Tuesday, February 14, 2012

MEAC star leads by example


In the halls outside of the Coppin State Physical Education Complex, flanked by his mother and father, Jay Threatt is all smiles.

And with good reason.

The Delaware State senior guard was minutes removed from assisting on the game-winning basket as the Hornets rallied from behind to defeat the Coppin State Eagles 84-81. The win extended the Hornet's win-streak to six games, and Threatt finished with 11 assists, leaving him just ten assists shy of becoming the school's all-time leader.

He is a diminutive point guard with the heart of a lion. Named as one of the 16-best lock-down defenders in the country, Threatt's 2.95spg rank second in Division-I. He is a relentless competitor, fighting through injuries and rarely ever taking a rest. This season alone, Threatt has played the entire 40 minutes seven different times.

(Courtesy: Scott Thornton, Delaware State)

Off the court, he's just as active. His smile is so big it could light up even the darkest of caves. His personality so big, that it eclipses his 5-foot-11, 175-pound frame. The positive energy that radiates from him is borderline-contagious.

In the cavernous white hallways, a congregation of Jay's relatives (his mother, Cheryl is from Baltimore) hugged, smiled and took pictures. His father, Jay Threatt Sr., was glowing.

"It's crazy, even way back to when they were just kids on the playground, Jay and Jarvis (his younger brother and freshman guard at Delaware) were always leaders, always field generals. You could just see it in their body language and in the way they communicated."

But for Threatt, those skills were honed and sharpened by adversity.

Growing up outside of Richmond, VA, Threatt was a three-time member of the All-District team at Highland Springs. As a senior, he was named to the All-Metro, All-Region and honorable mention All-State teams, thus earning a scholarship to play for George Mason University.

As a youth, he watched and idolized Allen Iverson, an undersized guard and Virginia-native like Threatt, who was as tenacious on defense as he was explosive on offense. But just like Iverson, Threatt found himself in legal trouble prior to his college enrollment.

In June of 2007, just two months after signing his Letter of Intent with George Mason, Threatt was arrested in connection to a carjacking case in Henrico County, VA. According to the report, Threatt was the get-away driver for two men that attempted to steal a car at traffic stop outside of Richmond. The judge agreed that Threatt had been caught in the "wrong place at the wrong time", and all the charges against him were dropped.

"I was caught taking it all for granted. Going to college for free, playing basketball at a high level. I realized it could all be taken from me at any time. I had to grow up quick. I'm seventeen, in there with grown men. I had to grow up."

Threatt attended George Mason his freshman year but saw little playing time. When the coaches who recruited him left George Mason for other jobs, Threatt decided to transfer.

But Like any good leader, Threatt adjusted and responded, and Delaware State has been reaping the benefits ever since. "I love being the leader. It's part of my position. Even if it wasn't, that's part of my personality. I like to take over, I've been through the fire."

It's his past experiences that have given him the confidence to persevere. He's battled through injuries, and a lengthy seven-game losing streak.

"I had to battle through some injuries earlier, and winning isn't easy. You have to want it. You have to earn it. I don't need every stat. I don't need to score. My job is to be the coach on the floor."

And that's exactly what Threatt has been doing. He has 43 assists and 21 steals in the last six games, all Delaware State victories. But more importantly, he has served as guidance for freshman Tahj Tate, the team's leading scorer. Tate scored 29 points against Notre Dame earlier in the season, but was suspended for four games due to "conduct detrimental to the program".

But Threatt, who has been through the fire before, was there for the freshman playmaker.

"I'm here to motivate him. Me and Tahj, you know, off the court, I'm always here for him. I've been through some of the same stuff he's been through. Just reminding him to not take all of this for granted, helping him realize that everything he does goes under the microscope. I'm here to help him mature. You know, at the D-I level, whether it's Big East, MEAC or what not, you have to grow up quickly. On the court, he has it all, he's a unique talent. He can beat anybody he wants to. It's just how he puts it all together off the court."

Since returning from the suspension, Tate is averaging roughly 17ppg, and his energy and effort has increased tremendously, as evidence by his two late steals against Coppin State. One of which, led to an emphatic dunk which ignited the Hornet's 12-point comeback.

"Any time he get's one of them big plays. Points just start to pile up. It's just exciting. he's just so exciting to play with." Say Threatt, snapping his fingers to indicate just how fast Tate can rack up buckets.

Talking to Threatt and watching him play, you can just see it in his eyes. You can see it in his body language, the way he uses his hands to demonstrate and direct. He loves this game. He loves this sport. When he's not directing the offense or shutting down the opponent's best player, he's coaching at camps, and teaching the game to the next generation.

"Oh, I love it. I really love it. When the ball stops bouncing, that's definitely one thing I want to look into, something I want to dip my feet in to. I really like coaching"

But the ball hasn't stopped bouncing for Threatt just yet.

"I'm trying to keep this thing going, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, on to the tournament. This is what I envisioned at the begining of the season. These young guys are maturing, and we're peaking at the right time."

Could Threatt be playing at the BCS-conference level? Absolutely. Just look at his numbers. He's also dealt with adversity, battled through hardships, and walked away victorious, which is bigger than any statistic, winning streak or game-winning assist.

"I'm having so much fun. I love college. This is how I envisioned it way back. It's a dream come true. I just have to thank god for giving me the opportunity."

An oppurtunity that he's making the most of.

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