Former Thunder Mountain High School basketball star Jacob Calloway signed with Southern Utah University on Friday, making school history as the first Falcon to sign with a Division I basketball program.
Calloway is the first Juneau basketball player to go to a DI school since JDHS’ Will Egolf signed to Bradley in 2007.
At 6-foot-8, Calloway had interest from other major programs including Wichita State, Washington State and Texas Christian University, but chose Southern Utah because of the opportunities it afforded him. That and it felt like home.
“The team has a family feel, I just felt like I belonged there,” Calloway said. “At workouts with other schools you kind of felt like they didn’t care too much. With Southern Utah, the coaches and players made me feel like I would be an important part of the team.”
Calloway will join newly-hired coach Todd Simon at SUU, who’s fresh off a successful run as University of Las Vegas Nevada’s interim head coach. Simon plans to use Calloway as a small forward, taking advantage of his exceptional ball-handling for a player his size, he said on SUU’s website.
“Basketball is everything to me right now, it’s why I am going to school for free,” Calloway said as he was flanked by TMHS coach John Blasco and father Roger Calloway.
Calloway graduated from TMHS in 2015 and took a year off to sharpen his game at On Point Hoops Academy in El Reno, Oklahoma. He played over 50 games at On Point, averaging 26 points per game as he travelled all over the midwest in the academy’s bus. The hard work and 22-hour bus rides paid off as he competed against top talent and developed a basketball resume outside of Alaska, which helped sell him to major universities.
At On Point, Calloway averaged 26.3 points per game and 12.6 rebounds per game including a season high 47 points and 20 rebounds.
“It’s not impossible to get to the Division I, but it’s pretty hard,” Calloway advised Juneau athletes. “A lot of people think it’s this impossible goal to get to and it’s just this thing you talk about and watch on TV, but once you actually get there and play against them you realize they’re just normal people like you. You can’t be scared of anyone you play against.”
Calloway was a three-year varsity player for the Falcons, helping them to two state tournament berths in his sophomore and junior seasons. In his senior season with the Falcons he averaged 24 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 4.5 steals, and 3.8 blocks per game, shooting 53 percent from the floor and 45 percent from three point range.
Blasco, Calloway’s coach at TMHS, praised his former player’s work ethic and skill.
“He was everything to our team,” Blasco said. “He was a part of our first state tournament as a sophomore. As a junior he stepped into a big scoring role, and we went back to state for a second year. … There’s nobody who I’ve ever coached who wanted to win and score more than him, nobody who harassed me more to get gym time.”
Blasco added that he hopes Calloway will come back and work with the younger guys.
“The fact that he’s a Division I athlete now should provide motivation to our guys to work and follow his path to how he got there.”
• Contact Kevin Gullufsen at email@example.com or call (907) 523-2228.