By JACK VANASSCHE, Sports Editor
Entering Wednesday night’s home game against Lawrence Tech University, junior forward Jason Penn needed just eight points to reach 1,000 for his college career.
No Wolverine had done so since Jamiel Strickland in the 2014-15 season, and no player recruited by third-year head coach Taylor Langley had ever reached the 1,000 career point marker.
But with a free throw in the second half, Penn was able to become the sixth Wolverine in UM-Dearborn history to score 1,000 career points.
Early in the game, Penn said he was feeling the pressure from his teammates with the accomplishment looming.
“I knew my teammates were trying to get it to me early in the game,” he said. “I told them it wasn’t about me. I knew I would get it eventually. I didn’t want them to force feed me. I was like, ‘It’s only eight points. I’ll get it eventually.’”
As minutes passed, Penn inched closer and closer with layups under the basket in his usual fashion.
A minute into the second half and needing three points for the milestone, Penn left his usual position down low for the perimeter. His teammates got the ball over, and Penn took just his third three-point attempt of the season.
The home bench shot up out of their chairs screaming, “One-K!” as the ball headed to the rim, but deflated back into their chairs when the shot rattled off the iron and out.
“That would have been legendary,” Penn said after the game with a laugh.
The Wolverines did not need to wait long to celebrate, as just minutes later, Penn broke free all alone down court and finished with a two-handed slam. One to go.
With 13:45 remaining in the game, Penn was fouled on a shot in the paint and headed to the free throw line with a chance at history.
An anxious crowd sat silent as his first attempt banked off the front of the rim.
On his second, shot, however, he found the net for career point 1,000.
“Finally,” Penn said.
Immediately, teammates from the bench rushed onto the court to celebrate with Penn as he received a standing ovation from the UM-Dearborn crowd at the Fieldhouse.
Penn, being a big man with a small appetite for attention, headed straight to the bench to find a water bottle and a seat.
“He just slapped my hand and we nodded at each other,” said Langley. “I don’t think Jason liked the pressure of that, either. I think Jason was ready to get it over with and get back to basketball.
“He’s a pretty personal guy, so anything like that he steers away from.”
Penn, as his head coach predicted, was just ready to move on with winning the basketball game.
“When I got it, I was happy,” said Penn. “I tried not to make it about me. We’ve got a lot more team goals, so this, to me, wasn’t as serious as the team’s goal.
“I really didn’t get excited until after the game.”
After the Wolverines defeated Lawrence Tech, fans were urged to stay seated as the Athletics Department as represented by Director of Athletics Matt Beaudry presented Penn and his family a commemorative framed graphic. The gift was composed of photos of Penn playing for the Wolverines with text reading, “Congratulations Jason Penn” and “1000 Career Points” underneath.
Penn was mobbed by his teammates for a second time after, including senior forward Marcus Williams.
“I’ve seen nothing but growth from Jason,” Williams said. “I’m so happy that it happened at home, so happy that we got it in a win. It was real good.”
Not many were as proud of Penn as Langley was, as Penn was one of the first recruits Langley pulled in upon his hiring over three years ago.
“Jason and I have a special relationship,” Langley said. “It couldn’t happen to a better kid. He’s just a good person, and as a coach it’s nice to see when good things happen to good kids.”