PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — She is Peoria-made but heading to Portugal.
Peoria High School grad Jemia Carpenter is reaching a life long goal of playing pro basketball.
”It’s always been a dream of mine,” Carpenter said. “Ever since my mom and dad put a ball in my hand, I said I have to play overseas.”
She learned the game on the courts at Peoria’s Carver Center. The former Peoria High was an All-American at Illinois Central College and finished her college career at Martin Methodist in Tennessee.
But that’s only part of the story. Her mother died of breast cancer when Carpenter was a sophomore in high school.
She signed to play college basketball at UIC after graduating from Peoria High in 2012 but shortly after she arrived on campus her grandmother was diagnosed by breast cancer. Carpenter, who was living with her grandmother at the time, returned to Peoria.
Her grandmother died in 2013 and Carpenter eventually made her way to ICC in 2014, helping the Cougars finished second in the nation at the 2016 National Junior College Athletic Association tournament. It took her three more years to earn her degree in business management from Martin Methodist in 2019.
She’s been playing for Chicago in the Independent Professional Women’s Basketball League but has always had her eye on overseas opportunities. On Sept. 11, she signed with AD Vagos which plays in Ermesinde, Portugal.
“It’s going to feel like a new world. A little person in a big world,” said Carpenter, who left for Portugal on Monday. “I will have to get used to it but I feel like it’s going to be fun an exciting.”
Carpenter knows her path to pro basketball has has twists and turns. But she says she is inspired by her mother and grandmother.
“I feel like they’re happy. They’re looking down on me saying, ‘I’m glad you made it.’ I wish we could have been there to see you make it,” Carpenter said. “Honestly, I’m living my dream through them.”
She wears a necklace that includes a picture of her mother. Another reminder of Peoria, even though she’ll be thousands of miles from home.
“I always keep her around my neck because she gives me motivation,” Carpenter said. “And makes me stay positive.”