‘Stronger than ever’: Van-Far’s Jensen signs to play college basketball at Columbia College

By Jeremy Jacob, Sports Editor
Posted 12/14/22

‘Stronger than ever’: Van-Far’s Jensen signs to play basketball at Columbia College

Mara Jensen didn’t think she would ever be in this position.

The Van-Far senior …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

‘Stronger than ever’: Van-Far’s Jensen signs to play college basketball at Columbia College


Mara Jensen didn’t think she would ever be in this position.

The Van-Far senior signed her letter of intent Wednesday at the high school gym in Vandalia to play college basketball next season for Columbia College — a NAIA school in the American Midwest Conference. 

Jensen is a multiple-time all-conference and all-district player, including a unanimous first-team Eastern Missouri Conference selection last season after averaging a double-double of 16.1 points and 11.1 rebounds. In 60 career games, with most of her senior season to go, Jensen is averaging 13.5 points and about nine rebounds per game while accumulating 24 double-doubles.

Before all those accomplishments, it was unclear to Jensen as a freshman whether she wanted to play college basketball. The road was tougher after tearing the ACLs in both her knees — one during the freshman season and the other in the ensuing summer. The belief her coaches, including head coach Heather Minter, had in her convinced she had what it takes.

“I never thought I would be here,” Jensen said. “Looking back at freshman year, I never wanted to play basketball in college. My coaches inspired me and told me I could get to this level. After my injuries, I really pushed to get back to where I was stronger than ever so I could get to college basketball.”

Minter said she knew Jensen was capable of playing college ball ever since becoming her coach three years ago. Minter provided some inspiration, but she said Jensen provided all the dedication and work needed to accomplish this goal — even at hours outside of practice.

“Just her being the person she is has paid off today,” Minter said. “I’ve got pictures in my phone her mom has sent me where she’s in the gym at 9 o’clock or 10 o’clock at night shooting.”

Minter said Jensen going the extra mile has provided the Lady Indians with a consistent post presence and has been a big reason the program has double-digit wins in the previous two seasons. 

This season, Van-Far hopes to reach that goal again as its senior leader is off to a good start, averaging 18.8 points and over eight rebounds per game and recording two double-doubles through six games. 

“She’s stepped up this year and has taken the role of being a leader,” Jensen said. “If you look at a picture from when Mara was a freshman to where she is today, you’ll be like, ‘Who is this kid?’ She’s transformed. She’s lost a lot of weight, and she’s turned into a basketball player. She loves it like I love it, and that’s what it takes to get to that next level.”

Jensen will join other area double-double machine Mya Miller, who is currently in her freshman season with the Cougars after graduating from Mexico.

Jensen said she will miss the “small-town feel” of Vandalia where she “knows everyone fully,” but that’s why picking the college that felt the most like home was important.

“I chose Columbia College mainly because of the coaches, the atmosphere and the players I met,” Jensen said. “After I went to a camp, it just felt like home, and it was perfect.”