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Thursday January 10, 2013 Walk-on Kurtz has a moment in the orange and blue sun

Updated: 6:13pm, January 10

Jake GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Late in Florida’s lopsided road win Sunday at Yale, sophomore walk-on forward Jacob Kurtz got the call to help finish out the final two minutes.

With the clock winding down, Kurtz found himself with a wide-open look from the 3-point line -- and passed the ball, instead.

“SHOOT THE BALL!” teammate and best friend Erik Murphy screamed from the bench.

Fast forward three days.

Kurtz, along with UF’s four freshmen, were subbed into Wednesday night’s 77-44 rout of Georgia with 3:11 to go. Not only did Kurtz drive to the bucket for a finger-roll layup for the first basket of his college basketball life, but with 50 seconds left, there he was open again from behind the arc.

This time, Kurtz let it fly from the top of the key.

Good!

As he back-peddled on defense, Kurtz pointed at the UF bench, which was going nuts.

“I was pointing at Murph, but really pointing at all of them,” Kurtz said. “They were all happy I shot it and I was happy it went in.”

Such is the life of a walk-on. He kills himself at practice every day, then shows up at the gym for games with virtually no hope of getting on the court. That’s just part of the deal.

But so, sometimes, are these memorable rewards; like a career-high five points on 2-for-2 shooting, and all your teammates -- plus the UF student section -- cheering your name.

“I love it,” Coach Billy Donovan said. “Jake is such a great kid.”

A motivated one, also.

Kurtz, the 6-foot-5, 195-pounder who averaged 13 points and nine rebounds during an all-conference career at Oviedo (Fla.) Hagerty High, came to the UF basketball office as a freshman three years ago and expressed his desire to be involved with the basketball program -- at any level. So Kurtz was granted permission to sit upstairs and watch practice and eventually was given some manager-type duties and became more involved with day-to-day operations. Including practice.

When the Gators were dealing with some injuries last year, Donovan put Kurtz on the court.  

“We threw him in there -- and he wasn’t bad,” Donovan said.

Now Kurtz, a mechanical engineering major, is an integral part of the team, whether that means give the Gators the best opponent with the scout team or filling in as a body when needed. He’s so in tune with what the Gators do both offensively and defensively, having immersed himself in the program, that Donovan and the staff have the trust and confidence he'll do exactly what's needed. 

For that, “Jake the Snake” was rewarded with a few glorious, well-deserved minutes.

“That was fun,” Kurtz said through a huge smile. “Really fun.”


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