ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ERIC CLARK
When Tabor senior and Hillsboro native Jimmy Janzen leads a squad of undersized Bluejays onto the court at the NAIA Division II national tournament today at noon against Warner Southern, the No. 2 ranked team in the nation, no one will be happier to be there-despite the odds his team faces.
“I’m pumped,” Janzen said. “I’m so excited. I could hardly sleep after I found out we were going. I look at it with a totally different perspective.”
For Janzen the road to basketball success has been long and winding, but it’s been a positive experience nonetheless.
“It’s been up and down,” Janzen said. “I’m glad I stuck with it.”
The 6-4 senior averaged just under 10 points per game this season and, on several occasions, led the Bluejays in scoring.
But Janzen’s defense is the most important asset that he brings to the lineup, according to coach Don Brubacher.
“Jimmy’s been a really important part of our team,” Brubacher said. “He is one of the better defensive players I’ve coached at Tabor. He’s one of those rare players who is capable of defending players on the perimeter and he’s also a good post defender.”
While at Hillsboro High School, Janzen saw limited court time as a junior. During his senior season as a Trojan, Janzen was promoted to being a role player.
“I knew Jimmy when he was very young because he came to our basketball camps when he was in elementary school,” Brubacher said. “I always saw good athleticism and an ability to learn the game.
“Unfortunately, Jimmy ended up getting caught in a situation in high school where he didn’t play a lot of basketball for the local high school team, and he didn’t get involved in off-season basketball either.
“He came out of high school as a very inexperienced player with an awful lot of ability,” Brubacher said.
Fresh out of high school, Tabor was eyeing Janzen to play football for the Bluejays.
“I actually was recruited harder to play football for Tabor,” Janzen said. “But I always wanted to play basketball.”
Recruited by former coach Don Zimmerman, Janzen came to Tabor and played junior varsity his freshman year. He says his first year on campus was one of his most memorable.
“I had so much fun playing junior varsity my freshman year,” Janzen said. “There were a lot of freshman guys that year and we had a good time playing ball together.”
His second season turned out very different.
“I didn’t have a lot of fun my sophomore year,” Janzen said. “There wasn’t much leadership or team unity.”
Following his sophomore year, Janzen transferred to Kansas State to pursue a career in engineering.
In summer 2000, Brubacher convinced Janzen to come back to Tabor and play basketball again for the Bluejays.
“I missed basketball quite a bit (at Manhattan),” Janzen said. “I looked at it like it was an opportunity to play basketball for a couple more years, and I just didn’t want to regret anything.”
Janzen played last season on a Bluejay team that knocked off its first two opponents in the NAIA national tournament.
Today, Janzen and his teammates hope to repeat last season’s Cinderella-like tournament experience against Warner Southern.
“It’s been fun and I’m glad we got a chance to go to the tournament,” Janzen said.