From the “You can’t make this stuff up” department: A little less than two years ago, I had a chance encounter with Ty Jerome, then of Iona Prep, as he was deciding which school to accept a scholarship offer from.
The Virginia standout was graduating Iona Prep in New Rochelle, N.Y. at the time, and his girlfriend at the time lived right across the street. A massive graduation party was held with food catered from one of the best Italian restaurants in Westchester, no expense was spared, and let’s just say that they did not run out of eggplant parmesan that afternoon.
Fast forward three years, and Jerome is now on the biggest stage in the NCAA, playing in the Final Four for Virginia against Auburn next Saturday night. You want to know who the next player that Charles Barkley will be hating on? It will be the kid wearing No. 11 who averaged 13.3 points and 4.33 rebounds while shooting a shade under 40 percent from 3-point range for the Cavaliers.
Virginia has defeated Purdue, Oregon, Oklahoma and Gardner-Webb while reaching the NCAA Final Four, and the Cavaliers’ 33-3 record is the best among the remaining four teams, the others being Auburn (30-9), Michigan State (32-6) and Texas Tech (30-6).
Jerome took over as the Cavaliers’ starting point guard his sophomore year. On December 30, 2017, he put up a career-high 31 points against Boston College. His play during the season earned him a spot on the All-ACC Third Team. Prior to the 2018-2019 season, Jerome to the pre-season all-ACC Second Team. On February 4, 2019, Jerome was named as one of the ten finalists for the Bob Cousy Award, recognizing the nation’s top college point guard. He is also listed as an early second-round pick in the 2019 NBA draft by Jonathan Givony of Draft Express.
Back in 2014, Jerome sat in the video room inside of John Paul Jones Arena with Virginia coach Tony Bennett and his staff. There was London Perrantes dishing to an open teammate. There was Malcolm Brogdon driving into the paint. There was Joe Harris curling around a screen. Bennett and assistant coaches Ritchie McKay and Jason Williford told Jerome that he could be used similarly. “They pointed out exactly how I would fit in,” Jerome told The Daily Progress, “and what I need to improve and how exactly I can do that.
“The place was just unreal — the campus, the basketball arena, the practice facilities, the weight room,” Jerome said. “All of that was unreal.’
What also has been unreal has been the competitiveness of Virginia’s NCAA tournament games during this tournament.
If you think nobody saw it coming, you never spoke to his high school coach, Vic Quirolo of Iona Prep.
“At the beginning, we saw something special, but he was only 5-for-8 as a freshman. There was one day when Donovan Mitchell came to our gym and everyone said he was going to be a pro, but nobody was saying that about Ty at the time … and to be honest, I did not see that coming,” Quirolo told Heavy.com.
“But from freshman year to junior year he grew six inches, and Mike Quick of MSG Varsity came up to me one day and told me he was going to be the next Mark Jackson … another guy who was considered to be not quick enough or smart enough but who ended up playing for St. John’s and the Knicks.
“I wouldn’t put anything past Ty, either. He has always been real good at everything. His IQ is very high, he’s crafty, and he always had that little extra something that every coach wants.
The Virginia-Auburn game tips off at 6:09 p.m. EDT next Saturday from Minneapolis and thee kid Barkley will be hating on is the suburban New Yorker with more beard than he had in his Iona Prep days. Jerome’s dad, Mark, will be in the stands in Minneapolis watching it all go down.
“Today is the easy day … in fact all the days when they don’t play are easy days,” the elder Jerome said.
And who knows? With two more wins, Ty Jerome may just find his name being called by Adam Silver in the first round of this June’s NBA Draft.