For the last three years, Jerry McClearen’s basketball career has consisted of laundry, helping teammates stretch, carrying uniform bags, running errands for the coaches, helping film games, stats, and basically whatever needed to be done. Jerry has been the team’s Student Assistant for the last three years. Earlier this year Jerry approached Coach Gary Bailey about being able to suit up and play in a game. “He wanted to be a part of the team beyond his student assistant duties,” said Coach Bailey. “He wanted to play. He wanted to put on a uniform and be on the floor. This year we are carrying sixteen players and we always have to ask for more chairs on our bench at away games. Adding one more player sounded difficult but Jerry has been as dedicated and loyal as anyone that has been a part of our teams. He will always do whatever is asked of him. After making sure he was eligible, it was an easy decision for me and the staff. When we told him we didn’t want him to suit up for one game but instead for all of the games I think he was quite surprised.”
This past Tuesday night Jerry entered the game in the second half against Andrews University. The Cardinals were playing zone defense and the ball went into the post. Ryan Krombeen kicked the ball out to Jerry for a three and he let it fly. “I think the entire bench was already on their feet when the ball was in the air,” said Assistant Coach Dan George. “When the ball went through the net, you would have thought we won some type of championship.”
“As I watched Jerry run to the other end of the floor with that big smile on his face I knew we had made the right decision,” said Coach Bailey. “We constantly tell our players that this is just basketball and to keep what we are doing in perspective.” Jerry helped the team when he hit that shot. Although it was just another three points for the Tigers and it didn’t win the game at the buzzer or win a championship, it impacted a team and a school.
After the game Coach Bailey asked Jerry what he was thinking when the ball went through the net. Jerry said, “I was thinking that I better get back on defense and not celebrate or Coach will take me out.” Apparently he has been paying attention these last three years.
WAY TO GO JERRY!