Ohio forward Kendall Jessing sits in the Bobcats’ locker room surrounded by teammates before a game.
Some players walk past her with their headphones on, while others get dressed. Before Jessing exits the locker room, she almost forgets to do her own pregame ritual. Quickly she grabs a black marker and writes a message on her green and white Adidas.
RIP Dad 5/18/15.
Jessing, a senior, has never played a collegiate game without that reminder.
“Having that there is obviously something you don’t forget about,” Jessing said. “Even if I just look down, if I’m feeling troubled in a game or something, I know there’s that force to keep me focused.”
John Edwin Jessing, the loving father of Kendall and her two siblings, Jessica and Logan, passed away unexpectedly on May 18, 2015, while working at Vico Products. He’s been described by former coworkers as an amazing man with a wonderful sense of humor, always good for a “Johnism.”
While John wasn’t at work, he was heavily invested into his family. Jessing and her siblings all played for their dad, who coached basketball for their travel teams, but aside from basketball he also coached them in life.
“(John’s) just the force behind everything we do,” Jessing said. “He gives me the reason to be the person I am.”
And the person that Jessing is, would make her father proud.
Jessing is the heart of the Bobcats. While she only averages just under 10 minutes per game, she’s one of Ohio’s greatest vocal leaders and motivators. Often fans can see Jessing cheering for her team like they’re her own kids.
That’s why they call her the team mom.
“People on the team call me the mom, and my siblings growing up would call me mom junior,” Jessing said. “I think I just take on the role of responsibility. I like that role.”
Jessing takes the responsibility of many things. She’s never missed a team event and makes sure all players on the team are present, all while staying on the Dean's List. Whenever the Bobcats have a team meal or community service event, she coordinates it. She cares about Ohio on and off the court.
Often great teams can fall apart because of their inability to take care of the little things. Jessing ensures that won’t happen.
All with a smile on her face.
The Bobcats would not be the team they are without Jessing. She has a smile that never leaves and optimism that is infectious. Part of the reason the Bobcats don’t let bad games affect them is because they’re led by someone who can turn anything positive.
“She takes time to get to know every single person on this team,” Ohio coach Bob Boldon said. “She cares very much about the well-being of the entire team.”
But Jessing is more than just a motivator and supporter, she’s the glue that keeps Ohio’s locker room together. Just like how Jessing cheers when a Bobcat plays well, the Bobcat bench goes wild every time Jessing scores.
In Ohio’s last home game, a blowout win over Eastern Michigan, Jessing got in and made a bucket with 6:05 to go. The Bobcats already had the game won, so the air was light. As Jessing ran down the court, she looked to her sideline and double tucked her “guns” into her pocket, Russell Westbrook style.
The fans and her teammates loved it.
“She works so hard and to see it pay off, we all go crazy for her,” Ohio point guard Erica Johnson said. “Kendall has a reason why she’s playing, she does it for someone. We all just feed off her energy, and when she scores it’s an accomplishment for all of us.”