Skilled Jesperson Driven To Succeed

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The second youngest of seven children (four brothers, three sisters), Paul Jesperson took an early interest in basketball, an interest fueled by older brothers Jason and Jimmy, who took their younger brother to parks and gyms to play. Jason, who played collegiately in North Dakota and coached Paul on the AAU circuit (Wisconsin Playmakers) for three years, recognized his younger brother’s potential early on.

“I think I knew he would be really good off of one play in the fifth grade,” said Jay, Paul’s older brother by 17 years. “They were down one with 10 seconds left and he got a rebound between two defenders. He pushed the ball up the court but was cut off by two defenders around half-court. Without hesitation, he quickly went behind in stride and beat the double team and scored a layup to win the game. It was as good a sequence as I have seen a young player make in my life and I still remember it like it was yesterday. I remember him doing 360s on our mini hoop we had tied to the fence and just loving to be in the backyard or down at the park playing ball. As a youngster, and still now, his feel for the game set him apart from a lot of players in my opinion.

“I get emails and comments to this day from my friends telling me that I was right about Paul, so I must have talked about it a lot throughout the years.”

Playing and watching basketball, two things Paul did a lot of growing up, is one thing. It’s another to set a goal of becoming a college basketball player, but that’s just what the Merrill product did while in middle school.

“The dream set in,” Jesperson said.

It didn’t take long for the dream to become a reality. Only a high school freshman, Jesperson received his first scholarship offer.

“I got an offer from South Dakota State. I was super excited about it,” Jesperson recalled. “My brother Jason, who was coaching me, knew about it. My brother Jimmy, I remember calling him and he told me this would be the first of many to come. He told me to keep working hard. I decided to listen, thankfully.”