Dublin senior hoping for three more wins before medical school
By BRAD KEITH
FRISCO (March 22, 2016) — The Tarleton experience hasn’t exactly been what Jakob Damstra was expecting.
It’s been more.
Because it’s been elite.
Damstra, the only Erath County product on the Tarleton State men’s basketball team, is more than just a basketball player. He’s a pre-med major, and as a two-time Lone Star Conference Academic Player of the Year, appears to have a bright future away from the hardwood.
“It’s been more than I ever could have imagined. When I came here I knew they had been successful in years past, but since I’ve been here, especially these last two years, it’s been crazy,” said Damstra. “This year there were times it looked like we might not even make the tournament, and now we’re back in the Elite Eight. All four years have been a good experience, but the last two have been especially great.”
Tarleton (24-8) is back in the Division II Elite Eight for the fourth time in 12 years and is the only team back from last season. The Texans face Augustana (SD) (31-2) at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the third of four quarterfinal games at Dr Pepper Arena.
Damstra, a 6-9 center, isn’t a starter for the Texans, and he doesn’t see the court every game. But he’s made impacts in big games throughout his career, like when he came in for foul-plagued tournament MVP Romond Jenkins in the first half of a South Central Region quarterfinal and turned three offensive rebounds into second-chance buckets. Take that away and it’s a single-digit game at the break. Instead, Tarleton was in control with a 35-20 lead in what would turn into an 83-61 rout of Colorado School of Mines.
“You saw there the energy and work ethic Jakob brings to the floor when we need him,” said Tarleton head coach Lonn Reisman. “The baskets he made in that game, those weren’t baskets that were made because of talent. Those were baskets that were made because he was working hard, getting in position, battling for rebounds and going up strong.”
Damstra didn’t score but also came in and made a strong defensive impact against Lubbock Christian then Angelo State in the semifinals and championship of the regional, helping Tarleton defeat ASU in the final for the second straight year.
It just proves Damstra’s point that he doesn’t need the ball to help the team win.
“When I go in I just play my hardest and try to do everything I can to help the team. If that’s scoring points, that’s fine. If it’s hustle plays and rebounds, that’s fine, too,” said the Dubliner, dubbed by some of his most intimate fans as the “Flying Dutchman from Dublin (Texas, not Ireland, though Damstra is Dutch). “As long as I’m being productive for the team and helping us be successful, I’m happy. I don’t need the ball in my hands, I just want to win.”
Damstra is winning in more than basketball, too.
“As basketball ends, I’m just focused on getting into medical school. Right now, I’m studying for the MCAT just trying to get past that,” Damstra said. “I’d like to find a job somewhere here in the area in the mean time and gain some more experience for my resume.”
He knows he’ll have backers long after he hangs up his Tarleton jersey for the last time, though he hopes that moment does not come until following the national championship game Saturday.
“I love being the local guy, even though some of the guys on the team make fun of me for it,” Damstra said with a laugh. “Everywhere I go, whether it’s H-E-B or Walmart here in Stephenville or if I’m back home in Dublin at Granny Clark’s somebody knows me and tells me how much they enjoy seeing me play and are supporting me.”