SALT LAKE CITY — Jarred DuBois has been in an unusual situation playing for the University of Utah basketball team this season.
DuBois is playing his first year at Utah, but it will also be his last. He’s playing as a senior at the U. despite already graduating from Loyola Marymount University. He’s working on his master’s degree while many of his teammates are getting their feet wet as freshmen.
In his short time at the U., the skinny guard from Southern California has made his mark for an improving Utah basketball team. As one of three seniors, he leads the Utes in scoring (11.8 ppg) and assists (3.1 apg) as well as free throw shooting (83.6 percent) and 3-pointers made (32).
But what he’s done off the court might be most impressive.
Since last summer DuBois and several teammates, along with a few players from the Utah women’s basketball and volleyball teams have been making sandwiches most Sundays and going to Pioneer Park on Salt Lake City’s west side to distribute the food to those in need.
The idea for helping the homeless originated with DuBois, who grew up in Inglewood, Calif., where he saw a lot of poverty. It began last July, shortly after he had arrived in Salt Lake as he was enjoying a concert with teammates at Pioneer Park and noticed how many people were sleeping on the curb.
“We were wondering, ‘Where do they go? Are they always here?’’’ he said. “Someone told us, ‘Yeah they just live around here.’’’
So DuBois decided to do something about it. The next Sunday, DuBois rounded up a few of his younger teammates and took them to the park to give food to the homeless people that hung out there. They made sandwiches, bought some bottled water and handed them out at the park.
“From there it became a habit, so every Sunday we would go down and hand out water and sandwiches,’’ DuBois said. “We either go to the park or the shelter down the street.’’
Mind you, these aren’t pro athletes with big paychecks. These are college athletes, who have scholarships but little spending money.
“It hurts our pocketbook, but at the end of the day, it’s not that big of a deal,’’ DuBois says. “Some people are sleeping on the street, some are in shelters, some are kids as young as 2 years old, some are families. We’ve gotten to know a lot of the people down there, just by coming every week.’’
DuBois said he and the other Utes don’t just hand out food and leave.
“We try to converse with them and learn some of their background stories and maybe how they ended up there, how their week is going. So we’ve built a relationship with a good amount of the people there.’’
He gets his sense of compassion from his family, his father in particular. DuBois said back home in California, his dad lives out of his car out by choice.
“He does work, but he has family in Louisiana that needs a lot more help, so he figured he would help them out and sacrifice having a place to stay,’’ DuBois says. “But if you saw him you wouldn’t know. He’s thankful for everything he has and doesn’t complain about nothing. To have someone who is my idol being in a situation where he doesn’t have a home, makes me appreciate what I have.’’
DuBois says as he’s gotten older he realizes that material things don’t matter as much and the most important thing is family and a strong support system.
“It comes from realizing how lucky our situation is as college athletes,’’ he says. “Just look at the stuff we’re wearing and all the stuff people get here. There’s not many places in this world where they give you free clothes. So that alone makes me want to help someone else. Because it took someone else to help get me to where I am now.’’
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak can’t say enough about DuBois and how he’s helped his younger teammates through his example.
“I think it’s pretty neat,’’ Krystkowiak says of DuBois’s giving attitude. “It isn’t an easy gig punching in six days a week for college basketball and all the requirements academically and going to class every day. You get a Sunday off and to reach out and help people is huge. Jarred’s been instrumental in teaching some of our freshmen about that service.’’
Krystkowiak says that DuBois and teammates have even taken the coach’s oldest son, Cam, out with them to feed the homeless, which has been a great learning experience for him. “We’ve got a good group of guys,’’ Krystkowiak says.
On the court, DuBois has also been a leader, taking on any role the Utes throw at him. He has started most of the year, but also came off the bench for a few games when the Utes asked him to.
“He’s an intelligent player and he’s made a nice progression,’’ Krystkowiak said. “He’s a solid player, a great kid. I’m really pulling for him and want him to finish on a great run. Were going to need his leadership, playmaking and his scoring.’’
For DuBois, his decision to come to Utah has been a good one. He took advantage of the NCAA’s graduate transfer exception rule that others such as former Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson have used. It allows graduates of one school with eligibility remaining to enroll in another school’s graduate program that is not offered at their former school and then play right away.
“It’s been a great experience on and off the court,’’ DuBois said. “I’ve been able to make a difference, which is something I take pride in. I’ve been able to make an impact on the young guys’ careers both on and off the court.’’
DuBois’ impact on the basketball floor for the Utes may be seen in the coming years as players such as Brandon Taylor, Dakarai Tucker and Justin Seymour continue to develop. He hopes his impact helping the less fortunate in the community will last even longer.
“We’ll keep doing this as long as I’m here and the freshmen will continue after I leave,’’ he says. “And the people that come after them will continue when they come. So hopefully it will be something that 10 years from now, will still be going. Who knows, by then we might be handing out full meals.’’
E-mail: [email protected] Twitter: sorny8