Basketball

Reaping the rewards of athletics and education

Warwick Valley grad Jason Boone’s decision to play for Division III NYU yields academic and athletic rewards

By SETH BERKMAN

NEW YORK, NY — In a world where young athletes are constantly scrutinized for making erroneous and selfish decisions, New York University student-athlete Jason Boone shows that the needle in a haystack can still be found.

Integrating studies, basketball practices and adjusting to life in New York City, Boone, a level-headed sophomore originally from Bronx, NY, has all the admirable traits that an ideal collegiate athlete should encompass. To him, life is more than just rebounds and fast breaks, yet it is also refreshing that at an academic center such as NYU, sports are still taken seriously by some of its participants.

Boone, a six-foot-six, 250-pound center was heavily recruited in both football and basketball coming out of Warwick Valley High School. Many Division I schools came knocking at his door, but many also felt that an extra year of conditioning at a prep school was necessary for his competition in D-I athletics. Knowing that he was primed for college on an intellectual level—even though he may not have been athletically—Boone chose to attend NYU, a Division III school in basketball, but among the best in the nation academically.

Sugar Loaf was where Boone first developed his skills on the gridiron and on the court. The transition for a kid moving from the rugged streets of the Bronx to the suburban laidback atmosphere of upstate New York was not as difficult as one might conceive. Despite living in a predominately Caucasian area, Boone, an African-American, was able to blend in quickly and become one of the most popular students at Warwick Valley High School.

Hearing Boone describe his family life, it becomes easier to comprehend how one student-athlete could be so successful.

His mother, a guidance counselor, and his father, a sales representative, always stressed when he was younger the importance of maintaining good values. That resonated in his mind quickly and he is currently trying to instill the same outlook to his younger brother Malcolm, who at 14 is at the age when Boone feels a positive, influential role model is most needed.

“I can rely on people and people can rely on me,” said Boone, who is willing to share his thoughts and experiences not only with family, but seemingly with anyone who would approach him to do so.

Perhaps his most influential family member though, was his uncle, a former star athlete himself. A tragic accident paralyzed him just before he was to attend college on an athletic scholarship, but that did not faze him from trying to pass on similar values that Boone’s parents also stressed. The passing of his uncle seriously affected Boone, but also inspired him.

When Boone utters the phrase that his uncle taught him “to live life every day to its fullest,” it resonates as more than just a cliché. Life at NYU has come with its bumps, such as adjusting to roommates who are not always truthful. “I hate people that lie,” said Boone, but it is clear that it doesn’t affect him for too long and he just continues to make the best of his transition into adulthood.

There were some changes in coaching styles from high school to college that Boone had to adjust to upon arriving last year at Washington Square. He describes NYU head basketball coach Joe Nesci as an “aggressive, in-your-face coach,” a contrast from the laid- back coaching in high school, but that he still has what it takes to “bring out the best” in the players.

On the court he still grabs boards as if he is the six-foot-six center who in high school towered over opponents, but Boone is humble enough to realize that he still needs to improve his foul shooting.

“We felt that Jason could help us out right away as a freshman because of his natural athletic ability. Jason is a gifted athlete with size, strength, and most importantly intelligence. He knows how to play the game; he is unselfish and disciplined. Jason has matured into a leader on and off the court. He leads by example,” said assistant coach Seth Peloso.

Boone mentions Shaquille O’Neal when asked to describe his presence in the paint, but he is also inspired by the ferocious athletic play of all-stars Kenyon Martin and Amare Stoudemire. After school, realizing that the NBA dream isn’t for everyone, Boone wishes to become a broadcaster, someone with the presence of a Stuart Scott.

But unlike his ESPN cohort, it seems Boone’s persona will make him more than just your modern day sports personality. No shtick or catch phrases needed, just the determination of a modest young man focused on preparing himself to take on everything that life sends his way.

Sports editor’s note: Jason Boone’s story speaks volumes about values. Many high school students are mesmerized by the appeal of large Division I programs and professional athletics. Blinded by the spotlight of fame and the allure of unimaginable wealth, student athletes’ dreams often center on the unlikely prospect that they will be among the chosen few. A fine education and the building of lifelong values are within the reach of all. Boone’s success affirms those goals as something all kids can strive for.

[Seth Berkman is an aspiring journalist from Howell, New Jersey.]

Contributed photo by New York University Sports Information
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