Living the dream
Walk-on finds his niche in second season
Published: Thursday, January 17, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 17, 2013 00:01
Senior walk-on, Jarod Jahns, averaging just 9.5 minutes per game, had little reason to suspect a matchup against the defending national champions to yield exceptional playing time. Three minutes into one of the biggest games of the season, however, senior forward and starter Ray Turner got into foul trouble.
Jahns — an industrial engineering major — was suddenly called on by the coaching staff to step up and fill the role of guarding one of last year's top high school recruits in the Wildcats’ freshman center, Nerlens Noel.
One upset road victory later, Jahns celebrated with his teammates after contributing 30 minutes on the hardwood.
The A&M men's basketball team went into Kentucky on Saturday night and faced a John Calipari-coached team a year removed from a national title. 40 minutes and 40 points from senior guard Elston Turner later, A&M earned national recognition for one of the biggest wins in recent history.
With Turner's big game, Jahns' play can be easily overlooked. With his career-high 30 minutes on the court, Jahns grabbed four rebounds and contained a player projected by some to be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft to 15 points in the team effort to defeat the defending national champions.
Jahns said when Ray got into foul trouble early in the game, fulfilling his duty to the team was an experience of a lifetime.
"It's a dream come true," Jahns said. "Ray got in foul trouble and you have to answer the call at that point. Coach said go in and I kind of knew it was going to have to be for the rest of the game.
Jahns walked on the A&M team as a junior and has recently received more playing time than the usual walk-ons.
Head coach Billy Kennedy said Jahns’ hard work and patience is why he received a chance to gain playing time..
"You want to go with your scholarship guys as long as you can," Kennedy said. "He's in the gym here more than anybody we have. He's a tough kid who loves basketball and loves to play the game."
Aggies who saw the game were impressed with the walk-ons performance against arguably the best player in the nation.
"He played defense really well," said Dakota Thompson, junior kinesiology major. "He boxed out Noel several times and took him out of the play. He just provided energy. I think he played 30 minutes, which for a walk-on is ludicrous."
Jahns has played as many games and more minutes this season as he has in his career with the Aggies. His four rebounds amount to just under half of his career total of 11.
Jahns looks for any opportunity he can to help the team succeed. Playing mostly scout team, he has learned the system A&M uses as well as the scout team system to give the Aggies the best chance to win.
Kennedy said Jahns is a great contributor to the basketball team.
"He's probably the main leader on our team off the court," Kennedy said. "[Jahns] is good in practice and investing in other guys. He has a great basketball IQ He does scout team and our team. You see those things and are like, 'man.’"
Jahns had only praise for the big men of Kentucky and just enjoyed being able to play. Jahns said playing with guys of that caliber after not even getting offered a scholarship to play college ball is an amazing opportunity and he knew he couldn't get a shot blocked.
"It was fun for sure," Jahns said. "They're the biggest and the best and I didn't even have offers to play in college, so it's a dream come true. Coach Keller is my biggest critic and he said, 'if [Noel] blocks your shot, you're coming back out.' So I focused on reversing the ball and getting Elston the ball."
After a game like Saturday’s, with career moments from Elston and Jahns, Elston said the whole team's confidence is up looking ahead to such matchups as Thursday’s against No. 10 Florida and the remainder of the conference schedule.
"We can play with anybody," Elston said. "You can just see a difference from the beginning of the season to where we are now."
Jahns said the team gained valuable experience in Lexington against Kentucky.
“Florida is a heck of a team,” Jahns said. “They have great guard-play and great post-play. I think it will give us a little bit of momentum going into the game on Thursday. We need to stay strong, keep rebounding and keep having a team effort all around.”