Dec. 7, 2010
MADISON, Wis. -- Hand over heart, Tim Jarmusz stood attentively during the playing of the national anthem prior to the start of the North Carolina State-Wisconsin game at the Kohl Center. While showing reverence to the flag, there was a good chance his thoughts may have drifted to his older brother, Adam, 25, a platoon leader in the U.S. Army.
Adam Jarmusz, who graduated from West Point in the top three percent of his class, has been stationed in Afghanistan since last February. This week, he completed his most recent tour of duty and returned to the states and Fort Campbell (Ky.), where he will begin training in a special Ranger unit.
Going to “war’’ is not an everyday sports cliché for Tim Jarmusz. During the time that Adam has been in South-Central Asia, he has dealt with the anxiety of a having a brother in harm’s way. And he found himself paying closer attention to the daily news dispatches from that part of the world.
“When he’d call, I’d always ask him a ton of questions about what was going on and I’d get all the details,’’ he said.
“It could range anywhere from two weeks to two months when we’d talk. He had one of these old school big radio phones in the mountains and he could only call me at certain times. He’d leave a voice mail if I was at practice. It was hit or miss because I couldn’t call him.
“My dad always kept me updated. Was I concerned? Very concerned. There were scary things going on. I know that he has been in a bad part of Afghanistan and he had to deal with a lot of stuff over there. And he’s come out of it with a couple of minor injuries. But nothing bad.’’
The good news is that Adam Jarmusz will soon be rejoining his family in Wisconsin for some R&R. “Can’t wait,’’ said Tim Jarmusz, a 6-foot-6, 205-pound senior from Oshkosh (West). “It’s been a long time, and it will be good to see him face-to-face.’’
The reality is that Adam will be returning to Afghanistan for another tour. “Words can’t describe how proud I am,’’ Jarmusz said of his brother. “Thinking of all the men and women over there doing what they do for our country, it’s truly amazing and something to be proud of.’’
UW associate head coach Greg Gard recognizes the challenge for student-athletes – like Jarmusz – to adapt to circumstances in their life outside the arena or classroom. This happens more often than not, though such things rarely draw the same level of attention, scrutiny or even understanding.
“Fans, in general, will see them running up and down the court on game nights,’’ Gard said. “But they don’t realize what else goes on during their lives. That’s not only for Tim. But all of our guys have their own individual stories and they probably don’t get told often enough.’’
This has been a demanding semester for Jarmusz in the context of balancing athletics and academics. Not that he hasn’t had plenty of practice doing so. “I learned at a young age,’’ he said.
On Monday, he had a three-hour class in Consumer Mediation that started at 2:25 p.m. and ended at 5:25 p.m. That meant Jarmusz had to miss practice.
“It’s frustrating, especially coming after a loss (to Notre Dame in Orlando, Fla.),’’ he said. “You want to get back out there and work on things and keep improving. But being a student-athlete, that’s something that you have to deal with and you have to learn how to make the best out of the situation.’’
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, he has an accounting class which forces him to leave practice early. During the first semester, the men’s team has the afternoon time slot for practice. That will change during the second semester. But so will Jarmusz’ course load, from 13 credits to 15 credits.
“He’s at a point where he’s finishing up his degree and the classes he needs to graduate are only offered at certain times of the day and the week,’’ Gard said. “It’s not like when you’re a freshman or a sophomore and you have more options. He’s pigeonholed in what he has to take.’’
Jarmusz is not complaining. His parents, Doug and Kathy, taught him the value of education. His dad is involved with the business school internship program at UW-Oshkosh. And he had two uncles graduate from the UW business school. Jarmusz is majoring in consumer science and business affairs.
Tim Jarmusz, by the way, rarely complains about anything. “He’s just one of those guys who keeps battling,’’ Gard confirmed. “He brings it every single day in practice. You never hear him whine.’’
Last season, he had to deal with a lower back injury. “Nothing to complain about, nothing to talk about,’’ Jarmusz said. “Injuries affect everyone in different ways. Things happen.’’
This season, he has been dealing with a partially torn calf muscle. “I’m starting to get healthy,’’ he said. “I’m feeling good right now, and I have no complaints.’’
That’s all you will get from him on the topic.
You will get much more out of him on the floor.
“The things that he does day-in and day-out are the hustle plays,’’ Gard said. “He’s a blue collar, hard hat player. Whatever label you want to put on him. He’s about the intangibles. You can’t put a price tag on what he means to this team in the locker room and during practices and games.’’
Jarmusz is a scrapper. He showed that during last week’s win over Boston College. At the mention that he appeared to throw an elbow after a player went over the top of him on a rebound attempt, he quickly pointed out, “I never intentionally threw an elbow.’’
That said, he added, “But you have to play physical. It’s just that competitive edge. You want to get all the loose balls. When push comes to shove, you want to be the one sticking your nose in there.
“Like Coach Ryan always preaches, ‘Whoever comes up with the most loose ones and most hustle plays usually gets the momentum and usually comes out on the left-hand side (win column).’’
What’s his role on this team? “More of a leadership role,’’ said Jarmusz. “We have six seniors and we all take a little piece of that (responsibility). We try to lead by example.’’
Gard sees the potential for more. Especially if Jarmusz can get more consistent with his 3-point shot.
“He’s someone who needs to get some confidence from an offensive standpoint,’’ Gard said. “If he could just get the ball to go in, it would be huge for him as far as boosting his confidence.’’
Jarmusz doesn’t get a lot of shots, so the misses tend to be magnified.
“As coach always says, ‘The next one is going in’ and that’s how you try to think about it,’’ he said. “But sometimes people are all over you (defensively) and you’re only going to get a shot or two.
“Other times, they’re going to leave you open, and you get four or five shots. You just have to be ready to make sure you have your confidence and then you have to let it fly when you’re open.’’
And if you miss? “You have to have a very short memory just like they say a cornerback has in football,’’ he said. “You have to forget about it, and move on to the next play.’’
Even though the Badgers have yet to hit full stride as a team, Jarmusz likes the upside.
“We’re still trying to find our niche,’’ he said. “At times, we look really good – at times not so good. We have to keep working on consistency. It will take time. But the chemistry is definitely there.
“Everyone is really tight, really close, whether we’re on or off the court. We enjoy hanging out with each other and doing things together. This is the best chemistry we’ve had since I’ve been here. And it makes it more fun to come to practice every day with people you really like.’’
Once you get to know him, it’s hard not to like Jarmusz. “You’d just like to see him have some success as a senior for all that he’s meant to us,’’ Gard said.
After the UW’s 87-48 win Wednesday night, North Carolina State sophomore Scott Wood said, “The whole week, we were going on the word ‘war’ – because we knew it was going to be a war.’’
Not that he would ever complain, but Jarmusz might have a different view of that metaphor.