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Basketball Alumni Carthan and Jernigan Determined to Finish What They Started


West Windsor, N.J. – Former Mercer County Community College (MCCC) basketball teammates Gary Carthan and Jonathan Jernigan, who played together in 2010-11, faced off as opponents in a New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) game in December. Carthan is now a junior at Rowan University and Jernigan is a senior at Rutgers-Camden. The Dec. 2 game at Rutgers-Camden was an intense contest that RU-Camden won 71-70. (Carthan scored six points and had four rebounds in 15 minutes of play and Jernigan finished with nine points in 27 minutes of play.)

Both Carthan and Jernigan, who continue to work towards their bachelor’s degrees, acknowledge that their college journeys have been longer than average. Carthan spent several years at Mercer studying Exercise Science, with the intent to transfer and continue his basketball career. He accomplished that goal this fall, when he was accepted at Rowan as an Exercise Science major and given the chance to try out for the team.

Carthan has been making the most of his opportunities on the court, averaging 5.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 13.2 minutes per game off the bench in 14 games. In a November game against Washington College, he scored 14 points in his 13 minutes.  (Carthan was a huge asset during his two years as a Viking, helping the team advance to the NJCAA Division II National Championship in his freshman season. As a sophomore, he was selected to the All-Region 19 Second Team and the All-Garden State Athletic Conference Second Team.)

Following the 2010-11 season, Jernigan transferred to Delaware Valley College, where he continued to play ball. This year, he transferred to Rutgers-Camden.

The Vikings celebrate a post-season win in 2011. Gary Carthan, jumping at left, and Jonathan Jernigan (no. 11) are both on track to earn their bachelor's degrees. They faced off in December as members of opposing teams (Rowan for Carthan and RU-Camden for Jernigan).

Teammates at the 2011 Athletes Breakfast, from left, Anthony Obery (current assistant coach at County College of Morris), Arlington Rowley, Jonathan Jernigan and Gary Carthan.

“Education has been my first priority, especially as I was recovering from an ACL injury. Basketball always stuck in my mind and this opportunity came about. I am happy to be able to participate again,” he said.

In 12 games, Jernigan is averaging 7.7 points and 2.7 rebounds in 19.7 minutes per game. In a Dec. 5 contest versus Kean University, he scored 25 points and hit seven three-point field goals – just one three-pointer short of the single game record at Rutgers-Camden. For his efforts that day, he was named Rutgers-Camden’s Raptor Athlete of the Week.  Jernigan stayed in shape earlier in the fall as a member of the men’s cross country team and was the Raptors’ third place finisher at the NJAC Championship.

Playing on opposing teams did not faze either competitor. Carthan said, “I never imagined I would end up playing against a former teammate five years later but it was pretty cool.” Jernigan said it reminded him of their practices together at Mercer and thought it was fun.

Both Carthan and Jernigan have special memories of their time at Mercer. Carthan said he learned so much from the people who worked with him. “Coaches Howard Levy, Tom DeStefano, and Mirek Babiarz made me into a smarter player. Coach Levy helped me bring my game to a different level – from seeing the floor better to taking advantage of opportunities to score. He told me to just be myself out there. My second year, I barely got yelled at so I guess I was playing some of my best basketball,” he said with a laugh.

He also noted the important roles of Athletic Trainer Lisa Camillone and Strength and Conditioning Coach John Kalinowski. “They taught me how to take care of my body.  I will never forget them and I was truly blessed to have those positive influences in my life.”

Jernigan emphasized the lessons he learned about team play.  “Mercer helped me in many ways, the most significant being Coach Levy’s team-first concept.  I have such high regards for him. He taught us a lot about ourselves and about making each other better as a unit.”

Jernigan is particularly fond of a move known as the backdoor cut. “It’s something that Coach Levy passed on to me and many of his former players, and it works. The Princeton style of moving without the basketball has shown me what it can do for a team.”  (Levy’s style of play hails from Princeton University, where he played and coached.)

Both players say their 2010-11 playoff run is a treasured memory.  “We were eight points short of winning the Region 19 title [against Del Tech Stanton]. While it ended with a disappointing loss, it took all of us to get that far.  We changed our season and fought the whole way,” Jernigan recalled.  The team’s final record that year was 16-17.

Carthan was a member of the last Mercer team to advance to the NJCAA Division II Men’s National Championship in Danville, Ill., in 2010. He recalls that that trip and other overnighters during the season helped him grow.  “Those trips are some of my best memories. I was always quiet and through those trips I got to know my teammates outside of basketball.  I think that was a big reason we were so successful.”

While Jernigan’s team got the December win, both players are winners who remain stay focused on achieving their goals. Their days at Mercer taught them about perseverance and hard work – lessons that continue to serve them well in basketball, in the classroom and in life.

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