Former East Ridge High School basketball star Philip Jurick is having the time of his life as a senior member of the Oklahoma State Cowboys. His team is now 4-0 to start the college basketball season after posting back to back, double digit wins over Tennessee and sixth ranked North Carolina State, to win the 2012 Puerto Rico Tip-Off in San Juan. Jurick should feel especially good after those wins, because he was the starting center in both games. He helped to hold Vols power forward Jarnell Stokes to a mere 7 points in the Cowboys 67-45 win over the Vols in the tournament semi-finals. His numbers, statistically speaking, are not much to brag about. Against the Vols, he scored six points and had five rebounds. He reversed those stats in the Championship Game win over powerful N.C. State, with five points and six rebounds. He also had several blocked shots in both contests, and he bothered many more opponents’ shots as well.
After leading the Pioneers to a sub-state finish in his senior season at East Ridge, Jurick signed a scholarship with Tennessee. He saw limited action in Knoxville under Coach Bruce Pearl and then transferred to Chattanooga State, where he helped lead the Tigers to the National Junior College Tournament. He then committed to play his final two seasons for Coach John Shulman at UTC, but changed his mind, and signed with Oklahoma State. He doesn’t regret his decision in any way. “I’ve been very happy in Stillwater, (Oklahoma) and I’m on track to graduate next semester. This has been a great experience,” he told me.
It hasn’t been easy for Phillip Jurick. He has been in and out of trouble since his high school days at East Ridge. Earlier this year, drug paraphernalia was found in his dorm room. He was arrested and it looked as if things were not going to end well for the 6’-11” 260 pound big man. He insisted the stuff wasn’t his, and he passed every drug test thrown his way. Eventually, the charges were dropped and Jurick was reinstated to the basketball team. He knows he was very fortunate and he plans to take advantage of every opportunity he has. In addition to his problems with the law, he suffered a torn Achilles tendon early this spring. An injury like that normally takes at least a year after surgery to get over. But Jurick worked so hard in rehab that he was back with his team when the season started; only a seven month rehab period. “It’s still not 100%, but it’s getting better,” he said. “It’s usually always swollen after games or practice, but when I ice it, the swelling goes down.”
Upon graduation, he said he wants to try to play basketball in Europe, where he should be able to flourish. After all, it’s not every day a man that big with a lot of ability comes along. Phillip Jurick has never been a real offensive threat, though when he gets the ball underneath, he is hard to stop. He knows his expertise is defense and rebounding, which makes him a role player. But, every good team I’ve ever seen has at least one or two good role players; guys who do one or two things for their team and they do it very well. His coach, Travis Ford, is lucky to have someone like Phillip Jurick, whether he starts or comes off the bench.
I’m very happy for Phillip Jurick. I’m also very happy that he is happy. To have come so far in a relatively short period of time is an amazing feat, especially when you consider how hard things have been for him. The Cowboys are now ranked in the top 25 polls following their impressive showing in Puerto Rico. This could be a very special season in Stillwater. I sure hope so. Phillip Jurick deserves it.
Randy Smith has been covering sports in Tennessee for the last 43 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has continued his broadcasting career as a free-lance play-by-play announcer. He is also an author and is a media concepts teacher at Brainerd High School in Chattanooga. He is also the Head Softball Coach at Brainerd. Randy Smith's career has included a 17-year stint as scoreboard host and pre-game talk show host on the widely regarded "Vol Network". He has also done play by play of more than 500 college football, basketball, baseball and softball games on ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, CSS and Tennessee Pay Per View telecasts. He was selected as "Tennessee's Best Sports Talk Show Host" in 1998 by the Associated Press. He has won other major awards including, "Best Sports Story" in Tennessee and his "Friday Night Football" shows on WRCB-TV twice won "Best Sports Talk Show In Tennessee" awards. He has also been the host of "Inside Lee University Basketball" on CSS for the past 11 years. He was the first television broadcaster to ever be elected to the "Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame", in 2003. Randy and his wife, Shelia, reside in Hixson. They have two married children (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith). They also have three grandchildren (Coleman, Boone, and DellaMae).