ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Volcano Vista 5-foot-7 guard Jaelyn Bates had more than one reason to join the New Mexico Lobos, and each of those reasons continues to motivate her to do better every day.
Her love for basketball started early. As a little kid, she would go watch her dad play pick-up games at Valencia High School. She gave it a try and at seven years old, she knew this was something that would be important to her.
“It was just something that I wanted to do every single day and I was inspired by all of my family,” Bates said. “My sister played, even my brother played. My sister went to college for basketball and now she is playing overseas in the UK. I had a lot of inspiration around me my whole life.”
Staying close to her support system also made her feel more comfortable. Whether it’s bowling, hiking or fishing, she enjoys spending time with her family. On her days off, she shoots around with her father, Barry, who is part of the coaching staff for the varsity boys team at her school.
Bates said this year she decided she is finally better than her dad, even if he is not ready to admit that yet.
Basketball has been a part of her life for a long time, but so has the University of New Mexico. Her mom graduated from there and Bates remembers going to classes with her. Bates’ parents also took her to Lobo basketball camps since she was young, and she has been to more games than she can count.
UNM women’s basketball head coach Mike Bradbury said she is around the program a lot, and sometimes even goes to check out practice. The coach said the first time he met her was during her high school freshman year.
“As the years went on, it got more serious,” Bradbury said. “She kept getting better and was playing on better club teams and things like that. You like players when they are young, but you have to follow them all the way throughout to make sure they progress to where they are good enough to play on your team. She checked all that.”
Bates has built a nice resume through her high school career. She was part of a roster that won the 2019 and 2020 1-5A district tournaments. Last season, she averaged 15.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 4.5 steals per game.
Bradbury said Bates is a bit undersized but that her work ethic has helped her play at a high level. He said she has a great attitude and high basketball IQ that allows her to pick the right plays at the right time.
Working on a story on New Mexico commit 5’7” G Jaelyn Bates. She played on boys’ club teams growing up and even played with JB White.
— Isabel Gonzalez (@cisabelg) January 8, 2022
Part of what helped Bates with her development is that she played in boys club teams growing up. She said that experience helped her be more physical and also to compete harder.
“It made me work for what I wanted,” she said. “Obviously if you’re a girl the boys won’t want you to start over them. So, you would have to work as hard as you can to get on the floor and prove that you belong there.”
The first boys program she played in was when she met JB White, a UNM men’s basketball recruit who was fatally shot in 2020. White was a talented player who wanted to help put New Mexico on the map. Bates shares the same goal and part of her decision to join the Lobos was to honor White.
Someone else she hopes to make proud is Mike Brown, who she referred to as Papa Brown. He was the grandfather of one of her teammates and a hall of fame boys basketball coach who coached at Albuquerque Academy. Brown passed away last June.
Beyond happy to finally announce i have verbally committed to UNM! I can’t wait to start my next chapter as a lobo and represent JB, Papa Brown, and all of New Mexico!❤️ pic.twitter.com/NyE6cCqRr4
— Jae Bates (@JAEB8S) July 2, 2021
“People really underestimate us,” Bates said when talking about New Mexico. “We have a lot of talent here that gets overlooked a lot. Just getting people the recognition they deserve is really important to me.”
The Volcano Vista senior officially signed with the Lobos last November. She said she wants to major in biochemistry and eventually get a masters degree in epidemiology. While she is still in the middle of her high school year, the 18-year-old already has expectations for herself for her college career.
“One of my main goals is just working hard,” she said. “I know I’m not guaranteed a starting spot so obviously I have to work for what I want. I plan on giving 110% effort so I can prove that I can be on the floor.”
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