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Times 2008 Girls Basketball Player of the Year: Gainesville's Jaymee Carnes
Jaymee Carnes averaged 19.1 points per game for the Region 7-AAA champion Lady Red Elephants. - photo by Times file photo

Gym rat is a phrase used by coaches to describe those players with an insatiable desire, an obssession if you will, to get better.

Those players that aren’t content with daily practice but, instead, make the gym their second home and, in doing so, build on skill and become good and, sometimes, great.

While the terminology may seem unflattering at best, basketball players crave being described that way.

“A gym rat,” were the three words were used by Gainesville girls basketball coach Manson Hill with regard to his standout post Jaymee Carnes.

“She works so hard to get better,” Hill said. “She’s eager to learn and try new things. Every day she comes into the gym to learn something new and, if I had to guess, will continue to come in wanting to learn and get better every day.”

Carnes work ethic manifested itself in the forward averaging 19 points, nine rebounds per game while blocking 78 shots, getting 55 steals hitting 57 percent from the field and 76 percent from the free throw line on the year and, when it was all said and done, being named The Times 2008 girls basketball Player of the Year.

“Being in the gym, working in the gym, makes playing games more comfortable,” Carnes said.

Comfortable enough that the 6-foot-1-inch sophomore led her team to a Region 7-AAA title, an undefeated region season and a 24-6 regular-season record. The Lady Red Elephants season ended with a loss to Sandy Creek during the second round of the Class AAA state playoffs.

“Jaymee (Carnes) is constantly saying, ‘Tell me how I can get better,’ and asking, ‘What am I not doing?’,” Hill said.

“We spend time talking about why she gets shutdown, if she gets shutdown, and she works to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Over the course of this season, Carnes went from solely being a down-low player to trying her hand at a position that will better serve in her quest for a Division I scholarship, a perimeter player.

“Coach Hill has me working a lot on being versatile,” Carnes said, “I know that I need to become a better outside shooter and ball handler and that’s what I’m working on.”“I think it’s a disservice to limit a player when they’re good at something,” Hill said. “Jaymee (Carnes) is goal oriented and wants to play Division I basketball and her chances of doing that at the post position are limited because of her height.

“She’s bought into it (the move to the perimeter) and worked hard on it.”

Hill added that while Carnes has succeeded in becoming a force with her back to the basket, she will be even more desirable to a big-time college program if she learns to play facing the basket.

And she will be better for the Lady Red Elephants over the next two years.

“We like posts that can step out,” Hill said. “Being able to play facing the basket will help her after high school, but it’s also helping her in high school.”

Carnes will continue to work on her perimeter game in the offseason thanks to the Nike Elite Pistols out of Atlanta, the AAU team that she will be playing with.

“The AAU team she is on will play her at a three or four position and outside of that we’ve got her working on it in the gym and really trying to smooth out her 3-pointers,” Hill said.

For Carnes, the fact that her particular AAU team would help her hone outside skills was important, but she also wanted to play with the best, just like she does during the regular season.

“I think our region is some of the best competition around,” Carnes said. “I have to get a lot stronger to be able to keep up with it and to do that I want to play all the time in the offseason with people better than me.”

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