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Jerod’s fans have ample memories of their star

Steve Yingling

Jerod Haase’s fans – and there are many extending from South Lake Tahoe to Lawrence, Kan. – were captivated the first time they saw him play.

Watching him play basketball made you want to go run a marathon or parachute out of an airplane. Anything that made you test your human limits.

He did most of the things the prima donna players wouldn’t do: dive on the floor for loose balls, take a charge from a player five inches larger and 100 pounds heavier, pass up an open shot because someone was open closer to the basket or unselfishly he’d set a screen to free a teammate for a field-goal try.

“The things that separate the really good players from the really, really good players are very small. You need to stand out in some way. I wasn’t the most athletic guy, but I was able to outwork people,” Haase said.

Most of all, he approached each game with a never-ending supply of intensity and passion.

“His intensity, tenacity and the passion he played with, that’s what inspired you. He played with such reckless abandon, yet the second he stepped over that line back to the public arena, he had that boyish grin on his face. He had time for anybody that would ask for the time. He was a real role model for the kids,” said Dan Wilvers, an active youth coach and avid sports fan in the community.

Unfortunately, Haase’s rare attributes probably contributed to the 24-year-old’s retirement from the game.

“The way he played the game he really abused his body and such,” said Tom Orlich, who coached Haase at South Tahoe High from 1988-91. “It’s time for him to move on with his life.”

But if given a second chance at a basketball career, Haase wouldn’t change his playing style.

“If I played another way, I don’t think I’d enjoy it and I don’t think I’d be nearly as effective. Whatever I choose to do now, I’ll attack with the same style that I played the game,” Haase said.

Although Haase never reached his ultimate dream of playing in the National Basketball Association – he was cut by the Chicago Bulls and Vancouver Grizzlies during summer camp last year – many of his supporters believe he should be in the NBA today.

“I thought he could play in the NBA and would have been a great addition to it. It’s unfortunate that it didn’t happen,” Orlich said. “It affected his college game the way the NBA perceived him, and he was hurt so much in college that it also affected his game.”

If his retirement from the game is final, there are many moments his South Lake Tahoe, Calif. and Kansas fans will remember. Some samplings include:

— His 47-point outburst for South Tahoe High in 1991, a record that still stands.

— His unforgettable three-defender-splitting behind-the-back dribble at midcourt, freeing him to spot Len Costa underneath the basket for a game-winning three-point play in the final seconds as the Vikings incredibly rallied by Valley 66-65 in the 1991 Nevada state semifinals.

— His clutch three-point basket with 1:15 remaining in overtime, putting the Vikings ahead for good, 66-65, in the Vikings’ 1992 state championship victory over Western of Las Vegas.

— As a Cal freshman, his courageous 16-point, five-assist performance against 23rd-ranked UCLA, two days after his father, Gary, passed away as the Golden Bears obliterated the Bruins 104-82 at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles on Jan. 24, 1993.

— A 13-point performance, including three treys, which helped Cal upset two-time defending national champion Duke, 82-77, in the second round of the Midwest Regionals on March 20, 1993.

— As a Kansas junior, his pressured-packed three-pointer with 35.9 seconds remaining, which propelled the Jayhawks to an 83-80 win over Arizona and into the Elite Eight of the 1996 NCAA Tournament.

— Unselfishly, an injured Haase cheered on the Jayhawks from the bench as they were eliminated from the 1997 NCAA Tournament by Arizona, concluding his solid college career.

Of course, maybe Haase’s wrist will make a miraculous recovery and the pain will disappear, precipitating a comeback and more memories.

“I hate to look that far down the line,” Haase said. “When I decided to hang it up and decided to do something else, it’s a final decision. But you never know, maybe the wrist will start feeling better, and I’ll get an obscure shot of playing somewhere and it turns into something else.”

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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