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From New Orleans to Amherst, Jarreau and Gresham continue friendship at the college level

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Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Collegian

Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Collegian

In September of 2015, DeJon Jarreau and Brison Gresham had narrowed their choice of schools down to two, the University of Miami and the University of Massachusetts.

With a desire to play together at a school they believed needed them, the two best friends chose UMass.

Unlike many college teammates, Jarreau and Gresham’s relationship extends much further than Amherst. In fact it goes all the way back to the gymnasium of McDonogh 35 in New Orleans.

Neither Gresham nor Jarreau enjoy being too serious away from the court. In fact, their goofy demeanor helped spark their friendship way back when they were freshmen in high school.

“When we first met, it was ninth grade, we both just kind of kicked it because we were both goofy,” Jarreau said. “You meet somebody that is almost the same as you and y’all just start to get cool and y’all just start to hang out. From that, we just went from that type of relationship outside of basketball and carried into basketball.”

Gresham, a three-star recruit, has yet to be cleared by the NCAA and is considered a partial player. This means that he is allowed to practice but is not allowed to play until he is cleared.

Minutemen coach Derek Kellogg said that he has been “pleasantly surprised” with how Gresham has performed in practice.

“He could be really good, he’s done some things that just naturally, I mean he’s like Kevin McHale when he catches it on the inside, never brings it down, just catch and dunk,” Kellogg said. “And he’s stretches out kind of like guys we’ve had, guys I’ve been around in years past, he just gets long around the rim pretty quickly.”

Jarreau, on the other hand comes into this season as a four-star recruit and the 63rd best player in the country, according to ESPN.

Even with all the accolades that Jarreau has accrued in his time at McDonogh 35, Kellogg has described him as “selfless.”

“The one great thing is that the guy who was supposedly the highest rated guy plays kind of selfless in Dekee,” Kellogg said. “In our skirmish we went on a run the other day and he was the first one up cheering. I’m not sure they even know yet, what it means to play more or less. I think they just want to win. And that has been a nice thing to see.”

While Jarreau believes that playing for the team and playing for himself balances out, he recognizes the importance of being humble.

“I think my mom and my past coaches like they always said stay humble and don’t get big headed,” Jarreau said. “So that just kind of came with me when I came to college because I’ve been like that. I was never the type to brag a lot, I just stayed humble and my mom and past coaches taught me that.”

Being the topped ranked recruit on the team has naturally come with the pressure to prove his worth.

Simply having Gresham around has made acclimating to college basketball easier for him.

“Yeah (it’s easier), because I know all the stuff he does, and he knows all the stuff I do,” Jarreau said. “We got a connection on the court and every pass I make, he’d catch ‘em. He knows I’m going to give the ball to him and everything so it makes it easier.”

It was not always easy for Gresham though. He did not begin playing organized basketball until he was a sophomore in high school. In hopes of staying out of trouble that had followed him for most of his life, Gresham – standing 6-foot-3 at the time – joined the McDonogh 35 JV basketball team.

“He was sad at first.” Jarreau said. “There was this one time, I think it was our first game freshman year, he dunked on the wrong goal. And he got way better. Like, I think he’s only been playing basketball for four years now, so that’s a good thing.”

Looking back at it now, Gresham is able to laugh at the moment. He credited Jarreau with helping him improve.

“Really he always just said, don’t think,” Gresham said. “When I first started playing that was always my problem, I used to think too much. He said don’t think just do.”

Between the ninth and 10th grade is when he started to bond with Jarreau on a basketball and personal level.

“I probably think that Dekee really hated me,” Gresham said, laughing. “He was like the point guard and I probably like the forward but I could not catch a pass. So we just be in there shaking everybody covering the lane dominating and I miss the pass and he’d be like ‘c’mon, Brison, c’mon.’ That’s how we really just started hanging out after school, playing five-on-five, getting better, that’s how we really started being friends.”

Though basketball wasn’t the only thing the two had in common, it allowed them to grow both as friends and players. This would eventually blossom into what Kellogg has called a “sixth sense” on the court.

“From just being around each other, on or off the court,” Gresham said. “We’ve played so many games, not even having to do with school. We’d just go out at the rec or something and just play, and we just knew each other. I knew what he was going to do probably before he’d even do it, and he knew what I was going to do before I’d even do it.”

The two had determined early on that when they play at the next level it was going to be together. Nine different schools had extended offers to both Jarreau and Gresham, the very first of which being UMass.

Trey Davis, a staple in the UMass program for four years, told Jarreau and Gresham when they visited that by joining the Minutemen, they’d be joining a family.

“Trey Davis, was telling me and Dekee about coach DK,” Gresham said “He was like, once you become a part of this it’s really family forever, and that really meant something to me. Like I felt comfortable when he said that.”

Gresham and Jarreau chose to join UMass as players, best friends and brothers.

Philip Sanzo can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Philip_Sanzo.

About the Writer
Philip Sanzo, Sports Editor
UMass’s depth and St. Joseph’s high scorer means Friday’s semifinal has potential for a possible shootout.
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