Kimberly James flew from L.A. to see as many Lady Vols games as she could this season.
Her daughter, Jordan Reynolds, is in her fourth and final season at Tennessee. Monday could mark the senior point guard's last game in orange and white.
James could only describe the end of the road in one word.
"It's heartbreaking," James said. "Because it's been so great. I have grandchildren that play a little bit and are starting to figure it out, but at this level it’s coming to an end. It’s heartbreaking."
James waited with some of the other Lady Vols' moms at the KFC Yum! Center after Tennessee's win over Dayton on Saturday. She and Reynolds celebrated the win together that night; they plan to do the same if the Lady Vols can knock out the Louisville Cardinals.
"“It’s always great to see my mom come out here," Reynolds said. "She’s one of my biggest fans if not the biggest fan. She travels to a lot of my games, she’s always supportive. It’s just great to see her out here and I’m glad she’s been a part of this journey.”
The fourth of five siblings, Reynolds is the last child in her family to play college basketball. Her fan base is scattered all over the West Coast, from Oregon to Southern California. Many family members sent Reynolds encouraging messages of love and support before Saturday's game against Dayton.
"They’re a very big factor of why I’m here right now," Reynolds said.
Reynolds evolved into a standout basketball player at Central Catholic High School in Portland, Oregon. Basketball runs deep in her blood, and she owes a lot of it to her mother. James played at San Diego State. Reynolds' aunt, Deborah Lange, played at Oregon. Ariel Reynolds, Jordan's sister, played at Utah.
While James would've liked her daughter to stay on the West Coast and enjoy a fruitful career closer to home, she let Jordan make her college decision on her own.
"She let me do things on my own just so I could formulate my way of living, and I respect her for that," Reynolds said. "There are a lot of parents out there who are very strong-handed in where their kids go, what kind of education they get. I’m very grateful for the opportunity that she allowed me to have my own path.”
Like any other parent watching their kid play sports, James said she's one of the loudest voices in Thompson-Boling Arena.
“I’m the mother they turn around and tell to be quiet," James said. "I will jump and scream and stand up and I’ll talk to the refs a little bit, encourage them to be right. I’m very boisterous in the stands, it’s just I got a love for the game.”
Reynolds and James noted even Coach Holly Warlick will hear James' shouts from the stands and make note of it. Reynolds knows her mom's voice distinctly.
"She’s always yelling when it gets quiet so that’s when I know it’s her," Reynolds said. "You’ve got to love your mom.”
Reynolds recalled a moment during her freshman year that still stands out as one of her favorite memories of her mother. In the 2013-2014 SEC Tournament in Duluth, Georgia, James flew out from Oregon to surprise Jordan. James planned on surprising Reynolds after Tennessee's first game in the tournament; but Reynolds caught a glimpse of her mom while she was playing in the game.
"I looked over my shoulder and there she was," Reynolds said. "I just couldn’t believe it."
James stayed for the Lady Vols' first three games; they ended up winning the tournament. Reynolds still keeps a photograph in her room of that moment she saw her mom in the stands.
"For her to be out here right now, it’s just great," Reynolds said Sunday. "You have your home away from home; these are all my sisters, and I call all their moms ‘mom’. And that’s always great. But to have your own mom come all this way – just to see me in my last go round – it’s always great."
James said the best part of watching her daughter play at Tennessee is seeing her transformation into a woman.
"She’s just blossomed before my eyes," James said. "She’s become an awesome, phenomenal young lady."
James is living life through Jordan right now. Reynolds hopes to get picked up by a WNBA team and play professionally. One thing won't change when mother watches daughter on the court.
"I’m in awe every time I watch her play,” James said.
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