Had this been Jeremy Case’s senior year, he probably would be averaging at least 20 minutes a game as the Kansas University basketball team’s third guard. In his day, he warmed the bench, but expresses no regrets.
The national-championship ring he won in 2008 comes in handy.
Case is an assistant basketball coach at Southeast Missouri State in Cape Girardeau, Mo., working under head coach Dickey Nutt.
“Yeah, oh yeah, I wear the ring,” Case said in a telephone interview. “On a home visit, I’ll wear it. If I go see a player play, I’ll wear it. It’s a great conversation piece. A lot of guys see it and ask me about it.”
Does he let the recruits try it on?
“No,” Case said. “They can’t do that.”
But they can ask away about his alma mater. He’s always happy to discuss KU, which he watches play on TV when his schedule allows.
“I don’t think they’re as talented as they have been in the past, but they work hard, they play hard, and coach Self is doing a great job,” Case said. “I can tell they’re starting to do exactly what he wants them to do.”
After graduating from KU and exhausting his playing eligibility as a fifth-year senior, Case entertained thoughts of playing professionally in Europe, where in the right league he could have been a scoring sensation drawing big paychecks.
He sought advice from the wisest man he knows, his father, Win Case. Win won two NAIA national championships at Oklahoma City University and now is an assistant coach at Middle Tennessee State. Win told him, “If this is what you want to do, you better get started.”
Jeremy worked one season as a graduate assistant for Self and asked him to call Nutt on his behalf, when Nutt inherited a program on NCAA probation and coming off a 3-27 record. Nutt hired Case to join in him in a rebuilding project that in its third year already has reversed the Redhawks’ fortunes. SEMO is 13-11 overall, 8-4 in the Ohio Valley Conference. The Redhawks had a chance to make national news in a road game against undefeated, ninth-ranked Murray State recently, but couldn’t hang onto a halftime lead.
All the lessons the second-generation coach Case learned from his father and his college coach — teammates at Oklahoma State, where Nutt had just finished playing — couldn’t prepare him for the extent of renovation needed in Cape Girardeau.
“The first year was miserable,” Jeremy said of a 7-23 season in 2009-2010. “To go from one end of the spectrum to the other was really an eye-opener. Coach Nutt did a great job of keeping the players going. Every day he walks in he’s got a pep in his step, and that rubs off on our guys. He knows what he’s doing.”
Ten games into Nutt’s second season, the Redhawks’ losing streak reached 18, making Nutt, with the help of Case, 7-33 in his first 40 games, 23-23 in the next 46.