In April of 2015, two members of the national homeschool champion basketball team, the Oklahoma City Storm, committed to the ACU men’s basketball team. One was a 6’4″ guard B.J. Maxwell, who was chosen as a first-team selection on The Oklahoman’s Little all-City team, and averaged 18.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. The other one? Maxwell’s self-described best friend, a forward who still had questions on what type of player exactly he was.
Coach Joe Golding remembers fondly the commitment of both Maxwell and redshirt freshman forward Jalone Friday, who had averaged 13.6 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game as a senior.
“We were excited to get both of them,” Golding said. “But there were still questions in Jalone’s game. He could go outside and stretch the floor as a 6’8″ forward, but his inside game still needed some work to get to the next level.”
Friday did something almost unheard of in college basketball today- he redshirted as a freshman to become the type of player Golding needed him to become. Coach remembers having the conversation with him and being surprised at how selfless he was about it.
“Jalone agreed to redshirt his freshman season, and it was kind of a shock,” Golding said. “Not a lot of freshman want to sit out and redshirt their first year: they want to make a name for themselves. But Jalone got fit- he spent a lot of time in the weight room with the strength and conditioning coaches getting to the physical level he needed to be at- it was all him from this point on.”
Friday, however, is quick to point out that every single coach helped him with his transition.
“I credit all of that [gain] to the coaches and the strength coach,” Friday said. “From day one I felt like he knew what he was doing and I thank him for that because he helped me a lot to get me to where I am today.”
And today Friday leads the team in points per game (14.2), three-point percentage(.452), offensive rebounds(1.6), and blocked shots(1.4). He also ranks second in many other categories like three-pointers attempted, defensive and overall rebounds, steals, and free throws made. But one intangible stat that everyone talks about when they hear Friday’s name is his insane ability to knock down a clutch three in the fourth quarter.
In a game against New Orleans University this season, Friday not only hit a clutch three to put the team ahead before giving up a three to go to overtime, he hit a three-pointer to win the game for the Wildcats. Junior guard Isaiah Tripp talks about the team’s comfortability passing the rock to Friday in tough situations.
“He’s a machine,” Tripp said. “He’s only a freshman, but he doesn’t play like it in the clutch. When he’s hot, the whole team knows we can pass it to him.”
Friday said it’s a welcoming sign to know that his teammates have his back.
“That’s just something that will boost your confidence level,” Friday said, “Knowing that there are upperclassmen who love getting you the ball and don’t have a problem passing it to a freshman at that. I just feel like none of this would have happened if it wasn’t for the teammates that I have.”
In fact, Coach Golding said this is one of the most closely-knit groups he’s ever coached.
“These guys do everything together,” Golding said. “They eat together, they practice together, they study together, and they play together. They’re not just teammates. They’re a family.”
Friday’s stats are not only some of the best on the team, but also in the conference. Jalone ranks ninth in scoring (second out of freshman), fifth in Free Throw Percentage, 10th in field goal percentage, and 19th in three point field goals per game. Add these stats together, and you have Friday as a clear front-runner for the Southland Conference Freshman of the Year. But Friday said he hopes it doesn’t stop there.
“Getting the award would mean a lot,” Friday said. “But getting the award and playing in post-season would mean a lot more.”
Jalone’s game is not perfect. One of the biggest flaws of his game is his fouls- he averages almost four a game and has fouled out a team-leading eight times. But once he and his game matures, many think there is no ceiling to the talent Friday has.
Friday and the Wildcats travel to Sam Houston State Saturday, but he will be nursing a day-to-day ankle sprain, and because of ACU’s standing in the conference is unlikely to play.