Customers who use the Walgreen’s Pharmacy in Greenville often encounter a tall, friendly technician who greets them with a smile.
At 6-feet-one inches tall, Jaqueline (Jackie) Hargrove Nelson gets the usual questions. Those who don’t know her well might say, “Did you play basketball?” Others who remember her as a standout for the Greenville High School Honeybees back in the late 1980s often say, “Can you still play?”
Nelson usually answers them with a smile.
“If we played a pickup game today with folks in my age group, I could probably get you 15 points,” she said with a huge grin. “If I played against players who are playing right now, I could probably still get you 10 points.”
Long before basketball analysts starting using the term “two-way” player, Nelson’s game reflected the diverse skill set that describes a dominant force on both ends of the court.
On a very talented high school team that featured the likes of Jennifer Lee, Francine Payton, Stacye Hardy and Trina Washington, Nelson was asked by her head coach, the late George Holloway, to impose her will on the interior.
In a game against Greenville High’s biggest rival at the time, the TL Weston Eagles, Hargrove ignited her team to victory by pinning an Eagle’s star player’s shot on the backboard for a ferocious blocked shot.
“I was an interior player, but I had an all-around game,” Nelson said. “I was good at both dribbling and shooting.”
When Nelson entered high school, she quickly made a name for herself, making the starting lineup at power forward as a freshman. In fact, she had been a starter from her seventh-grade year throughout her high school years because of her skills on the offensive and defensive ends of the court. As her senior year ended, Nelson had a half dozen colleges looking to use her talents at the next level.
“That’s when I found out that I was pregnant,” she said. “The responsibility of becoming a parent came first. I always think of what could’ve been. I think that I could’ve made it to the WNBA.”
Nelson credits her skills development to her early years in the Elizabeth Street community playing pickup games against her brother and the other boys in the neighborhood. Many years later, her son, Efrem Johnson kept the family’s hoop dreams going strong by starring at O’Bannon High School. “He never felt the pressure to live up to what I had accomplished on the court,” Nelson said. “He always pushed himself to be better than me.”
Nelson said that she has always been interested in coaching young players and sharing her basketball knowledge with them.