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Ridgeland's Xzeria Denson honored with Jersey Mike's Naismith Courage Award

Denson played volleyball and basketball her senior year on a torn meniscus after recovering from a sprained ankle on the same leg

RIDGELAND, Miss. — Jessica Packer was cleaning out an office when she came across the information on Jersey Mike’s Naismith High School Basketball Courage Award.

The annual award, given annually to one male and one female high school basketball player, is meant to recognize student-athletes who have “consistently gone above and beyond throughout the basketball season and has demonstrated courage in their approach to their team, school and community.”

Packer, who serves as both head volleyball and assistant girls basketball coach at Ridgeland High School, could think of only one player who deserved to be nominated.

“It was a no-brainer for me,” Packer said. “When I read the description and criteria for the award, it had Xzeria Denson written all over it.”

Packer nominated the Titan senior, and on Tuesday, Denson accepted the award before a gathering of family and friends in the Ridgeland High Media Center.

“I have been playing varsity volleyball and basketball at Ridgeland High over the past four years,” Denson said. “I have enjoyed it because I love my coaches — coach Packer and coach Hawkins — they’ve been with me all four years and helped me grow into the person I am today.”

Denson concluded her remarks with a quote from Maya Angelou, who once wrote that courage was the most valuable of the virtues, because with it, you can easily espouse the others.

Denson’s story is one of perseverance.

She played volleyball and basketball for Ridgeland this year despite a nasty ankle sprain, while at the same time playing through a torn meniscus in her right knee. That ligament tear will still require surgery, but Denson put it off so she could compete with her teammates in her senior year.

She averaged 5.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, and helped the Lady Titans to a 15-13 overall record.

“Xzeria is the kind of player coaches dream about,” Packer said. “She’s dedicated, there’s no other word that better describes her besides dedicated. That’s the word that comes to mind every time I think about her. She’s dedicated to the team, she’s dedicated to the school, she’s dedicated to the success of our programs and dedicated to her friends and family.”

The national award comes with a $1,000 scholarship that Denson said she’d put towards her education at Tennessee State University, where she plans to major in computer engineering. 

The boys winner for the 2022 season was Justin Williams of Foundation Academy in Winter Garden, Fla.