"I love to jump." After talking with Jay Sherrell for thirty minutes, these four words will be what I remember the most. Perhaps his prolonged injury, which hampered his jumping ability, gives him his fondness for leaping. About that injury…
The Spanaway, WA, native started feeling pain in his leg. X-Rays showed a stress fracture in his tibia, so he began taking it easy per the doctor's orders. But the pain refused to go away. Almost a year later an MRI revealed that there was a hole in the lining ("like Saran Wrap," Jay describes) of a muscle in his leg, plus there was tendonitis. He could have surgery to repair the muscle-lining but that would take another long period of recovery. The tendonitis, the doctors confirmed, would likely be with him for the rest of his life. It's all very complicated but the bottom line for the 6'8" Sherrell is, he had to redshirt and spend a year riding a bike as his only means of exercise, to help heal his leg.
So, at the beginning of the 2000-2001 season, Jay describes himself as fifty percent. "The first time I played 15 minutes and I was huffin' and puffin'." By season's end, Jay estimates that he was at about eighty-five percent. Slowly but surely, Sherrell was mending. The hole in his muscle-lining remained and will always be there, he figures. But he wears a special wrap/brace that soothes the tendonitis and allows him to play all-out now. "I've been playing full-out the last two months."
Now at ninety-five percent, Jay is ready to show Zag fans why Boston College, Idaho, UC-Santa Barbara, Army, all of the WCC schools and more wanted him to play for them. He figures by the time the Illinois game rolls around, he'll be at one-hundred percent, and that has him pumped about the coming season.
Born and raised in the same house in Spanaway, Jay's father put a basketball in his son's hands during second-grade. Later, Sherrell ran Cross Country and played baseball, but after playing AAU basketball starting in eighth-grade, he knew hoops was his calling. Playing for Friends of Hoops (FOH) in Seattle during his sophomore and junior years afforded him the opportunity to play with and against the best. One guy he played against was Casey Calvary, and the former star Zag left a great impression on Jay. Later, it would play a part in Sherrell's decision to attend Gonzaga.
His strength on the court is his rebounding. "I just love to get in there and jump and bang for that ball." Jay says he likes to play with his back to the basket and score on hook shots and turnaround jumpers. He's perfecting his shooting touch, gradually expending his range outwards toward the three-point line. He's money at fifteen feet so far. Just a few more feet and he'll achieve his goal.
Timed at 5:47 in the mile during Gonzaga's annual decathlon, Jay's hard "gym rat" work ethic has been paying off. He's polishing his game and lifting hard. Known as "Big Daddy" by his team mates, Sherrell feels this will be his year to prove himself.
Sherrell says the biggest thrills for the team were the Virginia win, the home Pepperdine game that clinched the WCC title ("It got us all pumped up for the tournament"), the WCC Tournament win over Santa Clara, and for him personally, the Idaho and St. Mary's game, especially hauling down seven or eight rebounds against Idaho, a team that recruited him heavily.
Jay says fellow big man Cory Violette is so much more mature and muscled than last year. According to Jay, Zach Gourde is leaner, a bit lighter and noticeably quicker than ever before. And as for the new post players, he thinks Dustin Villepigue will be great someday and Ronny Turiaf will be comparable to Mario Kasun after one year at GU. Needless to say, Sherrell knows he has his work cut out for him, but not even he knows just how much untapped talent and ability has been pent-up during his near-two years of nagging injuries.
Showtime is about to begin.
The only Zag to have his very own cheer club, "The Jay Love Club," Sherrell says the coaching staff has been patient, understanding and supportive. Very likeable, the modest big man says he knows one of the girls and they just started up the club as something fun to do. Jay shrugged it off but he did get an autograph request for a birthday gift and appreciates the thought and support. "They're real good girls who love Gonzaga basketball."
Asked if he thinks this year's team will be as good or better than last year's team and Jay thinks it will at least be as good. "Casey and Mark were the backbone of that team but we have others who will fill that role now, and we've all been playing together for quite a while." Dan Dickau, Alex Hernandez, Anthony "A-Train" Reason and Zach Gourde are names that came up as leaders.
In the classroom, Sherrell is majoring in Business Management and has kept a 3.0 GPA. Outside the classroom and off the court, Jay enjoy golf, movies and listening to all kinds of music ("whatever is good"), including Country.
"I like to jump." Here's to the first opposing coach who wants to know who that big blond guy is who is killing ‘em on the boards.