Quiet contributor: Mesa State’s Jase Herl making all-around impact for Mavericks
Jase Herl spent the afternoon of his 22nd birthday like any other day, studying game film before basketball practice.
A celebratory dinner Monday night, then it was time to start focusing on tonight’s home game against Western State.
The Mavericks lost leading scorer Ryan Mathews to graduation last season, and people figured Herl would be the guy who would pick up some of that scoring. After all, Herl averaged 12.5 points a game last season, the only returner to score in double figures. This would be his team, his year.
And yes, this is without a doubt Herl’s team, but the 6-foot-3 senior guard isn’t concerned about his offensive stats one bit.
“I told him, ‘You’re a unique player in that I think I’ve had one other player I’ve coached who can be an MVP player of the game without scoring a point, and that was Shandy Hauer. With his intensity and defense, he could change the game. You’re that kind of player, you can be the MVP of a game without scoring a point because you can do so many other things well,’ ‘’ Mesa State coach Jim Heaps said.
“I think Saturday night was a prime example. He had one point, 14 rebounds, five assists, he defended, made passes. I thought he played great. That’s the kind of thing Jase can bring. I want to make sure he keeps his focus on defense, rebounding, passing the ball. The scoring part, if he runs good offense, he’ll score. He doesn’t need to focus on that.”
Herl can score 20, 25 points with his ability to score from the perimeter or break down his defender on a drive to the basket.
The thing is, the No. 17 Mavericks (15-1, 9-0 RMAC) don’t to have him score 20, 25 points every night. What they need him to do is play defense on the opponent’s top perimeter scorer, whether that’s a guard or forward, and slash his way to the boards for rebounds.
Offensively, he’s been invaluable as the top assist man on the team, averaging nearly five a game.
“If I’m playing well, it’s on defense, rebounding and passing the ball,” Herl said Monday. “Everything else just comes. I don’t put pressure on myself to score, I don’t feel like I have to because we have all those other guys. There are other things that need to be done.”
With Michael Dominguez emerging as the Mavs’ go-to offensive threat (20.9 points per game, including back-to-back 30-point performances), Herl is more than happy being the defensive stopper.
He also leads the Mavericks in rebounding at 6.9 per game — and although he’s not worried about his points, he’s second on the team in scoring at 12.1 points a game.
He’s tenacious from the opening tip, all business until the final horn, when he looks up and checks the final score with a slight grin. At times it appears he’s angry on the court, and deep down, he is.
The Mavs were left out of the regional playoffs last season and that snub drives Herl this season.
“It was (personal),” he said. “We beat Pueblo (in the RMAC Shootout) and we’re in. It hurt really bad because we were right there.
“Halfway through the conference we saw it all come together and we were playing well. It was a one-game thing. We wanted to go farther in the tournament, but we had to get that one game. I think I went 0 for 5 at the free-throw line. Things like that haunt you for a whole year.
“We talk every night about going out and proving to ourselves and everyone else that we belong where we’re at.”
With 10 games left in the regular season, the Mavericks know they’ll be taking everyone’s best shot.
“We want to be the team on top that everyone’s gunning for,” Herl said. “If you don’t want to be that team, then something’s wrong.”
Slowly but surely, things are starting to come together for the Mavericks, who have won two of their past three games.
Mesa State (4-10, 3-6 RMAC) plays six games over the next 12 days, starting at 6 tonight against Western State (6-11, 4-5). Thursday, the Mavericks host Western New Mexico (4-11, 4-5) before a pair of nonconference road games.
The Mavericks, with only eight active players, are 3-1 at home.
“The last couple of weeks we’ve kind of started to get it figured out a little bit,” Mesa State coach Roger Walters said.
Losing leading scorer Jennifer Landers for the season because of grade problems hasn’t seemed to faze the Mavericks, who have lost their share of players this season.
Walters is adjusting the lineup as needed, moving 6-foot junior Jenn Kimbrow into the starting lineup inside, which has allowed Courtney McCaig to play more on the perimeter, her natural position.
Meagan Selvidge has moved from shooting guard to small forward, with Jocelyn Zarling and Katie Cupp at the guard spots.
Hannah Breidel subs in on the perimeter and guard Alaina Brennan has become a backup post player, with freshman forward Jordan Brand getting some time.
Mesa State’s offense is getting better because, strangely enough, the Mavericks have stopped trying to score.
“When we don’t try to score, just think about doing our jobs, they do a nice job running our stuff, the shots will find us,” Walters said. “Sometimes kids will get in a hurry and try to score and it doesn’t work out. They’re getting it. That’s the neat thing.”