Kurtz took unique path to make the roster

The best part about Jacob Kurtz's improbable story is that no one really knows how it started. He enrolled at Florida in the fall of 2010 as a student wanting to help out around the basketball program. For the first month of basketball practice, Kurtz sat on the second floor of the basketball facility and watched practice. He didn't touch a basketball or get on the court. He just watched.

And no one knew who he was or where he came from. A few days into Kurtz's time watching practice, Billy Donovan approached former assistant coach Larry Shyatt with a question.

"Larry, who is that that guy up there?"

Shyatt didn't have an answer. He thought Donovan knew. They went back to practice and didn't think anything else of it. Shyatt eventually had a conversation with Kurtz, who passed along his interest in being involved in the program.

To this day, Donovan still isn't sure how Kurtz got into the building.

Then came an opening for a bigger involvement. One of the Florida basketball managers decided to quit his position, and the coaching staff wanted to fill the position immediately. Their first thoughts went to the unidentified student who was sitting on the second floor of the facility.

Kurtz took the job and eventually started washing jerseys, wiping sweat off the floor and filling water bottles. One day at practice, the Gators were down multiple players to injuries and needed an extra member to play on the scout team. They threw a pair of shoes to Kurtz and told him to get on the floor. The evolution process continued as the Gators held walk-on tryouts, and Kurtz was the best one.

On Friday, Kurtz could be starting in Florida's exhibition game.

The roster is bogged down with injuries and suspensions, but as Florida Southern makes the trip to Gainesville for the exhibition game, Kurtz could be in line to see the most minutes of his career -- they just won't count in the official statistics.

"He's a really good player," Donovan said. "When I say that he's a really good player, he's not the most talented athletically or gifted guy. He's really smart and knows exactly what's going on, everything that we're doing. He's a really good passer. He's extremely reliable. He's got a very, very high basketball IQ, if not the highest on the team one of the highest on our team.

"I really, really trust him is the best thing I can say. I know if I put him out there he's not going to take shots he can't make. He's not going to do things he's not capable of doing. He's going to grab some offensive rebounds. He's going to be in the right spots defensively. He's going to a charge, he's going to do a lot of different things that make our team better."

Donovan said that Kurtz "is going to play quite a bit (Friday)" and he's "not even opposed to starting him."

The basketball IQ is what makes Kurtz valuable to the team, but the intelligence doesn't end on the court. He's a junior in his athletic eligibility, but now starting his senior year of academics at Florida, Kurtz continues pursuing his degree in mechanical engineering.

While some players focus only on studying the offensive and defensive schemes Donovan wants to run, Kurtz also spends his time off the court studying for classes like thermal heat labs and dynamics.

"It's not as bad as everyone makes it seem. I do OK. I'm alright in school," said Jacob Kurtz

Kurtz was an All-Conference honorable mention at Hagerty High School, leading the team with 13 points and nine rebounds as a senior. He had Division II offers out of high school, but all of them came from schools in the Northeast.

He didn't want to leave the state. He only wanted to be a Gator.

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