Door Number One
With one scholarship option, Jared Mintz is now option 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.
by Ray Bala
“He’s one of the better players in our league, I think one of the top 10,” says Lafayette head coach Fran O’Hanlon. “I’ve had the benefit of some very good post players (here) and he’s very comparable to a lot of those guys. He doesn’t take a back seat to anybody.”
That is a bold statement coming from the head coach who has 15 years under his belt in Easton when he talks about forward Jared Mintz. While you let that marinate, think about this too: coming out of Vaughan Road Academy in Toronto, Mintz had very few Division 1 scholarship options. There was Lafayette and there was Lafayette. When probed about exactly how many offers he had he admits “I had some offers from schools in Toronto but (Lafayette) was my only (NCAA) option.” So door number one it was and I bet if teams in the Patriot League could turn back the clock, that would change.
For those of you unfamiliar, Jared Mintz is number 34 in the Leopards lineup. Without another senior interior player who plays major minutes on the team, he has become option one through five in the post. Additionally, he has the added duties of being the start of the Leopards offense this year. The best part for Coach O’Hanlon is that Mintz has been able to handle the added responsibilities. Mintz has become the least likely force this season in the Patriot League and you would never have expected this to happen to a guy who had been hampered by conditioning issues and an injury early in his career.
The injury was suffered a few games into his freshman campaign. Mintz was sidelined by a meniscus tear that required surgery. It set him back quite a bit according to O’Hanlon.
“When he started out, I thought he would play a lot more for us as a freshman,” says coach. “But he got hurt early (that year) and missed a few games. When he got back, we already had our rotations set and it was harder for him to get back into (them). His first couple of games you could see that he fit well in what we did and it was unfortunate for him and us that he got hurt.”
But despite the injury, Mintz played in 23 games averaged two points and two rebounds in about nine minutes of action. That summer he recommitted himself to his conditioning and in his sophomore season he improved his overall game. He was able to up his minutes to 24.6 per game playing in 28 which included 13 starts. He averaged 9.2 points and 3.9 rebounds which were good for fourth and second on the team and showed flashes of his blossoming skill set; like his 21-point, 12 rebound performance in Lafayette’s first win at arch rival Lehigh in seven years and his 17-point, 10 rebound game against Navy. He was showing then that he had the ability to be a threat in spurts when given the chance and could turn it up in big games.
This season, Mintz has been the leader for the surprise team that was picked to finish last in the conference. Last year, the Leopards were a dismal 8-22 but right now they’re sitting near the top in the Patriot League at 7-5, 16-11 overall, with one game to go before the conference tournament starts.
“The team’s a lot more mature this year especially in close games,” says Jared who is one of seven upperclassmen this season. “(I think) we’ve gotten better at handling adversity and closing out games.”
No doubt the extra year of experience helped to cement the returning team and led to the turnaround.
And in this turnaround Mintz has been the anchor in the middle for his squad all season long. Despite being the focus of team defenses, he is averaging team highs in scoring and rebounding with 15.4 and 5.8 respectively as well as dishing out 1.8 assists per game. And through the double and triple team looks he my face on the nightly, he also currently leads the Patriot League in FG% (54.7%). Mintz compliments the high field goal percentage with an impressively high free throw percentage standing in second place in FT% (88.1%) in the conference. Both aforementioned totals have him as the only player in Division 1 in the top 25 in both those statistical categories. When’s the last time a big did that?
With those sweet numbers, don’t expect Mintz to wow you with his leaping ability or blinding speed. There aren’t too many alleys on the break or airborne forays through traffic for the finish for this forward. The 6-8 Mintz does most of his damage the old fashioned way: in the post. Blessed with an incredible basketball IQ, great footwork and an excellent understanding of position himself on the block, he’s able to work his way low and finish with either hand at the basket or step back and hit the jumper. And yes, he can hit the long jumpers.
Mintz, who harbors aspirations of one day playing pro and maybe even for Canada one day, knows that despite his successes this season, he is still a work in progress. He knows he still has to get stronger as well as continually work in his conditioning. He knows he has to rebound and defend better to help his team. And judging by his marked improvements from last year to this one, that does not bode well for the opposition. But did Coach O’Hanlon see it play out this way for Mintz?
“I hoped it would be this way,” says O’Hanlon candidly. “I don’t know if I expected him to be leading in FG% or whatever (and) I don’t want to say that he’s surpassed expectation but I (definitely) thought he was going to be good. I think he’s taken more of a step than I thought.”
Don’t worry coach. There are at least seven other teams in the conference that could say the same.
Ray Bala is a freelance sports writer from Toronto. Catch Ray covering all things Canadian basketball at Raptors HQ in The Can Ball Report.