Before asking why you may see these sights, maybe the first question should (jokingly) be towards JSU strength and conditioning coach Gavin Hallford and if helping move trees counts as their workout for the day.
The reason that should be the first question is simple — because asking why JSU student-athletes are helping is pointless.
Why? Just continue to look around.
There’s JSU head football coach John Grass with a chainsaw. JSU softball assistant coaches Mark Wisner and Julie Boland working on a patch of land. JSU head volleyball coach Terry Gamble, his son Kyle and daughter-in-law Reagan were all helping. JSU associate athletic director for media relations Josh Underwood is there, too.
Are you beginning to see the picture here?
The reason there are so many JSU student-athletes helping around campus is because the desire to help starts at the top; it starts with those with great influence.
There’s a reason Malcolm Drumwright and Mohamed Abuarisha came straight home from last week’s College Basketball Invitational semifinal game and immediately went to work. There’s a reason Jamie McGuire, Cadi Oliver, Stephanie Lewis and Sallie Beth Burch dropped what they were doing elsewhere around the state to come back home to help.
Because it’s what they were taught to do. Helping those in need has become a staple of what Jacksonville State University is all about.
For years now, the communities surrounding Jacksonville State have traveled to support these student-athletes during sporting events, so it should come as no surprise that these same players … humans … are working around the city to help give back, to help rebuild but most importantly to help show they care.
Think back to JSU softball’s annual Fan Day. Head coach Jana McGinnis rarely does much talking at the event, but when she does, there’s always a ringing statement that’s forever imprinted on minds:
“I hope you (the fans) will consider us as your favorite team because this is home and we are always here for you.”
It may take several months — maybe a year even — before the restorations on Pete Mathews Coliseum, University Field and Rudy Abbott Field are completed, so when the football players are lined up to kick off the 2018 season, just remember to be sure to be at Burgess-Snow Field at JSU Stadium to cheer on those guys who came to help when you needed it most.
Malcolm Drumwright warms up before Jacksonville State’s NCAA Tournament game against Louisville last March. (Matt Reynolds/JSU)
Daniel Mayes, Sports Editor
Forty-nine seconds left. Gamecocks clinging to a five-point lead over OVC juggernaut Belmont. Malcolm Drumwright, as he has so many times in a Gamecock uniform, rose up and released a huge shot. As has happened so many times in Drumwright’s career, swish. JSU 75, Belmont 67. Bruins cannot recover. Jacksonville State wins.
That shot was Malcolm Drumwright’s last in Pete Mathews Coliseum. The senior, who has been through so much team turmoil and spectacular success in his four-year career in Jacksonville, knew his team needed him to make a play in his last home game, on senior night, with tournament seeding on the line, and he delivered.
“I just try to stay confident. I just shoot the shots I normally shoot.” That’s what Malcolm told me just hours before that shot when I asked him about his mindset in game-ending situations. Drumwright is such a calm, quiet, confident guy in general, it is easy to see why shots like this don’t faze him.
Malcolm Drumwright grew up the youngest of four brothers in Rancho Cucamonga, California, a suburban city some thirty miles from downtown Los Angeles.
In his youth, Malcolm says his basketball career didn’t exactly start off on the right foot.
“I wasn’t that good as a kid I don’t think, but I kept working. If you put in work, good stuff happens.”
Drumwright’s hard work paid off, and, in his last year at Rancho Cucamonga High School, he averaged 20.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 steals. However, Drumwright didn’t yet have any scholarship offers to play basketball, and he attended LA College Prep.
That’s when he got a phone call from former Jacksonville State assistant coach Eugene Harris.
“That’s when I first really heard of JSU,” Drumwright said. “I thought I was in Florida at first, I had to look it up.”
Jacksonville State eventually offered Drumwright a scholarship, and he decided to take it.
“It was my only offer, so I’m going to take it. I’ve got to make the most of every opportunity.”
Drumwright arrived on campus for the 2014-15 season ready to reward Jacksonville State for giving him that opportunity.
Malcolm Drumwright developed into a floor general during his time at JSU. (Katy Nowak/JSU)
Drumwright saw his role slowly grow as he proved himself as a freshman. He came on strong as the season rolled along toward conference play, finally earning a starting job for six of the final seven games of the season.
The Gamecocks, however, didn’t enjoy much team success. Jacksonville State finished just 12-19, including a 5-11 mark in the OVC. Malcolm, however, headed into his sophomore season ready to prove himself, and, on an individual level, he did.
Drumwright upped his scoring from six points per game to 14, but the Gamecocks’ record nose-dived even further, plunging to 8-23. Malcolm injured his shoulder against Belmont late in the season and missed the final seven games, all of which Jacksonville State lost.
Malcolm says it was tough playing through those first two seasons with such a poor team performance, but he never thought of leaving.
“It was rough, but we stayed the course, and I knew that anything could happen. I was going to stay regardless.”
Enter Ray Harper.
Jacksonville State let Coach James Green go after 2015-16, and in came the coach that had national championships, albeit on the Division II level, on his resumé. Harper helped instill a winning culture at Jacksonville State, and Malcolm Drumwright spearheaded the revolution for the Gamecocks on the court.
Drumwright’s scoring took a slight dip to 12.5 points per game, but he became a steady, consistnent force for the Gamecocks, leading them in scoring, but also setting the table for his teammates as a point guard, and team leader should.
Drumwright was named MVP of the OVC Tournament last season. (Katy Nowak/JSU)
Under Harper and Drumwright, Jacksonville State led a program turnaround and a regular season finish of 17-14.
Drumwright says that the rough beginning to his career in a JSU uniform made the success of the 2016-17 season even sweeter. “We weren’t so good to begin with, and then we just kept building and kept growing. It felt good. It felt really good.”
The story, if had ended there, would have been nice. A team that had been toiling in the doldrums of mediocrity for years has a good, winning season.
However, as JSU fans well know, Drumwright and the Gamecocks weren’t done yet.
Jacksonville State was picked to finish 12th out of 12 teams at OVC Media Day prior to the 2016-17 season, but, when the Gamecocks rolled into Nashville for the OVC tournament last March, they were on a mission to prove that claim ridiculous. An opening win over Southeast Missouri, a shocking upset over Belmont in the Semis and a takedown of UT Martin in the Finals later, and the Gamecocks stood as OVC Champions. Drumwright was named Tournament MVP, and the University was set to make its first appearance in “The Big Dance” itself, the NCAA Tournament.
Drumwright celebrates JSU’s conference title with former Gamecock Greg Tucker. (Katy Nowak/JSU)
The Gamecocks fell to Louisville in their opening game, but they acquitted themselves well.
Drumwright, as calmly and stoically as he always does, put up 12 points and six assists as the Gamecocks’ spectacular season ended.
“It was crazy. I never thought it would happen, but it was fun,” Drumwright said of the tournament run.
I’m sure that statement would describe the feelings of all JSU fans about the 2016-17 basketball season.
Fast forward to the present. Through another steady season as a Senior, Malcolm has lead a more inexperienced, yet deeper squad back to the OVC tournament. It’s been a season of ups and downs in Jacksonville, but Drumwright thinks the Gamecocks are capable of returning to the heights of last season.
“I feel confident. If we play the best we can and as hard as we can, we can beat anybody.”
Meanwhile, Drumwright has etched himself in the record books of Jacksonville State and cemented his legacy as one of the greatest Gamecocks to ever take the court in Pete Mathews.
Earlier this season, he broke the 1000 points scored barrier, and he’ll finish first in Gamecock Division I history in games played and started and second in career scoring.
He’ll be remembered as the player that led Jacksonville State to their first NCAA Tournament, and, if Malcolm has anything to say about it in the tournament this weekend, maybe their second.
Pretty good for a kid with only one scholarship offer.
Malcolm Drumwright has been through it all during the last four years.
At a school, not only 2,000 miles away from his home in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., but also a football powerhouse trying to establish itself inside a basketball conference, Drumwright has helped do what many believe would be impossible — bring relevance to the Gamecock men’s basketball program.
The seed for success was planted years ago, though.
During the 2014-15 season, Drumwright, then a true freshman appeared in 30 of 31 games. He averaged 21.8 minutes in those 30 games. But the biggest indicator came when he started six of the final seven games. Drumwright played 34 of 40 minutes and had eight points, seven assists and four steals in a 72-70 win over conference powerhouse Belmont.
That performance carried over to the 2015-16 season, where Drumwright started 24 games before an injury halted his season. However, he scored in double figures in 18 games during the season, including a career-high 30-point game against Jacksonville University.
His teammates Erik Durham and Greg Tucker reached the same scoring mark later in the season.
Then his junior season came. That’s when Drumwright took his play for another level.
In 34 games, Drumwright averaged 12.5 points, 3.9 assists, 2.4 rebounds. He was one of three JSU players to average 30-or-more minutes a game and dished out a team-high 129 assists. He became the first Gamecock to dish out 10-or-more assists in a game when he had a 14-point, 12-assist double-double against Mississippi Valley State. He became the first Gamecock to win when Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Most Valuable Player award when JSU knocked off UT Martin 66-55 to win its third game in four days to claim the first conference championship in men’s basketball.
Against Louisville in the NCAA Division I Tournament, Drumwright scored 12 points, dished out six assists and brought down two rebounds in 36 minutes.
His school was known. His name was known. Basketball was known.
Before the start of the 2017-18 season, Drumwright was one of two Gamecocks (Norbertas Giga the other) to be named as a preseason All-OVC player. But the accomplishments didn’t stop for the senior. He’s set the JSU Division I record for career starts and flying up the school’s Division I scoring list as quickly as his school turned into a conference title contender under head coach Ray Harper.
Through all the statistics, the scores, games won, and games lost, the thing that separates Drumwright from the rest is simple — how he handles himself.
No matter the end result of games, Drumwright has always been gracious when it comes to media availability. He’s always kept his cool and never said anything negative when a call on the court goes against him — he just walks away from the situation without saying a word.
With everything going on in today’s world, being able to know when to remain silent and not escalate a situation is key.
With Drumwright’s career in a Jacksonville State uniform coming to a close in the coming weeks, one can’t help but appreciate how much he’s done to help turn around the program and become the face and captain of a resurgence.
The 4-seed Jacksonville State Gamecocks shocked top seed Belmont 65-59 in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Semifinal on Friday night to earn a spot in the OVC Finals against Tennessee Martin.
The Gamecocks now stand just one win away from an OVC Championship that would punch their ticket to the program’s first ever NCAA Tournament appearance.
“That is one heck of a basketball team we just beat… we just made plays. We wouldn’t be denied,” JSU Coach Ray Harper said after the game.
Jacksonville State’s dynamic duo at the two guard positions, Malcolm Drumwright and Greg Tucker, were the driving force behind the Gamecocks’ upset bid.
Drumwright finished the game with 21 points to lead all scorers, and Tucker added 18 and six assists and scored 11 of his points in the second half alone to carry the Gamecocks across the finish line victorious.
Gamecocks and Bruins traded baskets early on as the two squads tried to gain their footing in the game, but a 13-0 run from JSU, gave the Gamecocks a 31-20 lead with 2:32 remaining in the first.
Belmont, however, proved that a team that dominated the OVC during the regular season to the tune of a 15-1 conference record would not go away easily.
A Dylan Windler 3-pointer broke the Bruins long scoring drought, and then four points from two-time OVC Player of the Year Evan Bradds followed by a 3-point play from Taylor Barnette cut JSU’s halftime lead to just 31-30.
Drumwright was on fire in the first half for the Gamecocks, scoring 11 points on 5-5 shooting in the first frame, and Norbertas Giga added seven of his own.
Giga also played a huge role in the JSU triumph.
The junior finished 11 points and seven rebounds and also played lockdown defense on Belmont’s Bradds despite playing through most of the second half with three personal fouls.
A Belmont 3-pointer tied the game at 33-33 just over a minute into the second half, but a jumper from Giga at the 18:02 mark gave the Gamecocks a lead they would never relinquish.
Although the Bruins never overcame JSU’s lead, they were not easily dispatched.
The Gamecock lead remained a single-digit margin throughout the second half, never growing larger than nine.
Belmont cut the JSU edge to four late in the game, but Drumwright drained a dagger from downtown to make the score 62-55.
The Bruins again cut the lead down to three with just 0:45 remaining after a Bradds basket and a steal and dunk from Windler.
However, a game tying attempt from Barnette missed the mark, and, on the Bruins’ next possession, a steal from Drumwright followed by two huge free throws iced the game at 65-59.
“We left Jacksonville with one thing in mind,” Coach Harper said. “We didn’t come here to play one game; we came here on a mission.”
Jacksonville State can accomplish that mission, capturing an OVC Championship, Saturday night at 7 p.m. in Nashville, when JSU will battle 2-seed UT Martin in the OVC Tournament finals.
Check out highlights of the game and JSU’s postgame presser below:
The Jacksonville State Men’s Basketball team improved their winning streak to three games on Saturday with a 55-50 win over the Tennessee State Tigers.
The win improved the Gamecocks to 12-17 overall, 5-9 in OVC play and 11-3 at home. The Tigers dropped to 5-23 overall and 2-11 in the conference.
D.J. Felder led all scorers for the Gamecocks with 15 points. Jamal Hunter had 13, while Darion Rackley and Avery Moore contributed eight points each.
Jacksonville State started off the evening on a 5-0 run before Tennessee State got on the board with a three making it 5-3 with 18:35 left in the first half. The Tigers would tie the contest 5-5 before both teams would exchange baskets. With 15:38 to go in the first half, Moore sank a three for the Gamecocks to take a 10-7 advantage.
Both teams would continue to swap baskets before the Tigers would go on a run to eventually take the 22-20 lead with 6:29 to go in the first half. Jacksonville State ended the half on a 4-0 run to take the lead into the half, 28-27.
The second half scoring was started off by Felder for the Gamecocks as he hit two free throws with 19:22 remaining in the game to give the Gamecocks a 30-27 lead. The Gamecocks increased their lead to 32-27 before the Tigers began to make a push. Jacksonville State increased their lead to 37-31 with 15:51 remaining.
Tennessee State would go on another run to tie the game 37-37 with 12:54 left. Both teams would continue to exchange baskets until Jacksonville State took the lead for good with a free throw by Malcolm Drumwright at the 1:47 mark. The Gamecocks would go on to take a 55-50 victory.
The Gamecocks will take their three game winning streak on the road at Eastern Kentucky this Thursday. Tip off is scheduled for 6 p.m.