HART – Reality hit Jeff Hovey on Dec. 14 when his and wife Staci’s eldest child, Jayd, signed her national letter of intent to play basketball for Indiana Wesleyan University.
“I was just like, ‘You know, this is going to be over pretty quick.’ It seems like just the other day that we were down at Mona Shores playing in their (youth) league,” Jeff Hovey reflected, going back to when Jayd was just starting to play basketball in fourth grade and how quickly his four children are growing.
“It seems like the years have flown by. I’m just trying to soak it in.”
This was going to be a very special season for the Hoveys. It has been, and it still is, but not in quite the way everybody envisioned.
Jayd Hovey, now 18, is a senior at Hart High School. The 5-foot-9 ¾ point guard and four-year varsity starter was ready to make this a storybook season, but then the narrative suddenly changed.
In a cruel twist of fate, on the very same day Hovey signed with IWU, she tore the anterior-cruciate ligament (ACL) in her right knee during Hart’s game at neighboring rival Shelby, on the court where her dad was a star player for the Tigers.
Just five games into her senior campaign, Hovey’s season was over. That also marked the end of her high school career, one in which she earned all-state honorable mention and first-team all-conference accolades in each of her first three seasons, including being the top vote-getter in the West Michigan Conference as a sophomore and junior.
Hovey and her family had looked so forward to her senior season playing basketball alongside her freshman sister, Addi. They managed to get four-plus games on the court together. Now, Jayd Hovey is taking on more of a coaching and encouraging role on the Pirates’ bench, a few spots over from her father, who is an assistant coach this season.
“I think I can cheer her on a little bit more now because I am not tired running up and down the floor,” Jayd said about Addi. “ … I think I have more time to kind of give my constructive criticism because I can kind of watch the whole game and have it in perspective to help.”
Photos by Scott DeCamp and Zach Zweigle | CatchMark
Even without the unquestioned team leader on the floor, Hart is still thriving.
The Pirates are 7-1 overall and 6-0 in the conference, eyeing the school’s first West Michigan Conference girls basketball championship since 1992.
Last Tuesday, Hart edged Montague, 37-36, in the CatchMark Sports Game of the Week at Hart. This Thursday, Jayd Hovey will undergo knee surgery.
“I don’t want to say I didn’t feel sorry for myself or the team, but when you lose a player of Jayd’s caliber, my stomach dropped,” Hart girls basketball coach Travis Rosema said. “At first, I felt worse for her than anything because of all the time she put in and it’s just taken away in an instant.
“But I know the players I have on my team. Would we be great with Jayd? Yes. Anyone who says you don’t want your best player, your leader, is lying. But I think that we have a culture here that we understand that the rest of them can get it done, but it does hurt losing Jayd.”
It’s been a memorable run for Jayd Hovey, who with 970 career points was closing in on the 1,000 plateau. She’s led the Pirates to three straight district titles and the last two seasons helped put them in position to vie for league crowns with two-time defending champ Montague.
Dressed in street clothes with a bulky brace over her right leg, all Hovey can do now is try to stay positive and continue to push sister Addi, 14, who is uber-athletic but sometimes doesn’t know how good she can be.
“I mean, it’s a complete bummer, just where the team is at and all the work they’ve put in individually and then as a team. And I think, too, as parents we were just looking forward to watching our girls play together,” said Staci (Ritcheske) Hovey, a Mona Shores alumna, who is an assistant for Hart’s girls junior varsity basketball team and formerly served as varsity head coach for the Pirates.
“I think she’ll come back stronger from it. We told her, too, there’s more to life than (basketball) and knowing that she was going to be able to play again.”
When Jayd was injured, she was averaging 13.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.0 steals and 2.5 points per game. Addi, a 5-10 forward, is putting up 10 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.0 steals, 1.5 blocks and 1.0 assist per contest.
Basketball is in the Hoveys’ blood, and that should be no surprise considering Jeff and Staci met while both played the sport at Muskegon Community College.
Their second child, Parker, is a 16-year-old junior enjoying a breakout season for Hart’s boys varsity team. Their youngest child, 10-year-old daughter Mya, is always tagging along with her siblings and like them cannot get enough basketball.
A little more than a year ago, Parker Hovey was tipping the scales around 280 pounds, but the 6-foot-5 multi-sport athlete has made a serious transformation with his body. He is down to about 215 pounds, and he’s averaging 20.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists as a player who can do it all on the court.
Hart football coach Joe Tanis believes that Parker Hovey could project as a tight end at the Division II college level. Hovey played defensive end and offensive guard for Tanis in 2021, but the coach intends on moving him to tight end next fall.
“I mean, basketball family, they’re always in the gym – they have the keys, they’re in there,” Hart boys basketball coach Adam Jerry said. “Usually, Parker’s in there before I’m even in there, shooting around. He complained the one day because I didn’t let him in early enough. He needs 45 minutes to warm up before every game, before every practice, those type of things.
“I play basketball with his dad. His dad comes in and plays on Sundays at whatever age he is – 45 – and he’s still the best player out there.”
The Hoveys are serious about athletics, particularly basketball, behind family and faith. The family’s strength in the latter two facets has helped them stay strong in the face of adversity.
In addition to sisterhood and basketball, Jayd and Addi Hovey have another bond: Both were born with hearing loss. Jayd’s hearing loss was mild, and she wears hearing aids to amplify sound. Addi was born with severe hearing loss and she wears bilateral cochlear implants.
Sure, they have their share of disagreements and can get annoyed with each other from time to time like most siblings, but they’re each other’s biggest fans.
“When Jayd tore her ACL, she comes back out on crutches. Addi makes an and-one and Jayd is the loudest girl in the gym,” Rosema said. “She’s not sulking. She’s more pumped up because her sister had an and-one against Shelby and she’s not worried about her knee. It just shows how much they love each other.”
Said Addi: “Yeah, I mean, it totally sucks that we lost her because (she’s the) best player and it’s totally fun when you have good players around and you get excited and cheer each other on. But I think we’ll be OK this year. Even though we lose her, we have other players that can step up and battle together.”
Basketball helps pull the Hoveys together, even if busy schedules force them to be apart at times.
With generally four games per week between Hart’s girls and boys varsity teams, and Jeff and Staci also having coaching responsibilities, it means they are always coming and going. That does not leave as much family time during the winter season, but they make it work.
Last summer, Parker played basketball for MBA Lakeshore out of Holland while Jayd and Addi played for Grand Rapids Storm.
“My parents would trade off. One weekend, my dad would have Addi and I, and my mom would take Parker to his tournament. We kind of traded off – got to spend time with mom, got to spend time with dad,” Jayd said.
“There’s pros and cons going to tournaments with each of them. Mom buys better food, dad only buys the healthy food,” Jayd added with a smile.
Certainly, things will feel a little different in the Hovey household once Jayd goes away to college to begin a new chapter.
Support from all corners, including from her future coach at IWU, Ethan Whaley, has helped to keep a positive outlook.
“She’s taken it really well. She hasn’t had any like down days where she’s really bummed about it,” Jeff Hovey said. “She’s kind of focusing on, ‘Let’s get the surgery, let’s get rehabbing and let’s get ready for college.’ In that sense, I think it’s easier because she’s going to be a college athlete. She knows, ‘Hey, my basketball career is not over. I’m moving on, I’m playing again.’
“She’s really mature and she’s handled it really well and I’ve just been impressed with that.”
CatchMark media specialist Zach Zweigle contributed to this story.
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