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All That Jazz: VPA Hall of Fame Will Welcome Former Oxbow High Star

  • Oxbow’s Jasmyn Huntington hugs teammate Faith Claflin (00) after the team’s loss to Windsor in the VPA state championship in 1996. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen)

It amazes Jasmyn Huntington Monroe that someone in Vermont still remembers her.

Given the resume she amassed over four years with the Oxbow Union High girls basketball team in the 1990s, how could anyone forget?

The Vermont Principals Association will induct Monroe into its Hall of Fame on May 3 as part of a 12-person class.

They were quite the exploits:

■ The second-highest career point total in state girls hoop history,

■ More 40-point games than any female on record;

■ Three state championship trips with two wins;

■ Two Gatorade Player of the Year awards.

The 1996 Oxbow graduate would go on to play college basketball at Nevada and North Carolina. She will join her older sister, Thetford Academy Athletic Director Jade Huntington, and the late Mona Garone, the Olympians’ legendary coach of 25 seasons, both already inducted.

In a phone interview this week, the 36-year-old Monroe said learning of the accolade last month brought bittersweet emotions. For all she accomplished on the court, the person most responsible for driving her success — her father, George — won’t be there to celebrate the moment.

George Huntington, a longtime AAU and youth sports coach in Bradford, Vt., was killed in an automobile accident in 2009. Her mom, Donna ,died in a seperate accident in 2006.

“Oddly, I got very sad because of not having my dad there to see it,” Monroe recalled from Los Angeles, where she owns and operates a salon business. “Then I got very excited and very grateful. It was a double-edged sword.”

The Huntington girls headlined Oxbow hoop through the 1980s and ’90s. They remain first and second in Vermont’s scoring annals — Jade with 2,114, Jazz with 2,079, according to Vermont Basketball Coaches Association records.

Monroe holds the record for most 40-point games by a girl in Vermont basketball history with at least five. She matched her career high of 46 in her final varsity game, a 78-68 loss to Windsor in the 1996 VPA Division III final at Barre Auditorium.

“I’m really glad to see Jazzy get the honor,” Jade Huntington said. “She worked hard through her high school career and through part of the whole Mona era. It’s great to see it come full circle that we all played under her and had good careers. It’s pretty cool.”

A minor-league prospect in the Milwaukee Braves’ system in the early 1960s, George Huntington focused his athletic energies to coaching as his four kids — Ron, Randall, Jade and Jasmyn — grew up.

“I don’t think I or my sister would be where we are today without him pushing us,” Monroe said. “Not only did my mom and dad give us natural athleticism, but without Dad to drive us to make us the best he believed we could be, we wouldn’t be there.

“I know I gave him all kinds of hard times, not wanting to practice or take an extra 100 jump shots. It’s important for kids to have that certain somebody in their lives to push them.”

Monroe put up gaudy numbers in high school, particularly in her final two seasons.

Oxbow recorded back-to-back 19-5 campaigns in those years. Monroe’s junior campaign finished with a 50-49 defeat of Windsor in the D-III title game, what would be the last of Garone’s 10 state championships as the O’s coach.

A 24.6-points-per-game scorer and the state Gatorade winner as a forward in 1994-95, Monroe jacked up the totals — and was again named the state’s top player — as a senior guard, netting a whopping 771 points in 24 contests. That 32.5 ppg average brought Oxbow back to the finals, only to see the Yellowjackets exacted their revenge.

Monroe’s last high school game would also be the last for Garone. “I think people got their money’s worth on Jazz,” Garone told the Valley News after the ’95-’96 finale. “If they’ve been following her for four years, they’ve had a great ride, like I’ve had a great ride.”

Monroe first tried college ball at Nevada, excited by the notion of playing for Jade, who was the Wolf Pack’s top assistant coach at the time. When Jade accepted a job offer the following year at Colorado State, her sister’s experience in Reno deteriorated to the point where she transferred to North Carolina, where she played just one season after her mandatory sit-out year.

“I was hard on her and had to make things more challenging and push her more so there was no air of favoritism,” Jade Huntington rememberd. “It was fun. It was nice to have the friendship thing going on at the same time we were competing to win. She was a big part of building that (Nevada) program. She helped raise the level of that program.”

By the fall of 2000, however, Monroe had had her fill of the court.

“My final year at North Carolina was really a hard decision for me; there were a lot of tears over it,” Monroe recalled. “I was unhappy playing ball; it’s not something I wanted to do, and it broke Dad’s heart. I had to make a decision of what was going to keep me happy.”

The beauty industry ultimately did.

Discovered by Ron Rice, founder of Hawaiian Tropic, while competing in a product-sponsored swimsuit competition, Monroe would spend the next few years in modeling, traveling the world to represent Rice’s company.

When modeling came to a close, Monroe delved into the business end of beauty; her most recent initiative, a themed barbershop and salon in Tarzana, Calif., called Outlaw by Jazz, has done well over its 2½-year existence.

She has also recently rolled out a toxic-free lip gloss line, JMonroe, that’s “going off the shelves,” she reported.

“You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl,” Monroe joked. “I’m not a Beverly Hills girl. I know there are girls like me out there who want a place where they fit in.

“It’s been exceptional. In the first six months, we were breaking even. In the next year we were in the black, and we continue to be. It’s been 2½ years, and we continue to grow.”

Monroe will return to Vermont from California for the induction with her husband, Marc — a former rock musician-turned-physical trainer — and their 3½-year-old son, Gavin.

The teenage girl who once proved impossible to stop on a basketball court is now a successful mom who isn’t far removed from being to her son what her father was to her.

“If I had my druthers, I’d love for him to be a baseball player, like his grampa and Uncle Ron,” Monroe said.

“He has one heck of an accurate arm. I make him pitch to me, and he’s struck me out a few times. It’s my favorite thing to do with him.”

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.