Finding the energy to go from hours of classes to hours of basketball practice is not easy for most college athletes.
Ohio State junior guard Jacy Sheldon, however, always knows where to find her inspiration.
The source is her 13-year-old sister, Emmy, the youngest of three Sheldon siblings. Emmy was born into a basketball family. In addition to Jacy, their father, Duane, played and coached at Baldwin Wallace and her brother, Ajay, will soon suit up for the team at Ohio University. Her mother, Laura, was also a college athlete at Baldwin Wallace, where she ran track and long jumped.
Beyond being a source of inspiration to her older sister, Emmy, who was born with down syndrome, has also impacted the Ohio State women’s basketball program.
“She’s just got that personality; she brings a lot of energy and infectious positivity,” head coach Kevin McGuff said. “I love being around Emmy. Everyone loves Emmy and everybody loves when she is around.”
McGuff has coached college basketball for almost two decades and said he knows how demanding each season can be for his players, which is why he believes having Emmy around is so important for the Buckeyes.
“College basketball can be a grind at times, and when you have somebody like Emmy coming around, it just brings joy, energy and life to you,” McGuff said. “What I think is really good is maybe our players might be a little down, but you can’t be around her and be down because she is just so positive and so energetic. She just brings such an uplifting spirit all the time.”
One of the greatest benefactors of Emmy’s uplifting personality is Sheldon, who credited her sister’s personality, along with her challenges, for inspiring her on and off the court.
“She doesn’t have as many opportunities as we do, so that helps make me into the person I am as well,” Sheldon said. “When I’m not having a good day or not doing as well on something, I think of her and how she might never have that opportunity, so she has a huge impact on my life.”
Sheldon’s Ohio State teammates also find motivation in Emmy’s approach to life.
Senior guard Braxtin Miller said Emmy has positively influenced her since her transfer to Ohio State two seasons ago.
“Her presence makes you feel good,” Miller said. “Her energy and her happiness just rubs off on you and you can’t help but be excited when you see her.”
Emmy’s impact on the basketball program was amplified during the pandemic.
Even though the sisters could not be together as much as they liked, Emmy was always there to pick her sister up during tough times.
“Not seeing her for a while was actually hard because we didn’t go home for a couple of months and that stunk, so I would just FaceTime her,” Sheldon said. “She would cheer you up no matter what. She loved [quarantine]. She thought everyone was home to see her, so that was a good time for her, but she made that experience definitely easier.”
McGuff said he knew Emmy was special ever since he started recruiting Sheldon. Now, everyone else around the program sees it, too.
“Emmy’s never met a person that is not her friend,” McGuff said.