an easy one. She said the coach watched her play during the summer on Team Alaska and was in contact with her during the high school season.
She looked into playing at junior colleges in the Lower 48, but in the end all roads led back to UAA, where she was offered a partial athletic scholarship.
“The UAA coach was talking to me about how it feels to have Alaska on the jersey. For other people it is probably not that big of a deal, but for me it is home,” Nelson said.
Family is important to Nelson. The high school foyer was filled with relatives, many flying in for the signing.
“I have been following Jerica ever since she was in Little Dribblers,” said Nelson’s uncle, Pete Squartsoff, who came from Port Lions for the celebration. “I am pretty emotional. I’m just so happy for her.”
Nelson, who plans to be a social worker, was joined at the signing table by her mother, Tracie, father, Robert, and sister, Shelby.
After quickly scribbling her signature on the white paper, she posed for several photos and ate a piece of cake decorated with the Seawolves logo.
Nelson said she doesn’t like being the center of attention and wanted the moment to go as quickly as possible.
“When she comes home and gets an MVP trophy she goes and puts it in her room on her shelf. She doesn’t show anybody. She is just very humble,” said her mother.
Tracie knew Jerica was going to be an athlete at an early age. She did gymnastics and played soccer and football. She found her love for basketball at the age of 7.
“She was always so talented at it,” Tracie said. “She had this gift and she loved it ... Once she got the dribbling down, there was no stopping her.”
Now the cherished ball that never leaves her room will be traveling again, this time to UAA.
Contact Mirror writer Derek Clarkston at email@example.com.