In this May 6, 2016 photo, Jacob Calloway, a 2015 graduate of Thunder Mountain High School, is applauded by his parents, Virginia and Roger Calloway, right, and TMHS basketball coach John Blasco, right, after signing to play Division 1 basketball for Southern Utah University. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

In this May 6, 2016 photo, Jacob Calloway, a 2015 graduate of Thunder Mountain High School, is applauded by his parents, Virginia and Roger Calloway, right, and TMHS basketball coach John Blasco, right, after signing to play Division 1 basketball for Southern Utah University. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Checking in with Jacob Calloway

Thunder Mountain grad talks D. I hoops

The list of Alaskans on a Division I college basketball roster is short.

When put on the spot, Juneau’s Jacob Calloway, 21, can think of three others besides himself who are on it: Brandon Huffman at North Carolina, Kamaka Hepa at Texas and Nathan Fromm at Albany. Calloway, a junior at Southern Utah University, understands he’s living a dream most high school hoopers — Alaskan or not — will never experience. Last season was an especially fun ride for the 6-foot-8 small forward. Calloway started in nine games for the 13-19 Thunderbirds and played especially well against past national champions like UNLV (14 points, four rebounds) and Michigan State (12 points, five rebounds, two steals).

The Empire caught up on the phone on Friday with Calloway from Cedar City, Utah, where he was finishing his first week of fall classes. Calloway, who starred on Thunder Mountain High School’s basketball team from 2012-2015, talks about last season, playing Michigan State on the road and what his hopes are for this season. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Juneau Empire: You scored 12 points last December against Michigan State, can you talk about that experience?

Jacob Calloway: We were playing pretty good, we had just beaten Long Beach State who’s generally pretty good. We were going into that game and I was starting that game. The first play of the game they passed me the ball on the wing and Jaren Jackson was guarding me — I think he was the No. 4 pick this year (in the NBA Draft) — but he was guarding me and I jab-stepped him and I was like, ‘This guy’s really not going to get that much more up on me.’ And I shot a three and made it, first shot of the game, pretty cool feeling. That got my confidence going and I made three or four more, (was) getting some rebounds and playing good defense. It was a pretty fun game though. It was pretty crazy playing in front of 15,000 people like that. It’s like, half the population of Juneau.

Empire: Who are the opponents that draw the most fans when you’re playing at home and what are those games like?

Calloway: Weber State’s a big one because they’re kind of like our in-state rival right now. Last year when we played Long Beach State there were a lot of people there because we were on a run, I think we got ranked top-100 going into that game in the country and a lot of people wanted to see what we could do so they came and watched that game. It was pretty fun. A lot of it’s kind of based on how we’re doing in the season. If we’re winning a lot, we’re going to get a lot of fans. But if we’re not, no one’s going to want to watch a loser.

Empire: How would you sum up your sophomore season?

Calloway: It was a fun sophomore year. We played against a lot of big opponents like Iowa, Michigan State, Oregon State, UNLV, Boise State. I don’t think we won any of them but all those games — besides Boise State and Iowa — were close games that really showed us that we know we can get there.

Empire: What were you hoping to elevate in your game in the offseason to prepare for the upcoming year?

Calloway: Just tuning in my shooting; make sure I can really shoot the ball next year because that’s kind of the role my team’s told me they need me to do. And rebounding really well and just being a playmaker. My role from last year to this year is supposed to be up even more so I’m just maximizing things I’m good at and getting better at the things I was not as good at.

Empire: What would be a successful year for you guys?

Calloway: Our coach has a big philosophy where he doesn’t really want to talk about goals. He wants to do the work and then we’d be good enough that we can do what we want to do type thing. I think a good season for us would be 20-plus wins and making it to the NCAA tournament. I feel like we really can do that. I mean every team, every player in the country is going to say that about their team. No one’s ever going to come in here and be like, ‘Yeah, if we can just at least win a few games then it will be a good season.’ I just feel like we’ll be good. We have a lot of good players and I think if we just focus on what we need to focus on, we’ll be fine.


• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or nainsworth@juneauempire.com. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.


More in Sports

Juneau-Douglas High School head basketball coach Robert Casperson gets his hair cut on stage by senior Treyson Ramos during a school assembly Wednesday, holding up his end of the bargain that he would shave his head if his team won the state championship title. Casperson said he trusted the 2016 team's senior class a lot.
Even in unprecedented times, elements of Region V basketball remain

For some, the Region V tournament is the last time they put on a jersey. For others it’s a catalyst.

Courtesy Photo / Heather Holt
Thunder Mountain High School girls basketball seniors stand at mid-court prior to a Saturday game against Mt. Edgecumbe High School. TMHS won the game 55-34.
Thunder Mountain High School girls basketball seniors stand at mid-court prior to a 12:30 p.m. Saturday game against Mt. Edgecumbe High School. TMHS won the game 55-34. (Courtesy Photo / Heather Holt)
Big wins, tough losses mark busy week

Juneau teams play packed week of games as regular season winds down.

Courtesy photo / Heather Holt
The Thunder Mountain High School varsity boys beat Sitka in an away game Feb. 19.
Juneau basketball teams have solid weekend of games, home and away

JDHS boys continue their undefeated streak, now 12-0

Meki Toutaoilepo rises up for a shot against Mt. Edgecumbe High School. Thunder Mountain High School won makes against MEHS on Wednesday and Thursday. (Courtesy Photo / Heather Holt)
Juneau hoops teams notch six wins in stuffed week

JDHS boys, girls and TMHS boys all notch victories.

(Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Coach’s Comments: JDHS boys basketball

Submitted by Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé boys basketball coach Robert Casperson.

Youths play sandlot baseball at Miller Field in the summer of 2020. After COVID-19 sidelined a competitive season last summer, local players gathered to play sandlot ball. Thanks to a city-approved COVID-19 mitigation plan, the Gastineau Channel Baseball and Softball Leagues are planning a full, competitive season this summer. Registration is now open for players between the ages of 5 and 16. (Courtesy Photo / Geoff Kirsch)
Take me out to the ball game

The Gastineau Channel Baseball and Softball Leagues expect a full, competitive season.

Thunder Mountain High School player Mackenzie Gray, left, competes with Mt. Edgecumbe High Schoool in Sitka on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021. (Sitka Sentinel / James Poulson)
TMHS girls play tough defense in trio of games

The Lady Falcons were the only basketball team who got to compete this weekend.

In this March 2018 photo,  Aliy Zirkle runs her team during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage, Alaska. There has been another dramatic change to the world’s most famous sled dog race this year because of the pandemic, with officials announcing Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, that the ceremonial start has been canceled. (AP Photo / Michael Dinneen)
Iditarod drops ceremonial start over crowd-size concerns

Officials announced Friday that the ceremonial start has been canceled.

Juneau-Douglas High School Yadaa.at Kalé player Tias Carney shoots during a game against Thunder Mountain High School on Jan. 30, 2021. (Courtesy photo / Lexie Razor)
JDHS boys and girls outplay TMHS over weekend of games

The crosstown rivalry is settled until the next games.

Juneau-Douglas High School Yadaa.at Kalé senior Cooper Kriegmont shoots during a basketball game against Ketchikan on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. Kriegmont scored his 1,000th point during the two-game series. (Courtesy photo / Lexie Razor)
Shoot well, shoot often: JDHS player crosses 1,000-point mark

The senior credited his coaches and his teammates for the opportunities

Juneau-Douglas High School Yadaa.at Kalé senior Cooper Kriegmont shoots during a basketball game against Ketchikan on Friday,  Jan. 22, 2021. Kriegmont scored his 1,000th point during the two-game series. (Courtesy photo / Lexie Razor)
Good to be back: Short run up leads to mixed results against Ketchikan

“It doesn’t matter what the outcomes were,.”

High school basketball will see the boys Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé and the girls of Thunder Mountain High School square off against Ketchikan beginning Jan. 22, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Back in battery: JDHS coach talks return of boy’s team to court

JDHS’ boys team and THMS girls will play Ketchikan beginning Friday evening.