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Zep Jasper Feature


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Many know I have been on the zep train all season, both on and off the court. This is a great read. We are fortunate to have guys like him representing AU

Just look at Zep': Loyalty and kindness overflow from Auburn's Jasper


NCAA Tournament Midwest: No. 15 Jacksonville State vs. No. 2 Auburn


AUBURN, Alabama — On the court, Zep Jasper is one of the most feared and pesky defenders in the SEC. Bruce Pearl will stack his starting point guard’s on-ball defense up with any player’s in the country. Watching Jasper from floor level, or in practice, makes it easy to see opposing guards, well, hate to see him. At all times, he’s a menace to advance the ball against.

Off the court, though, he gets kisses on the cheek from a 4-year-old named Abigail.

Jasper, one of a handful of first-year Tigers on Pearl’s SEC championship-winning ballclub, has grown well liked by Auburn fans this season with his play, sure. But the little anecdotes — staying outside the arena for a half hour to sign autographs for kids, engaging in the lunacy of Auburn social media banter, or apologizing to fans in Tampa for his team losing its first game in the SEC tournament — have been what truly works Jasper into the hearts of the orange and blue faithful.

There are, perhaps, no bigger Jasper fans on the Plains this year than Sally Pitts and her three daughters.

“After one of the early games in the season, he was coming off the court, and he looked down and saw my daughter, Katherine,” Pitts said. “He says, ‘I have to pick you up.’ He picked her up and put her on his shoulders and they walked around for a while. And ever since, they’ve been besties. That’s what they call each other: ‘Besties.’ It’s just been this bond. They absolutely love him.”

For Pitts, a news anchor at WSFA 12 in Montgomery and an Auburn graduate, it didn’t take long this season for her and her family to tab a favorite player on this year’s team. As Pitts says he does with every fan postgame, particularly the younger ones, Jasper didn’t rush off the floor to head home. He hung around and made some new friends — best friends, as Zep and Katherine would verify.


10977595.png (Photo: Courtesy: Sally Pitts)

When Jasper came back out of the locker room that night of their first meeting, Katherine was still waiting for him. Pitts said her middle daughter grew fond of K.D. Johnson early on in the season. Katherine asked Jasper where Johnson was.

“And Zep says, ‘Well, I think he’s still in the locker room. Want to go in?’” Pitts said. “So he takes my two oldest children into the Auburn locker room. They turned to me and asked, and of course said to go ahead. We trust him.”

Katherine was, of course, very proud of her exclusive access. At Auburn’s last home game against South Carolina, where the Tigers clinched the SEC championship outright, Pitts and her family met Jasper’s mother and others in his family.

“Katherine goes up to them and says, ‘Have you been in the locker room?’” Pitts said. “They said no, and she said, ‘Well, Zep’s taken me.’ It was pretty cute. She was proud of that. After every game, they track him down. They pester him, and he never, never, acts like it bothers him. He carried my 4-year-old around after one game and she gave him a kiss on the cheek. It is just precious. He is such a good guy.


10977600.png (Photo: Courtesy: Sally Pitts)

“He’s definitely my favorite now — not just because of how good he is to my girls, but to all the fans he sees.”

Pitts said all three of her daughters are Auburn basketball superfans; they know every player’s name, even the ones that don’t often check into games, and they never miss a game. When one of them slept late last Friday and missed the start of the SEC tournament quarterfinal matchup against Texas A&M, she frantically rushed downstairs: “Why didn’t you wake me up? We’re playing! We’re playing!”

But as much as Pitts and her family enjoy basketball, Pitts said she’s been thankful for the opportunities to teach her daughters some life lessons along the way.

All she has to do is point to Jasper.

“They learn so much watching this team,” Pitts said. “We talk to my girls and tell them they can do anything they want to do if they put in the work. I say, ‘Just look at Zep.’ He’s working hard, and he’s still kind. He’s still selfless.”


10977603.png (Photo: Courtesy: Sally Pitts)

Mother to mother, Pitts said at Auburn’s last home game, she made sure to tell Sandra Jasper how big of an impact her son has made not only on her girls, but many other young fans.

“I told her, 'You should be so proud of your son; you have raised such a good young man,’” Pitts said. “She deserves so much credit for raising him. And she was just as sweet speaking to my girls and me after that game.”


Earl Grant came to expect it when he would notice someone at the College of Charleston approaching him out of the blue.

“Sometimes, I would be walking campus every now and then, and a professor would stop me just to say how much they loved having Zep in their class,” Grant said. “I was always very proud of my player when I heard that.”

Grant, now the head coach at Boston College, coached Jasper in each of his four seasons at the College of Charleston. In fact, Jasper was on the Cougars team that played Auburn in the first round of the NCAA tournament, but he was redshirting that season, so he didn’t travel to San Diego.

Prior to earning his first head-coaching gig in Charleston, Grant was an assistant at Clemson. He loved coaching Rod Hall, a physical point guard from Laney High School in Augusta, Georgia.

When he became a head coach, he consulted Hall during his first year recruiting for the Cougars. He wanted a player like him on his own team.

“Rod kind of had that same everyday toughness,” Grant said. “And I said, ‘I’ve got to find another guy like you. Any young boys coming up at Laney?’ He said, ‘Well, we’ve got Zep Jasper’.”

So Grant’s scouting of Jasper began when the guard was a freshman in high school. Grant said at the exact time when the contact period opened for coaches when Jasper became an 11th grader, the coach picked up the phone.

Grant watched Jasper grow as part of the Southern Stampede — the same AAU club that Auburn’s Jared Harper played for in Georgia. Though small in stature, Jasper’s tenacity, particularly on defense, could not be matched, Grant said.

That fearlessness began in pickup games in Augusta with his father, William Jasper.

“Oh, his dad used to bring him to the YMCA when he was in seventh grade, and he would play against grown men,” Buck Harris, Jasper’s head coach at Laney, said. “And he would win most of the time. So when he started playing for us, there was just no fear.”


10977589.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,off (Jeff Blake, USA TODAY Sports)

Grant knew he wanted Jasper as his point guard of the future — but he didn’t have enough roster spots entering the 2016-17 season. He was worried he was going to lose one of his favorite prospects of the past few years. Instead, Jasper showed his loyalty.

“This told me a lot about him: I offered him a scholarship, but I didn’t have one,” Grant said. “I said, ‘Look, I want you at Charleston. You’ve been my guy. But I said man, I don’t have a scholarship. Can you go to prep school for a year?’ And he turned down other good offers, went to prep school for a year, then came to us. That shows the kind of loyal guy he is and what he’s about.”

And it was in his first year with Grant, after one season at Notre Dame Preparatory School in Massachusetts, that Jasper’s unrelenting defense began to blossom. 

Grant had a point guard, Marquise Pointer, who crossed over with Jasper for two season with the Cougars. Pointer effectively executed Grant’s defensive philosophies, and Jasper followed in his footsteps.

“A lot of teams tell their point guard to run back and protect the rim in transition defense,” Grant said. “We taught that when the shot goes up, you go find the other team’s point guard. You go jam the ball, pick him up, make or miss, and make him work all the way up the court.”

Pointer was good at it, Grant said. Jasper was elite. Opposing SEC coaches can thank the defensive-minded coach and his veteran guard for their headaches on offense all these years later.

“When we started to do that with Zep after Marquis, he loved it,” Grant said. “It was his thing. That was a natural thing for him. He would just dog people up and down the court, all night. He enjoys it.”


Jasper was a nervous wreck. Sitting front row, right side of the aisle, next to Jabari Smith and Johnson, he could barely watch the Selection Sunday show last week.

“My stomach was folding up,” Jasper said. "I was like, ‘Please, let’s get to Greenville.’”

Jasper said where he grew up in Augusta is two hours and 18 minutes from Bon Secours Wellness Arena in downtown Greenville. Of course, Jasper’s wishes were granted. Perhaps later in the show than his nerves would have liked, Auburn’s name was called in the Midwest region as No. 2 seed, opening Friday against No. 15 Jacksonville State (11:40 a.m. CST, TruTV).

Less than a year after committing to Auburn, it’s a homecoming of sorts for the senior.

“I’m going to have a lot of family there, a lot of supporters, a lot of people,” Jasper said. “I’m just grateful that we get this opportunity. I was blessed to come here.”

Jasper has started 30 of 32 games this season for Auburn, missing two due to illness midway through the SEC slate. He’s not the scorer College of Charleston asked him to be, down to 5.1 points per game from 15.6 last season, as his pestering defense and efficient ball movement serve as his calling cards. His assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.8 is the best in the SEC this season, and he’s had multiple turnovers against SEC competition only three times this season.


10914991.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,off (Adam Sparks / Inside the Auburn Tigers)

Jasper has also already decided to return next season, he said earlier this year. It’ll be his seventh season of college basketball, if including his stint at prep school and his redshirt campaign at the College of Charleston.

And in his sixth season, he’s making his first trip to the Big Dance.

“I’ve never experienced this day in my life,” Jasper said. “I always watched it on TV. I always wanted to be here. We made it happen by having a good season this year. I’m just blessed. My life is blessed. The whole coaching staff, the players here, we worked so hard starting off in July this summer. My first March Madness, I couldn’t be any more grateful for this.”

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