Jeff Jantz set scoring records, then did even more for his alma mater, Southern Nazarene
BETHANY – Prayer brought Jeff Jantz to Bethany.
Growing up in eastern Colorado half a century ago, Jantz was quite the basketball prospect. Six-foot-7, great shooter, lots of hops. More than 250 colleges contacted Jantz; many of them NCAA Division I. But Jantz ended up at Bethany Nazarene College, which we now know as Southern Nazarene University.
“My mother probably prayed me into that school,” Jantz said. “My family was a Christian family, and my mother knew if I went off to a big university somewhere, I’d probably get lost in the shuffle.”
Jantz didn’t get lost in Bethany. He broke the school career scoring record, then eventually settled in the Oklahoma City metro, throwing himself into State Farm Insurance (40 years as a successful agent) and Southern Nazarene basketball. Jantz has spearheaded the BNC/SNU Alumni Players Association, which keeps past players involved with the program. In this age of transient basketball, Southern Nazarene retains a community feel, with its contemporary players connected to the past.
“I think it’s one of the things that makes this a great job,” said SNU’s Adam Bohac, who has coached the Crimson Storm to back-to-back Great American Conference titles. “How many places, their all-time leading scorer is still involved day to day in lots of different ways with the program?”
And it gets even more special Thursday night. SNU senior Jhonathan Dunn needs seven points against Henderson State to pass Jantz’s school scoring record of 2,104, set in 1974. Dunn, a senior from San Antonio, is averaging 27.5 points per game on 53.7% shooting from the floor and 45% from 3-point range. Dunn is the No. 3 scorer in NCAA Division II.
Talk of Dunn’s record-setting has made Jantz even more relevant to the current players.
“What’s been neat and what the guys realized this year, this guy must have been really good, because they know Jhonathan’s really, really good,” Bohac said.
Jantz said he didn’t even know he held the scoring record the first 10 or 15 years after his playing days. But Jim Poteet, who coached Jantz at BNC, and Bobby Martin, Jantz’s college point guard who eventually became the SNU head coach, have promoted the record and kept Jantz’s numbers prominent in Crimson Storm annals. Jantz kept his name prominent himself, with his commitment to the program.
“We’ve done something I don’t know that any other school has done,” Poteet said about the alumni association. “Jeff’s the driving force behind that. We’ve got a very strong, close group.”
Small-college basketball has changed the same way every level of hoops has changed. Player movement is rampant. Transfers galore. It’s harder than ever to build an espirt de corps. But Southern Nazarene has mostly retained the atmosphere it had decades ago, with coaching stability and alumni who stay connected.
“Where I see it the most is the guys who have been done playing 3-4-5 years, guys that played for me and are still considered young,” Bohac said. “Those guys have leaned hard into the relationships that began here, with alums, as they’re getting started in their careers.”
Bohac said Jantz is in practice occasionally and in the locker room for every home game and some road games, leading the team in prayer before and spending time with the players after.
Jantz said his commitment to Southern Nazarene basketball is the least he can do.
“There’s a strong bond that we all got through Bethany Nazarene/Southern Nazarene basketball,” Jantz said.
Jantz credits David Baker, the founder of the university’s athletic department in the 1960s, for establishing athletics in a Christian atmosphere.
“Through about six coaches, we’ve never let that go,” Jantz said. “We always teach that Christian brotherhood, that Godly brotherhood, ahead of the actual winning of the games. So there’s a close bond. We all get it. Obviously, not everybody leaves there a Christian, but they all get the same exposure.”
Many years ago, Jantz was inspired to keep the alums connected after a BNC basketball alum mentioned to Jantz that he thinks many times in his daily life of what he learned in his campus years.
Jantz, too, thinks of those years. How Poteet became a lifelong mentor and Martin became a lifelong friend.
Jantz’s record could be even higher, but he played when dunking was outlawed and no 3-point line existed.
After his college career, Jantz played a year in France, then Poteet arranged a tryout with the Los Angeles Lakers, who brought Jantz to training camp.
“Jerry West sat Jeff down, said if you’ll go back to France for one year, you’ll make the Lakers the next year,” Poteet said.
But Jantz was newly married and ready to settle down. Settle down he did, near the school his mother prayed him into and from which he’s never far away.
And Thursday night, Jantz returns to the spotlight, courtesy of a record that figures to fall.
“That’s good news, isn’t it?” Jantz said. “I’m tired of wearing this burden around.”
Jantz expresses pride in Dunn.
“Very proud of how he carries himself as a young man,” Jantz said. “People that know him will tell you, he’s the most polite and humble individual. There couldn’t be a better soul to get to do this. He will wear it very well.”
Here’s hoping he wears it as well as Jantz has for 46 years.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.