MITCHELL, S.D. -- When asked who the toughest player on their team is, the Dakota Wesleyan women all say Jessica Mieras.
"Well she just has battled a lot of adversity and has come back for her fourth year, her senior year, and she just is a hard working girl." DWU Senior Guard Sarah Carr says.
It's no so much as what the former O'Gorman star has done on the court since transferring in from South Dakota State three years ago....
"I could probably go with someone else besides myself as the toughest player!" DWU Senior Forward Jessica Mieras says.
...as how Jessica even gets on it.
"She's a mom. It put things in perspective a lot of times too. You might be having a tough day or whatever, but what is Jess going through right now?" DWU Head Coach Jason Christensen says.
After helping the Tigers win a national championship in 2018, Mieras was looking ahead to her next season, when she got some unexpected news.
"It was, I mean, a shock, but it's been a blessing. I've always loved basketball, but I didn't realize you could love something so much more." Mieras says.
"It was just kind of shocking. But then we were like, we need to be there for her, support her." Carr says.
After sitting out her junior year while pregnant, Jessica gave birth to her son George in May of 2019. It was up to her whether or not she'd return as a graduate student for her senior season.
"Sure it (quitting basketball) crossed my mind. But it was more or less doing what's best for my family and for my son and showing him that, just because life gets hard, doesn't mean that you have to quit. You can keep going through everything even if it seems impossible." Jessica says.
With help from her parents, Jessica moved back to Sioux Falls. Each day she takes George to daycare, commutes to Mitchell where she works her regular job and then practices with the basketball team, coming home after to care for her son while finishing her school work.
"I'm a dad, I got a couple kids, but I didn't know what to expect. Lot of kids her age, it's a tough thing. How are you going to handle it with the public? With the school? With everything? She comes back, she's getting her masters degree, she's driving every day from Sioux Falls. There's times we have eight o'clock film, she's here in the morning, or she has to stay with the seniors or whatever. She's just a tough kid." Christensen says.
Every now and then George is at practice and games, an experience he won't remember, but the Tigers will never forget.
"He's a little cutie and every time he sees us I think he kind of has a little girl crush on all of us!" Carr says.
And when he's old enough, a lesson Jessica hopes he can take from this time in their life-that love can help you find strength you never knew you had.
"He's made everything easy. Even when people say kids are crazy, yeah he's crazy, but he makes my life better. So I wouldn't trade him for the world." Mieras says.