Monday, June 21, 2010 | 2:30 a.m.
- Notebook: Derrick Jasper’s spirits up as knee injury heals (2-4-2010)
- Relief abound as Jasper avoids surgery on left knee (1-28-2010)
- Jasper goes down, but UNLV rises to overcome Air Force, 60-50 (1-27-2010)
- Jasper agrees with need to be more selfish on offense (1-9-2010)
- 2008-09 season is Jasper’s time to heal (1-2-2009)
- 2009-10 UNLV Schedule/Results
- All Sun UNLV men's basketball coverage
Editor's Note: Each week this summer, UNLV beat writer Ryan Greene will have a 10-minute question-and-answer session with a member of the Rebels' men's basketball team. The focus is not just on last season but also what lies ahead.
After spending his first year on campus at UNLV rehabbing his left knee following a transfer from Kentucky, it took Derrick Jasper roughly half of a season to round into form.
And just as he did, the 6-foot-6 swingman's first season as a Rebel came to a screeching halt.
Late in the first half of a slowed-down slugfest against Air Force on Jan. 26 at the Thomas & Mack Center, teammate Matt Shaw fell backward while taking a charge and his 6-foot-8 frame landed on Jasper's left leg at the wrong angle.
Jasper was helped off the court and, despite suffering a partially torn medial collateral ligament that did not require surgery, missed the rest of the season.
That night he had three points, four rebounds and four assists, showing that when at his peak, Jasper could be the do-it-all cog that kept everyone moving smoothly as a unit.
The Paso Robles, Calif., native averaged 6.7 points per game last season, provided several highlights above the rim — most notably an alley-oop finish against Louisville — and ranked second on the team with 4.9 rebounds per contest.
Jasper tried to come back late last season, but has no regrets about not doing so, hoping that the midseason form he showed can present itself early in his senior campaign and help a veteran UNLV squad with high expectations in 2010-11.
Ryan Greene: The big topic with you last year was just how things kind of dramatically changed in the middle of the season with the injury. Where are you at right now? Are you back to 100 percent and full speed?
Derrick Jasper: Well, I started playing once a week just this week. I took a month off just to rehab the knee, and it's getting pretty strong. It's feeling pretty good, but I don't really do percentages.
RG: Yeah, percentages can be a dangerous game. Did you expect to still have to be rehabbing after the season ended?
DJ: Oh yeah, I definitely knew I'd have to be rehabbing. I probably will for the rest of my career. It's just something I have to deal with and have to keep trying to get my knee stronger.
RG: Now that you're getting ready to be back on the floor full-time, is there any hesitation? Do you have any worry? Have you gotten back mentally to where you think you're ready to handle it again?
DJ: Yeah. I've gone through a lot of rehab, done a lot of cardio. I'm ready to just go out there and play pick-up. I'm excited to be back out playing with my teammates, because it's been a while since I've been out there and actually played with them. I'm really looking forward to that.
RG: Are you worried about rust at all? You talked about that at the beginning of last year. Do you expect pick-up ball to be kind of rusty as you're easing your way back into it?
DJ: I fully expect that. I really haven't played basketball in a while, but I just want to go out there and play. I practiced a little bit after the season when we did individual workouts, did some 40-minute shoot-arounds, some half-court stuff. Nothing really full-speed, full-court just yet, though.
RG: You've got one year left, so are you in a situation where you want to be careful, take your time and make sure you're absolutely ready to go before rushing anything? I'd imagine this means the world to you. It's been a strange college career and you've got a chance to end it on a really good note. How much are you valuing this year?
DJ: I'm definitely valuing it. It's my last year of college basketball, we've got a great group of seniors coming back this year and some great underclassmen. This year is going to be huge. We add a couple different types of players and I think this is going to be a good year for us.
RG: What has going through all of this taught you about yourself? Not even in basketball terms, but just dealing with adversity and so much.
DJ: I definitely learned a lot about dealing with adversity. Coming into college, I never thought I would be hurt for most of my career. It's just something that you learn to deal with and try to overcome. I don't think anyone's ever prepared for microfracture surgery and the things that come after it. It's tough as a whole, and I'm still trying to overcome it.
RG: Have you come out better because of all of it?
DJ: Definitely. It taught me patience.
RG: Lets talk about your game specifically. You really were rounding into form right before the injury happened. At full strength, when you're really hitting your stride, is that the kind of player people can expect to see? The guy who scores some, is a force on the boards and does a little bit of everything?
DJ: Yeah, I've always been a guy who can do a little bit of everything. Now I just want to be a leader as one of the seniors on the team. People will be looking up to us, and I want to set a good example starting in practice.
RG: Last season, there was so much unknown coming into it. You hadn't played in a couple of years, Chace Stanback hadn't played in a couple years, all of that. This year, it's the complete opposite. How does an offseason change when pretty much everything about a team is known?
DJ: We started the year a little rusty, but Chace came into his own at the end of the year, and we have our players that we're going to be counting on, and we're adding some really good players in Quintrell (Thomas) and Carlos (Lopez). They got a whole year of practice and know how to run our sets. We've got great chemistry with this team, and we'll build from that.
RG: I asked Chace about having seen Quintrell and Carlos. Attending pick-ups, what have you seen from them?
DJ: They're added bodies, and we need some big guys who can help on the boards. I feel like Quintrell can really help with that big body. He's really aggressive. Carlos brings another dimension to our team. He's a shifty, crafty type of big man.
RG: What are you doing this summer outside of basketball?
DJ: I'm doing an internship at the Cannery Resort and Casino. This is my first summer actually not taking summer school, so it feels a little weird going to work instead of class. It's a great situation for an internship. I get to learn how the business is run. It's a whole different experience going to work for eight hours a day. You're not really used to that as a student-athlete, but it's the summer, so I'm trying new things while working on my game.
RG: Seeing the business side of the hotel and casino industry, does it make you want to get into that when your playing days are done?
DJ: Yeah, it definitely attracts me. I like the casino business, so I'm trying to get my feet wet and feel out my interests. We'll see where it goes from there. I already graduated in May. Now I plan on working on my master's. It'll either be in sports management or business. I haven't decided yet.
RG: A lot of people just look at how the basketball part of your college career has gone, but as a whole, it's been pretty good for you, huh?
DJ: Yeah. I've definitely enjoyed college, it's been a great experience, I've got one more year left and I want to go out with a bang. Basketball-wise, we have the pieces to make a run and build on our tournament appearance from this year. I want to win some games in the tournament, make it as far as we can, playing up to our potential. We have the pieces to make a good run, and this year we're looking at advancing instead of just making the tournament.
RG: Are you still looking at the possibility of playing ball after school? Or has everything made you shift your focus?
DJ: I feel like I want to play basketball, but I have to see how my knee feels after the season. It's something I'll have to deal with forever. I'm trying to get better, work through it and see how the end of the year treats me. I definitely feel like I could play at the next level, but we'll see.