'Tired of just being mediocre:' How 6-foot-6 Noah Jonker found his groove for ASH boys basketball
If you wonder why the Alexandria Senior High boys basketball team is resilient, look no further than its leader.
Noah Jonker, a 6-foot-6 senior, was a role player when ASH won the 2020 Class 5A championship. Now, he is looking to add another title — this time as one of the focal points for the team.
“(Another title) would mean the world to me,” Jonker said. “I get nervous just thinking about it. It’s my legacy and it’s just something that I’ll leave here forever and that means so much to me.”
Jonker is averaging a team-high 16.2 points and is shooting efficiently from all areas at 58.4% from the field, 43.1% from 3-point range and 82.1% from the free-throw line.
He has offers from LSUA, Millsaps, Centenary, Victoria College and Graceland.
“He’s been amazing for us,” ASH coach Lance Brasher said. “In the weight room, in the classroom, just all around.”
BOYS BASKETBALL SUPER SIX:Meet the Rapides Parish, Alexandria area boys basketball Super Six entering district play
BOYS BASKETBALL RANKINGS:Top 10 high school boys basketball teams in Alexandria area for week of Jan. 17
NO FANS, NO PROBLEM:State tournament without fans provided a unique experience
He came through in a big way Tuesday when the No. 2 ranked Trojans (19-3, 2-1 2-5A) defeated No. 4 Ouachita 62-50 in overtime.
Jonker put the Trojans ahead 48-47 by making a 3-pointer with four seconds left in regulation against the Lions (13-6, 1-2) and sank six technical foul free throws in overtime. He finished with 18 points.
“Coach Brasher wanted me to take the shot and I was like, ‘OK,’ so I just get everything off my mind and I just took a deep breath and said, ‘I live for this moment,’ ” Jonker said. “I can’t tell you how many countless hours I’ve shot out here shooting midrange jumpers, 3-pointers and free throws. I’d shoot 50 back-to-back and if I missed one, I would go back and do another 50, just because I wanted to perfect my craft.”
Jonker’s progression came after a rough junior year where he averaged 7.8 points, but shot 37%, as ASH lost to Walker in the Class 5A quarterfinals.
However, this offseason got off to a bad start when he injured the wrist on his shooting hand — his left — during a summer league game in May.
Determined to improve, Jonker was back in practice with his arm in a sling just three days later working on drills to strengthen his off hand.
While he got a plate and three screws inserted into his wrist a week later and did not return to game action until mid-July, he was working on dribbling, shooting and passing with his right.
“Rehab was something that I definitely needed,” Jonker said. “I think I lacked the edge before and I was like, ‘Oh wow, this really can be taken away from me in just a split second.' My dad was like, ‘Maybe, you should take a week off and not do anything,’ but I was like, 'You know, I want to get back in the gym, because I’m tired of just being mediocre. I want to be something good, something better.’ ”
Jonker did not take long to fulfill that promise as he opened the season with 11.7 points per game and shooting 48.2% in his first nine games.
“He feels like he let those guys down a little bit with the way he shot the ball,” Brasher said. “He felt that he could have played better. Once he came back, he was relentless on proving to everybody that was just a one-year deal and that he can really play.”
Jonker has been in a groove for his last 13 games with an average of 19.5 points on 63.8% shooting.
“His effort all around and his leadership have been tremendous,” Brasher said. “He’s worked on his game so much during the summer to where now, he’s not just a shooter. He’s not just a big, he can put it on the floor. He can find guys and he can defend."
With ASH adopting the nickname of the “Redeem Team” from assistant Chris Bailey, Jonker is doing everything in his power to make sure it returns to the state tournament and doesn't lose before then.
“This year, I don’t want to see that happen,” Jonker said. “I want to play hard every day and every game, come in every practice focused and bring a championship back to this school and team.”