The North Dakota State women’s basketball dynasty put together by former head coach Amy Ruley and assistant coach Kelli Layman was a combination of players with academic intelligence, infectious personalities and a mental capacity that had no limits. The coaches found post players who could run like guards and guards strong enough to play inside.
They found athletes, not just basketball players. They found players who would laugh and smile in front of the camera Thursday and then step on the court Friday night wanting to punch somebody in the face.
In the case of Jaime Berry Adams, they found a player who could throw a basketball through a brick wall. When Berry goes before an assembled Bison Athletic Hall of Fame crowd Friday to accept her place in history, she’ll only have limited time to talk about the award and all that goes with it.
Just trying to thank every family member who made a difference could take up the allotted time. The family may be half freaking out being at an award’s banquet for basketball, not baseball.
“I grew up on a baseball field,” Jaime said.
Her father, Mike Berry, played college baseball at Mayville State, amateur ball in Watertown, S.D., and coached American Legion baseball in Watertown. Her uncle, Scott Berry, is the legendary head coach at Mayville State whose three boys played baseball for the Comets.
“He’s in more halls of fame than I can count,” Jaime said.
Her uncle, Dean Berry, pitched for Mayville State and is the head coach at Northern State (S.D.). Uncle Craig Berry played baseball at Valley City State and aunt Monica Berry, her dad’s twin sister, was a fastpitch softball player, also at Valley City State.
It all started with her grandfather, George Berry, who is a member of the North Dakota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame and was an icon to the game in the LaMoure, N.D., area.
That’s a whole lot of baseball. And who knows, in another era, Jaime may have been the Ila Borders of her day. Borders broke a gender barrier with the St. Paul Saints in independent baseball in the late 1990s.
“Part of me looks back to say what if?” Jaime said.
As in what if she continued to play baseball into her high school years? She tried girls fastpitch in fourth and fifth grade, but that wasn’t working out because of her competitiveness.
A second baseman and shortstop, she played baseball until the VFW level because, at the time, VFW did not allow girls to play.
“I could have probably have stuck it out but by then I was a freshman and sophomore and volleyball and basketball became more significant in my life,” Jaime said. “I was so fortunate to have good baseball coaches in Watertown. They supported me. It was never easy to be the girl on the team but the boys were accepting of me.”
Legion baseball did accept girls playing but by then Berry was on her way to thinking about college basketball. At NDSU, she got in line of a trail of athletes that Ruley started recruiting in the 1980s.
And that’s the point. Athletes. It’s the one element that’s been missing all these Division I years. Year-in, year-out, the Bison have been out-athleted.
Jaime Berry was a 6-foot-1 forward with middle infield baseball agility. She could shoot, finishing her career in 2001 with 1,174 points. She’s eighth on the Bison career 3-point shooting chart (37 percent), eighth in 3-pointers made (92) and 11th in free-throw shooting (79 percent).
She lives near Lansford, N.D., with her husband, Charlie, and their sons, Sawyer and Easton. He’s a manager at Hefty Seed Company. She’s the family general manager who is keeping her education license current by substitute teaching. She referees volleyball games just to get into a gym.
She plans on getting back to teaching and coaching next year. I forgot to ask what sport but if her maiden name is any indication it will be baseball.
"She could easily throw the ball the length of the court with either hand," Ruley said, with an emphasis on either hand. "That's why I had her inbound. Extremely versatile. She and Jayne Even Gust were cut from the same cloth, could literally play any position on the court."