Alumni Feature: Jalen Jury

Jalen Jury had a unique opportunity to witness the aftermath of the UMHB men’s basketball team’s incredible run to the 2013 D-III National Championship from the perspective of someone coming from the college basketball world outside of D-III. 

The Dripping Springs, Texas native who played two years for the Cru, from 2013-2015, began his collegiate career at D-II Cal Baptist before returning to his home state. Coming out of high school, the 5’11 guard was rated as a Texas Round Ball Top 150 player, and led Dripping Springs to a first-round playoff win over Killeen, the No. 6 in 4A in the state, as a junior. He played in 46 games at CBU, before beginning his time in Belton during the 2013-14 season. While a Crusader, Jury, a sharpshooter who was especially reliable from three-point range, led the team in three-pointers made during the 2014-15 season (37) and in three-point shooting percentage (35.2%). 

Following graduation with a degree in business management, Jury served as UMHB’s Athletic Events Manager for three years. He currently works as an Athletics Superintendent for the City of Killeen. 

We sat down with Jury to talk about his career in Belton, his memories of playing under head coach Ken Deweese, and more in this alumni feature. 

What brought you to UMHB, as you were looking for a place to transfer to?

JJ: “I actually had a high school teammate from Dripping Springs named Connor Fuchs, who went to UMHB after high school. So when I was re-recruiting myself and looking for a place to go, I knew that I wanted to come back to Texas, because my mom and sister are here, and I wanted to be closer to home. Connor called me randomly one day to ask how the recruiting process was going. At that time, the only schools offering me were in Tennessee and Oklahoma. That was when Connor told me to check out UMHB. 

I’ll be honest, I tell people this all the time, I was not sure about D3. But Connor was like, ‘Man, whatever you think of D3, this isn’t it.’ I didn’t really have anything to lose, so I came down here, and when I got on campus, the first thing that caught my eye was the football stadium. I thought, ‘If that’s where football plays, I can’t wait to see where we play.’ I met Coach Deweese, and had been talking to Zane [Johnston[ for a few months. Met the team, saw the facilities and that was it.”

Jury (left) began his career at Cal Baptist

You came in the season after the Final Four run. What was that experience like for you? 

JJ: “I know for me, as a transfer, and for some of the guys who came in as freshmen that year after the natty run, I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t on the forefront of my minds. I think anyone that goes to UMHB, they go there to win.”

Playing for head coach Ken DeWeese, you played in a fast-paced type of offense that pushed the ball upcourt. I imagine for you as a player, that must have been a fun scheme to play in. 

JJ: “It definitely was. If you’re watching the game, it’s fast-paced and it seems like we had a lot of freedom, which we did. But what people didn’t see with Deweese’s teams was that you had to earn that trust for him to let you play that way, which is obviously done in the offseason and in practice. He puts you through it in practice, but he always used to say that he wanted us to be uncomfortable in practice, so we’d be comfortable in the game. If you could make it through his practices, the game was cake.”

How did you grow, both as a player and as a person, at UMHB?

JJ: “I grew easily more as a person even than as a player. A big part of it was coming to a place, where not only did I feel like my coaches cared about who I was, I knew they cared about me more than just the two years I’d be playing there. I still talk with both of my coaches. UMHB is home for a lot of reasons.”

Looking back on your two years with the Cru, is there any specific memory that still sticks out to you?

JJ: “There’s a bunch. Anything from early-morning practices, to hanging out with teammates, to going on road trips. Those are great memories to have. Obviously anytime you beat Hardin-Simmons that is a great feeling. They used to do a ‘White-Out’ games against HSU, where they’d hand out white shirts to everyone in the crowd. And we also had a silent night game where we hosted UT-Tyler and they were honoring Jerrell Freeman at halftime. So it was packed. The community showed up, and we got the win, and that whole time I’m thinking, ‘These are the games you play college basketball for’. This is one of the reasons you come to UMHB, to play in games like that. 

“That feeling of the preparation, the team bonding, is an irreplaceable feeling. You kind of realize it your first couple years after you’re done playing. There’s nothing in your life that can replace that feeling of going out and battling with your brothers, and representing a great university. I was so fortunate to represent a school like that. Those are special memories.

“My dad played in college, and I always remember hearing his stories growing up. I remember thinking, ‘I can’t wait to play in college so I can tell my kids and pass it down.’”

So I’m guessing that playing in college was always a goal of yours? 

JJ: “It definitely was. My parents had a funny way of motivating me. They supported me no doubt, but my dad was kind of a trash talker, so one of the things my dad would always say to me as a kid, if I had a good game in the YMCA league or AAU, I would start to get a big head a little bit, and he would say, ‘Hey, until you see your name in the paper, you can’t talk to me.’ Then when I got my name in the paper, he said, ‘Until you step on a college floor, you can’t talk to me.’ It was always that challenge. And they kept me humble. Even when I finished playing, I still had one semester left,

An interesting part of your story is that both you, and your wife, Destini, now the head girls basketball coach at Yoe High School, played basketball at UMHB. What was that like?

“To be honest, that was easily my favorite part of playing there, when I started dating her. Because at bigger schools, she would be on the road, and I’d be at home or the other way around. But [with the D3 setup], being able to watch her play then I got to go out there and do my thing [was very cool]. Just having someone who I cared that much about who could relate to me. If I had a bad game, she knew exactly what to say, because she wasn’t just a great supporter, but she knows the game. Hopefully I was able to do the same for her. That’s another great memory in itself, getting to watch her play for the three years that I did. 

“I joke that when her and I started dating, I started playing better basketball, which is 100% true. But she also helped me out in the classroom because she was a bookworm and always studying. Of course, I wanted to spend time with her, so the only way I could was to go study with her, because that’s what she was always doing. I made the dean’s list for the first time, which ended up being about three or four straight semesters. So she helped me in more ways than just basketball.”

Closing it out: On the success of athletics at UMHB: “You see the success of UMHB Athletics across the board, and that’s no coincidence. The coaches recruit talented players and guys and girls who can get the job done, but more so than that, they recruit good people.”

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