By Jocelyn McGaughy
With many offers to choose from, Tim Jumper, an all-star high school basketball player, had a huge decision to make. What college would he attend to play basketball?
“I received offers from Ole Miss, Alabama, Clemson, Memphis, Tennessee, North Carolina State, Mississippi State, and Southern Miss,” said Jumper, who helped lead Baldwyn High School to back to back state championships his junior and senior seasons in 1986 and 1987.
He decided to attend Ole Miss because he realized it was the best choice he could make, not only for him but also for his family.
“I chose Ole Miss because of the proximity it was to my hometown and having the opportunity to come in and play right away,” Jumper said. “Having my parents being so supportive of me, and not missing any of my high school games, I thought it was important to choose somewhere close so they could do the same with me being in college.”
Arriving in Oxford, Jumper had to adjust to the new atmosphere and the difference between high school basketball and college basketball.
“Coming from a (high school) team where we had a winning tradition, it was different because I was used to winning,” Jumper said. “Getting to Ole Miss and not winning as much was somewhat a setback in terms of my mental thoughts and how I used to think.”
However, they could build something at Ole Miss, and his teammates were important to him.
“I got along very well with my teammates,” Jumper said. “We did a lot of things together during basketball and outside of basketball.”
Jumper proved to be a huge asset to his team, even during his freshman season. Named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year by Jefferson-Pilot, he was the only unanimous choice to the SEC Coaches All-Freshman squad in 1987 when he averaged 13.6 points and 2.2 assists per game. He scored 394 points with 63 assists and 34 steals.
“It was a great feeling being picked as the top freshman out of everybody in the conference,” Jumper said, “It was actually a goal I had set out to achieve.”
But in his sophomore season, he suffered a major setback. In an unusually early SEC game against Tennessee in Oxford, on Nov. 28, 1988, Jumper tore the ACL in his left knee during the game. It was a devastating moment for the rising star.
“I kind of penetrated. I made a pass and I made a cut,” Jumper said. “When I cut, it just buckled.”
He sat out until Jan. 5, 1989, when he played against Florida, and he played the rest of the season. He had major surgery after the season.
“I think it hampered me some (in his career),” he said. “But I didn’t miss a game after that. I started every game and played 109 games in my career. It was probably more mental than anything. It took me a while to get past the tendency to put that right foot down before I put that left foot down (while taking a shot).”
Jumper still ranks No. 19 on the all-time scoring list at Ole Miss with 1,375 points.
Jumper said he always looked forward to every game, but playing Mississippi State, LSU, and Kentucky were always special.
“Playing against MSU was always fun just because they were our rivals and (it was like) everybody in the state would attend,” he said. “I enjoyed playing against LSU because during my time they had phenomenal players like Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Jackson, and Stanley Roberts. Going up to Rupp Arena (at Kentucky), was always a great experience.”
One game he played in still stands out, and fans remember it. Gerald Glass had 53 points for Ole Miss and Chris Jackson 55 for LSU. The Rebels won 113-112 in overtime in Oxford.
“I was watching (a replay of) that game a few nights ago,” he said. “That’s one you never forget and talk about all the time.”
After Ole Miss, Jumper went to the New Jersey Nets as a free agent.
“When New Jersey cut me, I came back and finished my Masters up and started Law School for a year,” he said.
Then it was into the sports agent business for years as he remained around the sport. Now, a family-owned daycare business in Horn Lake and continuing with his sports consulting keep Jumper, 51, going these days.
“That’s enough to keep me busy,” he said.
His son, Braxton, who turns 15 next month, is already drawing attention as a good basketball player in his own right.
“He’s exceptional,” said Jumper, mentioning he is not saying that just because he is his son. “He’ll be going into the ninth grade. I held him back last year just to get him stronger and it’s paid dividends. He’s about 6-1 and it’s like he’s growing every day. He’s in a 13 shoe now.”
As with life, there have been some challenges along the way. Eight years ago Jumper was diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
“No chemo, no radiation, no medicine,” he said. “God is a very good God. That’s for sure.”
He’s doing well now, and he says he wouldn’t trade his time at Ole Miss for anything. Those years helped make him the person he is today.
“Looking back, it was the best decision I could have made,” Tim Jumper said. “I would do it the same way again.”
Jeff Roberson contributed to the story