Don't be surprised if associate head coach Chris Reisman takes particular interest in Tarleton State's newest basketball player.
It's not every day the Stephenville High School graduate gets to coach another local product.
Dublin senior Jakob Damstra became Tarleton's first local recruit to sign a national letter of intent since Chris signed up to play for his father, Tarleton head coach Lonn Reisman, in 1996.
"We want the opportunity to recruit local players and we're excited to sign one we feel can make an impact for us," said Lonn Reisman, who celebrated his 500th win at Tarleton in January. "Jakob possesses everything we look for in a student-athlete, and he's a young man with the support of a great family and community who has a lot of people looking forward to seeing him succeed. This is a great day for us and a great day for Dublin."
Inside the Dublin High School library, where Damstra and his parents went over the final details of the letter of intent before making his commitment official Tuesday morning, the sentiment was the same. He is the first Dublin boy to sign an athletic letter of intent since Ted DeVries went to play football at Abilene Christian in 2004, and it is widely believed Damstra is the first Lion ever to sign one for basketball.
"It's a great day for us, I know that," said Dublin athletic director Bob Cervetto. "This is what we're in the business for is to help young people like Jakob develop and prepare for the next step in life. When a moment like this comes along, it brings great pride to all of us. We're proud of Jakob, and we're proud for Dublin. We know he'll represent us well."
Damstra, a 6 foot, 9 inch senior, averaged 13.6 points, 14.2 rebounds and 5 blocked shots per game, leading Dublin to its first outright district championship and regional tournament since 1994. He was the MVP of District 6-2A, an all-region selection by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Association, and an academic all-state honoree by both the TABC and the Texas High School Coaches Association.
He was also named his team's MVP in the Mineral Wells Chamber of Commerce-Chicken Express All-Star Classic after scoring 15 points, grabbing 16 boards and blocking four shots.
"All year, I felt like he was playing well enough to deserve a scholarship. We were trying to tell everyone, he can play at the Division II level," Pringle said. "Now, not only does he have a scholarship to play Division II basketball, but he gets to play for one of the premier teams and premier coaches in the country."
Damstra, 17, is several months younger than most of his classmates.
"He's still a work in progress. They'll get him on their weight training program and in a year we won't be able to recognize him," Pringle said. "His best basketball is still way in front of him."
Chris Reisman agrees.
"He has a lot of tools and moves really well for his size," Chris said. "He has the chance to develop into a really good basketball player. I'm excited to work with him."
Damstra credits fellow senior Lion Aaron Callaway with spurring his interest in Tarleton.
"I didn't really follow basketball much as a kid because I played soccer," Damstra said. "Aaron kind of dragged me along for a game, and it was intense. It's definitely exciting. I learned right away how much faster the game is at that level."
So when Tarleton graduate assistant Nic Cantrell contacted Damstra, the Lion was eager to impress the Texan coaches.
Damstra was invited on an official visit to Tarleton and was sold right away.
"Nic was very nice and helpful to me, and I had lunch with one of the players then I got to play with them," he said. "At first I was nervous, but they made me feel like I fit in. Playing with those guys was just a tremendous experience. I can't wait to do it again.
"Coach (Lonn) Reisman and Nic watched us play and helped out right away," he said. "I've already got tips from them that will help me improve."
Damstra plans to major in kinesiology.
"I want to get into sports medicine or physical therapy, something like that," he said. "I knew I was probably going to get to play somewhere, but I didn't know if I would get a scholarship. Tarleton's helping me financially, so that's a big key. That and it's so close to home."
Tarleton's veteran head coach has taken the Texans to two Elite Eights including reaching the Final Four in 2005, and feels Damstra's future in purple and white is bright.
"He's a great student with great athletic potential," Lonn Reisman said. "What impresses me most about him is his ceiling because it's very high. This is a young man who already has an impressive set of skills with the potential to become a very big part of our program."
Pringle knows first hand what Damstra brings to the floor, and has no doubt the Lion will succeed as a Texan.
"The kid never quits at anything. He'll work his tail off for them, I know that much for sure," Pringle said. "They're going to look back in a couple years and be glad they came and got him."
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