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DECATUR — Jayda Dees' high school basketball story is one that demonstrates that hard work does pay off. 

Dees, a four-year starter and captain on MacArthur's girls team, withstood a 3-26 freshman year and 6-23 sophomore campaign, but didn't give up. 

"Freshman year was rough — she wasn't used to coming to a school and not winning," said Char Dees, Jayda's mother. It was hard and she was starting as a freshman so she had a lot of stress.

"But her attitude changed and the whole program turned around and her numbers kept getting better and better."

Dees averaged 13.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.4 steals in her senior year as the Generals captured their first regional title since the 2009-2010 season. On Thursday, Dees announced her intentions to play basketball for Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Mo. 

"Jayda is a huge reason why the program turned around," MacArthur basketball coach Mike Williams said. "She would non-stop attack the basket, she loves to compete, her skills got better and she got stronger and quicker. I'm so proud to have her signing today and she will do great things there. She's paving the way for the younger players to see what happens when you put in the work."

Dees developed into one of the all-time leading scorers in Decatur Public Schools history and was a Central State 8 All-Conference selection. 

Romano Dees, Jayda's father and a MacArthur graduate who played college basketball at Wabash Valley College and St. Joseph's College, is thrilled that the Dees' collegiate basketball tradition continues.

"Over her years at MacArthur there was big-time growth," Romano said. "Her attitude, energy, effort all improved. As a young lady she has really grown. On the court she has improved so much."

Dees will study business at Missouri Valley College. Char said she thought her daughter made a good choice in colleges and was proud of Jayda for providing an example for her former MacArthur teammates and future girls basketball players in Decatur.

"I think she liked the atmosphere (at Missouri Valley) — they were very welcoming and the campus is big, but not too big," Char said. "Overall, they had a lot to offer. A free education — you can't beat that.

"It shows to say that you can go somewhere. Sometimes it is hard for girls to go somewhere in basketball and it shows that if Jayda can do it, they can do it, too." 

Several of Dees' underclassman teammates attended her signing wearing T-shirts that read, "Comma," which is a reminder to the team about who will be the next person to step up and succeed. 

"It started as a joke," Williams said. "I would say, 'Michael Jordan is the greatest ever,' and someone would say, 'Period,' as in, that's the end.

"I started saying, 'Comma,' as in, 'Jayda is going to Missouri Valley, comma, who is going to be next?,'" Williams said. "It showed that if you put in the work, good things could happen. Jayda had different offers and choose to go to Missouri Valley. She had two bad seasons her first two years and then she won 43 games her last two seasons."

Helping her team take home a regional title this season was a highlight for Dees, who hopes her teammates will follow her example. 

"I think I'm a great role model," she said. "It's a great feeling being one of the top players from Decatur and I never really thought or knew about it until last season. I'm definitely someone you can tell a story about because I've come a long way."

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Contact Matthew Flaten at (217) 421-6968. Follow him on Twitter: @MattFlaten

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Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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