Health conditions marred some of Jake Negus’ junior basketball season at Edgewood College.
COVID-19 then threatened to take away his senior year completely.
In the end, once Negus, a 2017 Janesville Craig High graduate, finally got back on the court completely healthy in January, he took full advantage. He was named the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference North Division player of the year.
Negus led the Division III Eagles in scoring (16 points per game) and assists (4.5) while leading them to a 6-4 conference mark.
“It was a great accomplishment and pretty awesome when I heard the news,” Negus said. “Last year, I was sick for a lot of the season. So I was finally healthy for the whole year, which helped. And then I was just playing with confidence all year. I had confidence in my shot and had the ball in my hands a lot, which allowed me to create plays and distribute even more than previous years.”
Negus is the first Eagles player to earn a conference player of the year honor since 2005.
He shot 48.7% from the floor and 43.2% from 3-point range while playing 36.6 minutes per game. Negus was second on the team in rebounding at 5.1 per game.
“I had to carry a good load for the team and was expected to bring it every game, and I just kind of took that on as a challenge,” Negus said. “I wanted to improve in my last year.”
Negus was also a first-team all-conference selection as a sophomore. He was second team as a junior despite playing much of the season under the weather. He said there were times he would play in a game with no issues but then would go to the emergency room later that night because he was not feeling well.
He was diagnosed with an abscess in his tonsil and eventually had a tonsillectomy.
“I was just thankful this year that I was healthy and able to play in every game,” Negus said.
There were times, though, when Negus and his teammates were not sure there would be any games this winter.
They began practice Oct. 1 and watched as other Division III conferences canceled their seasons.
The NACC eventually played, with Edgewood going 10-7 in games played almost solely in January and February.
“We had six seniors, so obviously we wanted to play,” Negus said. “We were very cautious, had a lot of rules to follow and got tested a couple times a week. We made it happen.”
Once games began, Negus said he played each one as if it might be his last.
“Our season got shortened by quite a bit,” Negus said. “So every game just mattered more than in previous seasons.
“And we saw last year when things ended, you never knew when things might get shut down at any moment. So that was my mindset.”
Now Negus has a decision to make. The NCAA determined athletes playing during the pandemic would not lose a year of eligibility. Negus is set to graduate this spring with a business degree with concentrations in finance and marketing, but he could enroll in graduate school and play one more season.
Negus said as of Wednesday he had not finalized that decision.
For now, he’s turned to another passion. He is playing for the Edgewood men’s golf team.
“One of my roommates and best friends is on the team, and I golf with him quite a bit,” Negus said. “I’ve always liked golf. I’ve never really been great at it, but I look at it as a way to work on my game and improve.”
Negus, with a laugh, said not to expect another player of the year type of performance on the course this spring.
“They only take the top four or so scores, so I probably won’t be in that top group,” he said. “But I figured it’s my senior year, I might as well have some fun.”