Before Jaelyn Bates fully immerses herself in the cherry and silver of the University of New Mexico, there’s a final chapter to write on her career wearing the silvery-looking platinum of the Volcano Vista Hawks.
The state champion in multiple sports at Volcano Vista and future Lobo women’s basketball player is the Journal’s metro female Athlete of the Year for 2021-22.
“I think I left (high school) where I wanted to,” Bates, 18, said. “I had fun doing everything I did.”
Bates transitions from Volcano Vista to UNM riding a crest of success.
She closed out a brilliant prep basketball career in March by helping Volcano Vista to a second straight Class 5A girls title at the Pit. In the spring, Bates was a double state track and field champion, having won the long jump and also having anchored the Hawks’ 4×400-meter state championship relay squad.
Bates also was the state runner-up in both the 300-meter intermediate hurdles and the open 200. Not only had she not participated in track since her freshman year; she got a late start this spring because of her basketball commitments. She acclimated quickly.
“Her coming out like that, of course you know what a talented athlete this is,” Volcano Vista track coach Elena Schrader said. “How that will translate onto the track, you don’t always know.”
Bates was the high-point athlete among metro-area girls at the 5A state meet. Her decision to add track and field to her itinerary worked out spectacularly.
“One hundred percent (surprising),” said her father, Barry Bates. “It was a long (basketball) season. She plays a lot of basketball, I wanted her to get a break. … She surprised us how good she was going.”
Jaelyn felt similarly.
“Not at all,” she said, asked if she could have expected that type of performance in the spring. “Took me by surprise.”
Moreover, Bates could have been excused if she wasn’t 100 percent vested in track, given her basketball future as a Lobo.
“At first, I was just gonna do it for fun,” she said. “Once I got started … I thought, OK, maybe I can win some of these events. That’s when I started taking it seriously.”
And her results were largely spectacular over the final weeks of the track season.
“It was impressive,” Schrader said. “She was (mostly) brand new to track.”
The 5-foot-5 Bates broke onto the prep scene as a shy, bespectacled freshman for Volcano Vista, an obvious talent with a huge upside and a solid reputation based on her club basketball efforts and a series of YouTube vidoes she made to promote her name and her game in the western half of the country.
“Jaelyn grew up in four years before everybody’s eyes,” Hawks basketball coach Lisa Villareal said. “She had so much to live up to, and I think she did that.”
By the time Bates graduated, she had evolved into a polished, confident, assured player and person, a speedy guard with good handles and a solid 3-point shooter. She averaged 13.4 points, 3.9 steals and 2.5 assists last season.
“Jaelyn is continuing to grow into a role of leading and facilitating a team,” UNM coach Mike Bradbury said of Bates when she signed her national letter of intent last November. “Her craftiness with the ball and ability to create for herself and her teammates will give Jaelyn a chance to make an impact early in her career at UNM.”
Bates’ running mate at Volcano Vista, Natalia Chavez, and former Cibola standout Amaya Brown, a transfer from Florida State, are all going to be new Lobos this fall.
“We were all extremely excited for her to have the opportunity to play at the next level,” her father said. “We like UNM, and the system kind of plays into the style she has.”
Villareal coached Bates to 90 victories (and only 9 losses) in her four varsity seasons.
“Coming in, she was a giggly little freshman, and it just seemed like she wasn’t paying attention to anything you were saying,” Villareal said, laughing. “After regrouping and getting her refocused, into her days as a junior and senior, she was looking me in the eye with every word I spoke.”
For her part, Bates said there were expectations to fulfill.
“All I knew is, I had to make a name for myself going into high school,” she said.
Four years later, she’s practically a household name in Albuquerque prep basketball circles. Next, she said, is an attempt to carve out a niche with the Lobos the same way she had to at Volcano Vista.
“I’m just giving it my all to make sure they know why I’m there,” Bates said. “It’s making a name for myself like I did in high school. You want to work to get to the top.”
Birthplace: Heerlen, Netherlands
School: Volcano Vista, Class of 2022
Sports: Basketball, Track and Field
Parents: Barry and Juliet
Siblings: James, 28; Janee, 24
Up next: Bates signed to play basketball for the University of New Mexico, where she plans to major in biochemistry. Her mother, who served in the Air Force — which is how Jaelyn came to be born in Europe — also attended UNM.
Front-row seat: Bates won two state titles on Bob King Court and was on the floor when teammate and fellow UNM signee Natalia Chavez banked in a half-court shot at the buzzer in May 2021 to beat Hobbs in overtime. “All I remember was she threw it up, everyone was holding their breath,” Bates said. “And it felt like the entire arena was silent. Once it went through, everyone was in shock.”
Comfortable fit: Bates said she believes she’ll mesh nicely in UNM coach Mike Bradbury’s style and tempo. “I would consider myself a shooter, and I like to run up and down the court,” she said.
Kudos: Bates earlier this week was named the 2021-22 National Native American Player of the year by Inter-Tribal Athletics (TBA) Native Sports.
“Justice for JB”: Bates had those words written on her leg during the state track meet; she and J.B. White, the former Santa Fe High star killed two years ago, were friends and Bates has a couple of pictures of White in her bedroom. Both once belonged to the same club basketball program and even shared the floor as teammates a couple of times. “Everything I did in track, I wanted to represent him,” Bates said.