OREM — Sammie Jensen isn't brash on the court. She doesn't yell, pump her fist after a big play or trash talk.
Not that she needs to be loud. Her work on the glass — and opposing coaches' exasperated screams to box Jensen out — are loud enough.
A senior at Utah Valley University, Jensen doesn't get her 17.6 points or 14.2 rebounds per game because of an overwhelming physical advantage. Measuring at just 6-feet, the Stansbury Park, Utah, product usually goes up against opponents at least as tall as she is, if not taller.
Jensen's height, head coach Cathy Nixon says, isn't the key to her work on the backboards.
"She just figures out a way to get it done," Nixon said. "You watch film — it's amazing how many times there will be what looks like less opportunity for her to get a rebound and more opportunity for any four other people, and somehow she ends up coming up with it. She has a special ability for that."
The result: 19 double-doubles in 26 games, including three games that saw Jensen eclipse the 20-rebound mark. The performances earned her a second consecutive Great West Conference Player of the Year award — and her third year in a row averaging a double-double.
Yet Jensen seems unimpressed by her own success, if only because she believes it resulted from perfect timing and situations throughout her career.
After playing guard for two years at Grantsville High, Jensen's head coach shifted her to forward midway through her junior year out of necessity. Jensen's rebounding numbers immediately skyrocketed, as she finished the year snagging more than eight a game after averaging just more than two halfway through the season.
It was as much a surprise to Jensen as it was to her coaching staff.
"The first couple games, I was like, 'Oh my gosh. I can rebound. I can do this,'" Jensen said. "I had no idea I could do that. I knew I could jump, but I had no idea I could rebound naturally."
Jensen went on to earn all-state honors and a McDonalds All-American nomination, as well as attention from a handful of college programs. Utah Valley was one of them, but both the Wolverines and Jensen thought a year's worth of seasoning at Snow College would benefit both parties.
When Jensen transferred in 2010, a starting role awaited. She didn't disappoint, putting up more than 14 points and 10 rebounds per game as a sophomore. She averaged a double-double again her junior year, earning GWC Player of the Year honors along the way.
The team, however, struggled despite Jensen's production, failing to capture conference crowns in both the regular season and tournament slates.
This season saw the Wolverines return with more experience, as well as New Mexico transfer and scoring guard Tina Doughty. Combined with Jensen's career year, UVU improved enough to earn non-conference wins over Utah State, Weber State and Air Force before blasting through GWC competition with a 9-1 record.
Jensen shined during the stretch, amassing more than 17 rebounds a game during conference play. She scored 32 points and grabbed 19 boards on March 2 against Houston Baptist, helping the Wolverines clinch their first regular season conference championship.
Such eye-popping numbers catch Jensen, who takes a clock-punching approach to each game, off-guard.
"For me it's just an everyday thing, but then you look at the numbers and you're like, 'This isn't normal,'" Jensen said.
Nixon appreciates Jensen's low-key personality, pinpointing it as a direct factor to her on-court production.
"I think that's part of what helps her be great," Nixon said. "She doesn’t' get too hyped about things. She doesn't get too low about things. That lends itself to her consistency."
Jensen hopes to take both her rebounding and decent outside shot (34 percent from 3-point range on the season) to Europe after she finishes her degree, though a year's worth of school, the conference tournament and possibly more NCAA awards await before that happens.
Nixon doesn't doubt that some team, somewhere, will make use of the skills that have lifted the Wolverines to new heights this season.
"In my experience, somebody who can produce as consistently as Sammie will have opportunities," Nixon said. "I think Sammie has a well-balanced enough game and has produced consistently enough that there's going to be a team that's going to want to tap into that."
Matt Petersen is the Sports Web Editor for DeseretNews.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TheMattPetersen.
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