Every player on a college basketball team makes an impact in the outcome of the team’s games. However, while some players make headlines with 20-plus point performances, others can fly under the radar. For Penn, that under-the-radar star is senior guard Ray Jerome.
Jerome, a Latham, N.Y. native, first came to Penn as a part of coach Steve Donahue’s first recruiting class. Like most college recruits, Jerome came from a strong high school basketball background. However, unlike most recruits, Jerome also brought with him a unique experience that has helped shape him as a player.
“My parents are from Puerto Rico, and I went back and forth from Puerto Rico and New York as a kid,” Jerome said. “I was fortunate to get an opportunity to play for the U-19 National Team, [so] I play knowing I represent more than the University and family, but a whole country.”
This unique experience helped him develop a strong work ethic and unique approach to playing basketball at a high level.
“There is usually an on and off switch [in college basketball],” Jerome said. “When you’re playing on an international level, there is no off switch. You always have to be tuned in, and you have to be communicating and vocal. Every day is demanding physically and also mentally."
Learning to be engaged with the game at all times has helped Jerome stake his reputation on being someone who will work harder than anybody in order to make the team better as a whole. For the entirety of his Penn career, he has lived up to that reputation.
“He's always doing the extra [work]; nobody is in the gym more than Ray,” Donahue said. “He's a good example for the younger guys. I think it has a lot to do with effort and being engaged with every possession. [Instead of] worrying about himself, he just tries to figure things out for the team.”
The selfless attitude that Jerome carries with him into practice and games has helped him to become someone his teammates and coaches rely on.
“Ray is very willing to play a role, a role that coach might want him to play,” senior forward AJ Brodeur said. “He is very moldable, and he has shown a lot of growth in a lot of different areas. I think that speaks to him as a person, doing what it takes to lift the team above himself.”
Jerome’s growth as a player has come full circle this year, as he is enjoying the best season of his collegiate career. While his stats may not jump off the page, Jerome has been a consistent factor in the Quakers’ success this season. Through his unrelenting work ethic, the senior has turned himself into a defensive specialist that Donahue can trust when the game is on the line.
“He’s one of our better, if not our best, defensive players in terms of what we’re trying to get accomplished,” Donahue said.
Although Jerome has enjoyed a healthy, productive season this year, things were not always easy for him. He spent much of his first few seasons battling through various injuries that kept him off the court. Having watched him overcome these obstacles, Jerome’s teammates and coaches have been excited to see his hard work and perseverance finally pay off. At the same time, his success this season has his teammates excited at what he can still accomplish in the remaining weeks of the season.
“I think it has been really fun to watch as both a friend and a basketball player,” Brodeur said. “What he has been able to overcome, what he has accomplished, and what we still think he can do is exciting.”
Even though he has not always been on the court, Jerome has still been an impact player throughout his four years at Penn.
“Although he didn’t play too much [our sophomore] year, I think he was one of the biggest factors in our success,” Brodeur said. “He was our leader on the scout team. A lot of his job was to simulate the other team’s best player, and he did that so well. His impact and contribution that year, which goes largely unnoticed, was something that was really cool to watch.”
Through his four years at Penn, Jerome has clearly had an impact on both his teammates and coaches. At the same time, he has found a way to make a difference both on and off the court. Despite his recent success, Jerome still remains focused on team and what he hopes he can accomplish alongside his teammates.
With only a few weekends left in his Penn career, Jerome only has one more thing he hopes to do.
“I want to hang up another banner."
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