It's been called a strange twist, the idea that a former player under Texas Tech head coach Billy Clyde Gillispie would eventually be retained as a graduate assistant. I didn't even see the news until I had posted yesterday's DTN DD.
Derrick Jasper was a 4-star point guard who originally committed to Kentucky as part of the 2006 recruiting class, prior to Gillispie's arrival, the #5 point guard in that class and starter as a freshman for then head coach Tubby Smith. Gillispie was the head coach the next year and convinced Jasper to stay at Kentucky. In the summer after Jasper's first year, Jasper had microfracture surgery on his left knee and he missed the first 10 games of his sophomore year.
Jasper then decided to transfer from Kentucky, citing that he wanted to be closer to his family on the West Coast and landed at UNLV:
"The decision to transfer is in no way an indication of my experience playing for UK," Jasper said. "I feel at this point in my life, it is important for me to be close to my family, and I intend to transfer to a school closer to the west coast where I can see my family more often, and they can see me play.
"It was not an easy decision for me to make, since the fans have been so wonderful and very supportive of my teammates and me. I want to thank Coach Gillispie and the entire UK coaching staff for their guidance and support they have given me these past two years. I have grown a tremendous amount as a basketball player, and most importantly a person and feel it is largely due to the people involved with the UK basketball program."
As you would expect with a lot of transfers, nice things were said by Jasper and nice things were said by Gillispie. The message board rumors were that Jasper was transferring because of the way he was brought back after his surgery. In fact, the link I posted yesterday morning flat out said that Gillispie ran off Jasper:
If you remember, Gillispie ran Jasper off at Kentucky by playing him too soon after an injury, causing him to go through a lot of physical pain and time rehabbing his leg.
Jasper's mother gave an interview after the transfer and said that although they trusted the doctors and trainers, she was still surprised that he wasn't going to be redshirted for the year:
"The doctor kind of kept close contact with me, his trainers did, and they kept assuring me that they wouldn't put him out there until he was ready," Sue Jasper said. "I trusted them, and felt like they knew what they were doing. He told me like two days before (his first game back), and I was kind of shocked that he was going to go in."
Jasper then finished his collegiate career at UNLV this past year, where he was never able to match the recruiting hype, averaging just a shade over 5 points per game.
After his hire, Jasper spoke with the Las Vegas Sun's Ryan Green, who asked Jasper about the injury and he had this to say:
"I think that was blown out of proportion a bit," Jasper said. "We had a good relationship. It wasn't bad. It was me wanting to get closer to him. I wouldn't be going back to work for him if I didn't believe he was a good guy.
"A lot of (the return from the knee injury) was just me trying to get back early enough to help my team. That's all in the past now. I'm just looking to the future."
That's not an absolute denial, but it sounds like it's water under the bridge. Jasper also talked a bit about what he'll bring to Texas Tech as a graduate assistant:
"I'm going to build relationships with the players. I played college basketball for five years, and I know how coach Gillispie runs a program," Jasper said. "As a grad assistant, I'm not a coach yet, but coach Gillispie told me I'll have a lot of responsibilities. I can relate to the players, having just finished up my college career. I have a lot of knowledge pretty fresh in my mind."
And Jasper also told Rebel-Net.com's Will Douglas that he always appreciated the fact that Gillispie left the door open for Jasper:
"When I decided I was going to transfer completely, he told me that the door was always open on his side," said Jasper, who played in 54 career games at Kentucky. "To have a coach tell me that, that the door's always open to come back and rejoin him again. I really appreciated that, and I'm excited about this opportunity."
Yes, sure, it's strange that so many stories would be written about the hiring of a graduate assistant, but this one was a little bit different. There were obviously some strong allegations about Gillispie forcing Jasper back sooner than he should have and I get the feeling that this was a big deal to Kentucky fans. Perhaps this is Gillispie's way to making amends and maybe this is about how Gillispie is changing his life. I don't know for sure, but Jasper is right on one account. He knows what it's like to be a player for Gillispie and the current group of players probably need to have some sort coach or GA to go to when the workouts start to take a toll on the players.