I don’t mean to stray too far from Indiana Hoosiers, but a little bit of my background is necessary to understand where my personal passion for the Hoosier nation derives from. I moved to Bloomington, Indiana from Oxford, England when I was just shy of my eighth birthday. Fast forward only one month,and I had my first experience as an Indiana Hoosiers fan.
Jared Jeffries. Even as a second grader just fresh off the boat from across the pond, I understood the implications of my friend Amelia May’s announcement that her cousin was a Hoosier basketball player. When she uttered the name “Jarrod Jeffries”, you wouldn’t believe how many eight year olds were near heart attack status. And although Amelia was already one of my closest friends, she would have joined the ranks of any other elementary school friend that soon got lost in the blur of memories had she not had such a significant star connection. The day our teachers announced Jared would be as a guest speaker in our class was the day my tomboy dreams came true. I was going to see Jared dunk from my 8-ft basketball hoop on my cruddy elementary school playground courts.
Like any childhood memory, I remember little details of Jeffries’ visit. I do recall how outstandingly tall he appeared. I was in awe of the fact that his legs seemed taller than my entire body. I remember being so excited for my grow spurt so that I too could touch the rop. Surprise, that never happened.
Jeffries went on to be an 11th pick in the 2002 NBA draft when he left the Hoosiers after two years to play for the Wizards. In his last season of college basketball, he was awarded the Big Ten Most Valuable player. I met him the year prior before he led the team to the National championship game. Having graduated from one of our local high schools and being named Indiana Mr. Basketball during his senior year, he was already a star to Bloomington folk. I’d like to believe that my wishing him luck for his upcoming season had some kind of impact on the successes of the 2001-2002 season.