Mighty Young Talent

Mighty Young Talent

Ryan Thomas

What men’s basketball coach, Charlie Titus, thought his team lacked last season was a shutdown defender: someone who could step up, cause havoc to the opposing team and do the dirty work. He mentioned Ernst Jean, a sophomore transfer, but insisted that the forward had little experience and he would need to get more before making an impact.

Titus wasn’t expecting Jean to make an impact right away, but much to his – and his coaching staff’s – surprise, Jean is making a name for himself under the basket and on the defensive end. In a season that has been lack luster so far, Jean has been a bright spot for the Beacons.

Through six games, Jean is playing at a higher level than initially anticipated. He is currently top-ten in the Little East Conference in rebounding, with 38 in only 143 minutes. Those numbers translate into one rebound every 3.76 minutes he’s on the floor. Compared to the rest of the LEC, Jean ranks seventh in that category.

Associate head coach Lance Tucker, who has watched Ernst progress quickly, sees why he has been such a solid rebounder for the team. “He’s quick to the ball, and he [has] good anticipation,” Tucker said. Another aspect of his game that gives him an advantage is his size, Tucker reveals. He explains that since Jean isn’t as wide as some other guys his size, it allows him to be a better rebounder. “He’s not the biggest kid, but that helps him. That allows him to be quicker to the ball than some other guys.”

Even though Jean is top-ten in rebounding, it’s the facets of his game that have impressed Tucker and the rest of the coaching staff. Ernst is averaging two blocks per game, good enough for second in the Little East behind Eastern Connecticut senior, Leon Martin. “He brought rebounding, he brought presence and he blocks shots too,” first-year recruiter and former Beacon, Eric Summerville, said about Jean. “He definitely gives us a presence down low.”

On the other end of the court, Jean has been turning heads as well. His 2.83 offensive rebounds per game are tops on the team and fifth in conference; his 9.8 points per game are only an added bonus, says Summerville. “[He’s] best at rebounding on the offensive end. His offensive game isn’t as polished as it should be, but all we need him to do is get rebounds and put backs and block some shots. Just play some defense too.”

Against Emerson College, in his best collegiate game to date, Jean made his presence felt on both ends of the court. In 29 minutes, Jean scored a career-high 14 points, grabbed nine rebounds (five offensive) and had two blocks. “With him being so athletic, it’s impossible to box him out,” Summerville says about Jean’s ability. “He just goes around them.”

Now that the coaches know what Ernst can bring to the court, they need to get him more minutes. That began with a spot in the starting line-up against Emerson, and it will continue if Jean keeps producing. “We talk about that all the time,” says Summerville. He and his coaches are eager to have the young forward in the game more often “just to get him more minutes, because of how productive he is on the floor. [He] set screens and get rebounds, the dirty work. [He’s] the garbage man.”

Something that young, high-flyers like Jean have to learn about, says Summerville, is when to block shots, and when to stay home on defense. “Sometimes, you run into a guy that likes to throw the up fake, and Ernst was biting for it,” he says. “The good thing to do is just stay on your feet … because with him blocking shots, it can work as his kryptonite because he thinks ‘I gotta go get everything,’ instead of just position [defense].”

Kryptonite aside, Summerville knows talent when he sees it. “He’s gonna be a key asset to this team now, and for years to come.”