As Jasmine Lister weaves her way through traffic for a layup or bounces a pass through a narrow lane for one of her many assists, she does so with an obvious confidence.
It is very rare that after one of these instances, Vanderbilt’s 5-foot-4 starting point guard doesn’t backpedal down the court, bobbing her head with a swagger.
This might not be surprising if Lister was an upperclassman. But she is only a sophomore.
Instead of tensing up and being cautious in the tough Southeastern Conference, Lister stays relaxed and at ease. In a way, Lister is just mirroring the lifestyle of her home state — California.
“She is pretty laid back, kind of goes with the flow,” junior guard Elan Brown said.
“I kind of get that a lot,” Lister said, smiling about her California roots. “I guess it is just part of my game, part of my confidence. I like to have fun on the court so I’m not going to let anybody hold me back. So it is that mentality of no fear. I just enjoy playing basketball and it just comes with it I guess. It’s in my blood.”
The only West Coast member of a team filled with East Coast and Southern girls, Lister has been a ray of sunshine for the No. 25 Commodores (14-3, 2-2 SEC).
A native of Corona, Calif., which is just 48 miles southeast of Los Angeles, Lister was first introduced to basketball at the age of seven. But she observed the sport on the baseline, as she joined her identical twin sister, Cinnamon, as a dancer for the Hip Hop Crew at Sacramento Kings and Monarchs games.
“I always loved watching it,” Lister said. “Then I kind of stopped dancing and got into basketball. I always loved it.”
A dozen years later, that choice to pursue basketball is paying off the Lister pair. Cinnamon is a guard at Boise State and Jasmine is excelling for the Commodores.
Last year, Jasmine Lister earned SEC All-Freshman honors after averaging 11.8 points, becoming the first Vanderbilt freshman since Chantelle Anderson to lead the team in scoring. Anderson averaged 15.8 points during the 1999-2000 season, before eventually becoming the program’s all-time leading scorer (2,604 points).
Heading into Thursday’s game at Arkansas (12-5, 1-4), Lister ranks second on the team in scoring (12.4 ppg) and first in assists (5.6 apg).
“I’m the primary distributor right now and I’m trying to make sure everybody gets good looks at the basket,” Lister said. “I still can score but not as often as I used to. It is helping us win most of our games, and I feel like that is my role right now.
"Things might change. We might need more threats on offense. I’m ready to take that.”
With backcourt counterpart and fellow sophomore Christina Foggie healthy and lighting up the scoreboards — the team’s leading scorer has dropped 27 points in consecutive games — Lister has been asked to be less of a scorer but more of a distributor.
She has had five games of seven assists or more, setting a career-high with nine against High Point on Dec. 4.
“I feel like last year I kind of just passed the ball but now I set people up for shots,” Lister said. “I feel like I make better decisions on who I give it to at one time.”
The decision to head to Vanderbilt wasn’t a hard one.
While playing at a summer league tournament out west after her junior year of high school, Lister was recruited by Commodores assistant coach Kim Rosamond.
“My recruiting process with Vanderbilt was like a month. Yeah, it was quick,” Lister said. “I ended up falling in love with them. It worked out perfect.”
So Lister chose Vanderbilt over offers from Nebraska, Oregon, Oregon State, Boise State and Long Beach State.
In doing so she became the first California native since guard Jennifer Risper (2005-09) to play for Vanderbilt. Coincidentally, Risper is from Moreno Valley, just 25 minutes away from the Lister household. In fact, the two played in a pick-up basketball game last summer.
While her California roots bring uniqueness to the team and the court, her longing to leave the Golden State drew her to Vanderbilt.
“I think it is cool. I like to be different from other people,” Lister said. “That is kind of why I wanted to get out of California because everybody is the same. I just enjoy the diversity out here. I’m happy here.”