Ohio State's Jacy Sheldon finds motivation in basketball, life from bond with sister, Emmy

Jacob Myers
The Columbus Dispatch
Emmy Sheldon, 14, hugs her sister, Ohio State Buckeyes guard Jacy Sheldon, after a women’s basketball game against the Cincinnati Bearcats last month.

Anyone at an Ohio State women’s basketball game can probably hear the voice of the team’s No. 1 fan. 

She wears a red Ohio State shirt with the number “4” and “Sheldon” on the back. She talks to the cheerleaders at halftime and waits for her sister, Jacy, and the rest of the Buckeyes to run onto the court and give her a high-five. 

Emmy Sheldon, a 14-year-old with Down syndrome who had a hole in her heart repaired at birth, is easily the most well-liked person around the program. Her radiant smile shows how much she enjoys being around the team and supporting her sister. But Emmy has more of an impact on those around her than they do on her. 

She’s the reason Jacy is at Ohio State, and she's given Jacy a deeper gratitude for the kinds of experiences Emmy won’t ever get. 

'They weren't going to pull Jacy away from Emmy'

“That's what motivates me the most,” Jacy said. “School, on and off the floor, anytime I'm down about something, I think about her and how she might not ever have that opportunity, and that definitely helps. It’s shaped the way I look at things.” 

In her third year at Ohio State, Sheldon is expected to be the team's leading scorer and help get the Buckeyes back into the NCAA Tournament. She earned second-team All-Big Ten honors last season, averaging 16.7 points per game, and is one of the conference’s top shooters. 

Ohio State guard Jacy Sheldon (4) maneuvers around Bowling Green's Kenzie Lewis (24) during the second quarter of the Buckeyes' 96-63 win.

The Dublin Coffman graduate felt connected to OSU, growing up so close to campus. But a big factor in Sheldon's recruitment was her proximity to Emmy and how the program treated her. Laura Sheldon, Jacy’s mom, said Jacy required Emmy to go on every visit they took. 

"One of the coaches, without naming names, said they thought they could win the recruiting battle against Ohio State, but not win the Emmy battle — meaning they weren't going to pull Jacy away from Emmy,” said Duane Sheldon, Jacy’s dad. 

Jacy and Emmy were born seven years apart. Shortly after Emmy's birth, her parents told Jacy that Emmy had Down syndrome and what that meant. The bond between them was instantaneous. 

"She became a mother hen from the beginning,” Laura Sheldon said. 

Jacy and her brother, Ajay, an Ohio University basketball commit, spend a lot of time with Emmy and often try to get her in a gym to shoot hoops. But sometimes Emmy would just prefer they watch Disney’s Frozen for around the 20th time. Every day they can't get together, the sisters FaceTime.

"We're really, really close. She's a huge part of why I came here,” Jacy said. “I wanted to stay close to home to be close to her and kind of be able to watch her grow up.” 

Jacy didn’t like the idea of going a month, let alone a week, without seeing Emmy. Going home and being with her is how Jacy escapes all the pressure of being a student-athlete. 

"If I'm stressed out about anything, really, I am close enough that I can go home and see her, and I will do that,” she said. “No offense to the rest of my family, I'm going home to see them, too. But I'm really going home to see her, get a hug from her.” 

It’s clear their bond means just as much to Emmy. When Jacy gave Emmy a high-five after running out of the tunnel before the start of the second half against Bowling Green on Nov. 17, the huge grin across Emmy’s face said everything about her admiration. 

Emmy Sheldon, 14, cheers for her sister, Jacy, during a basketball game between the Buckeyes and the Cincinnati Bearcats.

"She is pretty good,” Emmy said. “And really fast." 

Laura Sheldon said both Jacy and Ajay appreciate their lives more having watched Emmy grow up. So when Emmy yells Jacy’s name at a game so loud it can be heard around the arena, it isn’t embarrassing. She looks forward to it. 

"She's just ... I don't know how to describe her,” Jacy said. “She's just the most positive person ever.” 

jmyers@dispatch.com

@_jcmyers

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