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Don’t begrudge Tahoe’s model success story

Michael Traum

How is it that our society has reached the point that it’s become fashionable, even acceptable, to bag on those who pursue or have achieved success?

Whether it’s a president or local athlete, we seem to find enjoyment in trying to cut them down, to find any fault in their activities so as to somehow elevate our own status.

It’s true that personalities, such as Dennis Rodman, often draw this negative press toward themselves usually due to some breach of a moral or ethical barrier.

But recently, the trend has crossed the line to the point where no one is off limits.

Take South Tahoe High graduate Jerod Haase, whose future may or may not be decided today in the NBA Draft.

The truth is that anyone who would bag on Jerod probably doesn’t make it past the headlines on the sports page and thus wouldn’t know that this guy is the ultimate example of what good family, quality basketball skills building and proper nurturing can produce.

Jerod emerged from a highly successful high school program as a virtual unknown. Cal-Berkeley was the only Division 1 program to offer him a basketball scholarship. Instead of complaining, Jerod rose to the challenge. After one year in the backcourt with Jason Kidd, nearly every school in the country wanted him, and because of a Cal coaching change, Jerod decided to move to Kansas.

“I remember when Jerod was interviewing for a (academic) scholarship, they asked him what his lifetime goal was. He said it was either to be an animal trainer at Seaworld or an NBA player,” said Tahoe coach Tom Orlich. “One of the individuals on the interview board told him his goals were too unrealistic, which goes to show you that no goal is unrealistic.”

Once at Kansas, Jerod didn’t just survive. He emerged as one of the top defensive players in the country along with backcourt buddy, Jacque Vaughn. And while the Jayhawks shot to the top of college basketball, with Jerod often drawing and handling the most threatening opposing player, Jerod and Vaughn culminated their college careers with spots on the All-American academic first team.

“Jerod was exactly what we had hoped he would be. He and Jacque are by far the best defensive guards I’ve ever put on the floor,” said Kansas coach Roy Williams. “It’s hard for me to compare kids. Asking that is like asking a parent which child is their favorite. Jerod is very unique and unlike anyone. People like him made this the easiest and most fun coaching job in America.”

Now a college graduate and with a potential NBA future, Jerod has been racking up more frequent flyer mileage some some airline pilots. Almost weekly he has been “commuting” from Lawrence to Tahoe, organizing and conducting basketball camps for children of all ages. He’s also in the process of marketing a book about his senior season at Kansas and does numerous appearances for the university.

“I don’t remember the last time I’ve had a whole day when I haven’t had to do something urgent. Every day, I have a list of four or five things that I have to do. I’ve probably watched less than one hour of television in the last two-and-a-half months,” Jerod said.

The end result of Jerod’s lifetime of dedication and hard work could pay off today with a selection in the draft. While many kids dream of the NBA, the 1-in-10,000 or 1-in-1,000,000 possibility of playing in the show is something that Jerod is staring square in the face.

And even if he doesn’t get drafted, Jerod will get the chance to prove himself at numerous pro camps.

Added Williams, “Any pro coach, if they do get in position to have him as a member of their team, is as lucky as they can possibly be. I think with each and every year the NBA has gotten more concerned about the quality of people they are bringing in. It’s only going to help to have people like Jerod. There are still question marks about his game, but all the other things he does on and off the basketball court has to make you forget about those question marks.”

So why is it that certain people look toward Jerod as an object of smirk.

I occasionally overhear conversations that criticize the “overboard” coverage. And even members of this staff have looked upon the successive Jerod stories as, “Oh, there goes another Haase feature.”

Are you guys serious? Granted, there are many success stories tucked within our smallish community. But do you folks really think that someone as uniquely gifted as Jerod deserves anything less?

And oddly, while this town struggles with the constant struggle of tourist promotion and image, isn’t it intriguing that something as seemingly harmless as a local kid turning pro could potentially draw attention to this town unlike any marketing scheme ever dreamed?

Let’s focus our energy on continual support for this once-in-a-lifetime kid and reserve our ridicule for those who truly deserve it – for Jerod’s future is something that we can all take pride in.


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