plays varsity softball and volleyball at tiny Tri-Village (New Madison, Ohio)
, but basketball is her passion.
And past, present and future.
"I just like the team aspect of it," Linkous said. "I like going out and putting up as many points as you can as a team. There's just something about that."
There's something about Linkous too – she's special.
On Feb. 2, in a 77-28 win over Mississinawa Valley (Union City, Ohio), Linkous became just the third girl in Ohio high school history to score 2,000 career points and pull down 1,000 career rebounds. When the 5-foot-10 forward made her record-breaking basket at the 4-minute mark of the second quarter, play was stopped and Linkous was presented the game ball. She promptly took it into the stands and gave it to her parents.
Linkous ended with 23 points and 18 rebounds.
"It was senior night, so it was already pretty emotional," Linkous said. "Both my parents told me they loved me and my dad said to just get back out there and keep playing."
Linkous has been a major player for Tri-Village and will end her career as one of Ohio's all-time greats. She joins an exclusive 2,000-1,000 club that includes only Tamika Williams (Chaminade Julienne/Dayton) and Kaayla Chones (Eastlake North/Pepper Pike, Ohio). Williams starred at Connecticut and played for the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx. Chones schooled at North Carolina State before playing in the WNBA for the Los Angeles Sparks.
Only two Ohio boys have accomplished the feat.
"In all honesty it would be easy for a kid in her situation to get full of herself," Tri-Village head coach Brad Gray said. "But oblivious is a great word to describe her because that's pretty much what she is to the numbers. I specifically remember when she scored her 1,000th point, we stopped the game and she didn't know why. She just doesn't think about the numbers."
Tri-Village has one building for grades K-12, doesn't have a high school football team and is a basketball-crazed community. The last two years the Patriots have played in some big games, making it one step shy of the state tournament both seasons. Linkous is a legend.
"We've got a lot of young kids playing now and you could attribute that to KJ and her teammates," Gray said. "To a lot of these kids she's their hero and you don't really get to see your heroes up close and personal all the time, but they do. At the game where she scored her 2,000th point, there were all kinds of signs, but I remember one read ‘You're a great role model.' And she is. She's a remarkable person and basketball player."
Basketball is in her blood.
Linkous' mother, the former Christy Sarver, combined to score 1,042 career points at Tri-Village and Franklin-Monroe high schools. Linkous' father, Randy Linkous, is the all-time leading scorer (1,486 points) at Highland (Sparta, Ohio) and led the Scots to the 1988 D-IV state tournament.
"She's actually my wife's cousin and I've known her since she was just a little tyke," Gray said. "The first time I saw her play was actually back in elementary school and even then you could tell she had something special."
Linkous said her top game in junior high was 27 points but once she hit high school, everything changed. Her freshman season, Linkous went for 39 points in a game and as a sophomore scored a career-high 61 in a 95-32 win over Jefferson Township (Dayton) in a D-IV sectional tournament game. The total ranks No. 8 all-time in Ohio single-game history. Linkous scored 45 points in the first half that night and went 17-for-17 from the free throw line.
She played 20 minutes.
"She's done several impressive things, but the one that sticks out is that 61-point game," Gray said. "And the fact that she did it in just two and a half quarters is what makes it even more amazing. I don't care who you're playing, 61 points is a lot against anyone – especially in 20 minutes.
"She also had a great game in the regional final last year when she made 10 of 12 shots, scored 25 points and had 14 rebounds against a strong Fort Loramie team. I think that game kind of showed what she could do against tough competition."
Linkous, who will attend NCAA Division II Cedarville University after turning down an offer from D-I Niagara, has overwhelming career numbers. In 92 career games, Linkous has 2,058 points, 1,100 rebounds, 250 steals, 186 blocks and 131 assists. In helping Tri-Village go 74-18 since her freshman year – and 62-9 the last three seasons – Linkous has averaged 22.3 points, 11.9 rebounds, 2.7 steals, 2.1 assists and 1.4 steals per game.
"If that's what someone has for a season, that's great," Gray said. "But that's what she's averaged for a career. It's remarkable."
The missing link is a trip to the state tournament, and that's what Linkous and the Patriots are shooting for. Tri-Village's boys team made the state tournament in 1991 and finished second. The girls program has never been, coming painfully close the last two years.
The Patriots open postseason play Feb. 18 against Jefferson Twp. Tri-Village (19-1) is the No. 1 seed in the sectional and ranked No. 2 in the state according to the Ohio Girls Basketball Report and JJHuddle.com D-IV Power Poll.
The time is now.
"It's a huge goal," Gray said. "Not just for the team but for the community. A lot of people think this could finally be the year we get it done."
Said Linkous: "The first year (we lost in the regional final) it hurt but that was the farthest any team here had ever gone. Last year we felt like we had a good team and a good shot and just got outplayed. It stung. It made us work harder though and that's been our focus all year.
"We want to make state."
And a little more history.Eric Frantz is the Managing Editor of JJHuddle.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.