High school was never like this for Eastwood grad Jon Juergens.
Back then, the 6-foot-6 Juergens could mostly roam the perimeter and let 6-8 teammate Clay Rolf take care of things in the paint. Not so anymore.
Juergens, a senior at Otterbein University in Westerville, was the tallest player on the Cardinals’ roster. Second-year coach Todd Adrian, out of necessity, asked Juergens to play the post position.
Juergens didn’t even play for Otterbein as a freshman and sophomore. He went to school there to study business administration, not to play basketball, although he did play intramural ball his first two years.
“Back then we had our old coach, Dick Reynolds, and he was here a long time,” Juergens said. “When I came to school, I wasn’t looking to play basketball. My sophomore year he came up to me and a couple of the guys said, ‘You’re pretty good. You should come out for the team,’ but I wasn’t really feeling it at the time.”
|Otterbein's senior Jon Juergens
shoots a jumper in an Ohio
Athletic Conference game
against Ohio Northern. (Photo
by Ed Syguda, Otterbein
Juergens heard that the new coach, Adrian, was holding open tryouts prior to the 2012-13 season and he thought to himself, “Why not give it a shot? What do I have to lose?”
He said it took him a while to get back in the swing of things, having not played organized basketball for more than two years. Adrian kept him on the squad and Juergens played in all 27 games, earning three starts. He scored 15 points against Muskingum in January 2013.
“Playing against high school guys and playing in college is a lot different,” Juergens said. “It’s physical and fast paced, and it was a big adjustment at first. After a while I got settled in and figured out I could play with these guys. It’s been a great experience and I’m glad I got to do it these two years.”
The Otterbein University men's basketball team saw its season come to an end on the road, falling 95-74 to John Carroll University in the opening round of the Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament.
The Cardinals, seeded eighth, finish their schedule at 4-22 while the Blue Streaks, possessing the No. 5 seed in the bracket, improve to 16-10 and advanced to play at fourth-seeded Ohio Northern University.
Adrian said this year’s squad had a few players with minimal college basketball experience, and losing other players to injuries (concussion, broken jaw) did not help.
“This whole year was about developing our team and getting better,” Adrian said. “We have had quite a few injuries. About a month ago I thought our guys started to get it, and the game slowed down and we began to figure out what was going on at both ends of the court. We have learned how to compete, now we just have to learn how to win.”
The Cardinals were doing so with the 205-pound Juergens manning the paint. Adrian and Juergens both admit that Juergens is playing out of position, but he was doing what’s best for the team.
Juergens started in 22 of 26 games and averaged 5.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in 19.1 minutes a game. He had 10 blocks, seven assists and eight steals and shot 54.3 percent from the field and 58.3 percent from the free throw line.
“We’ve had to have him play the post position and it’s tough for him battling with big, strong kids from the OAC,” Adrian said. “He spends a lot of energy rebounding for us. He is our tallest kid and he’s playing out of position, but he’s done a great job and I’m really happy with him and his acceptance to help our team. He’s a great kid, a hard worker. He goes in the post and bangs with the big boys and he never complains. He’s really improved a lot.”
Juergens, 21, who is set to graduate in May, said he often feels like he’s in a wrestling match during games.
“These guys are all my height and sometimes outweigh me by 30-40 pounds,” he said. “It’s been hard. I can’t guard them one-on-one a lot of times and we’ve had to double-team in the post. That’s been one of our biggest issues defensively. You can’t take any possessions off. When you do, that’s when you get scored on.”
Juergens said he refuses to complain to the coaches or teammates. It’s just not his nature, something he learned from his father, Jim, and his grandfather, Curt. Jim Juergens still holds the high jump record (6-9) at Eastwood.
“My dad and my grandpa were good basketball players in their respective days and they taught me to never make excuses and just give it your all, no matter what,” Juergens said. “That’s something I’ve always kept close to me. I might not be as good as they were back in the day, but I try to live up to their expectations. I always keep that in the back of my head, and that just makes me want to play harder.”