Friday, September 19, 2014

Meet Jason Gant

The sports fever hit Jason Gant early and now there's no turning back for the new Merritt College assistant coach.

He participated in multiple sports-- soccer, hoops, volleyball, and football -- come that time of the year while growing up. The latter actually was Gant's fave but, whether it be fate or chance, Lick- Wilmerding High (LWH) didn't field a gridiron squad. So it was basketball (four years), volleyball (four years) and soccer (three years) for him on Ocean Avenue in San Francisco. As a senior, he was named the school's Athlete of the Year.

However, it was, "basketball chose me," according to the 6-foot-3 Gant who offered, "it was a constant, the others came and went." He also coached middle school kids during his summer high school days, further connecting himself with the sport.

Wanting to play collegiately upon heading across the Bay and entering UC Berkeley, Gant made himself available to then Coach Ben Braun. "I walked into the [basketball] office the summer of my freshman year and said I'd like to play here."

That produced an invite to open gyms and Gant got to play with various Bear team members. Then school began and suddenly there were eight recruited walk-ons also trying to earn a spot on the Bear roster. "I didn't know there were recruited walk-ons," he recalled.

Gant didn't make the team.

He tried again his sophomore year and advanced beyond the first cut but not the second.

Success came as a junior.

"I was surrounded by guys like Leon Powe, Marquise Kately, Ayinde Ubaka, Dom McGuire and Rod Benson." He also made enough of an impression that Coach Ben Braun chose him to work a Father-Son summer camp.

Besides hoops, Gant participated in club volleyball at California as a sophomore, junior and senior before earning a degree in public health in 2006 and entering the real world.

That brought him working within finance, technology and other industries. But it wasn't the same. "10 hours a day inside at a desk didn't compare to the energy and comfort of being in a gym."

So Gant began coaching, including a stint with the San Francisco Champions, a basketball organization for third through ninth graders headed by former San Jose State basketball player Kareem Guilbeaux, who prepped at St. Ignatius High.

Gant matured as a player development and skill coach, leading to head coaching responsibilities last fall with the JV team at San Francisco Day School.

His connection to Merritt basketball began some time ago. "Coach McMiller works with my Mom so I reached out to him and then stayed in contact." With McMiller now fully heading the Merritt program, he brought Gant aboard.

"I want to take full advantage of working with Coach McMiller and do my best to learn the game," Gant explained. "It will be a chance to inspire, to lead and I truly love it helping the guys to surpass their own goals. Everyone at this level can physically play, it's the mental part, the coaching that makes a difference. I could coach in football but basketball is what I love. The shirts you see with "basketball is life" on them -- it really is life. It's where I get my high. I can't imagine not being involved."  

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