By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- He moved into the starting lineup for the Bridgewater State University men’s basketball team near the midway point of the 2018-19 season.
A.J. Jaramillo of Brockton had come off the bench for 10 games to start his freshman year, but with the Bears struggling at 2-10, his role changed when the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference schedule began Jan. 9.
The Cardinal Spellman High graduate became the starter and stayed in that spot for all but one of the final 15 games.
Jaramillo, a former Enterprise All-Scholastic, made such a strong impression that he was selected the MASCAC rookie of the year.
The point guard became just the third Bridgewater State player to receive that honor, joining Judah Jackson in 2008 and Tom Cuddihy in 2005.
“It means a lot,″ said Jaramillo of winning the award. “I know there’s a lot of people (in the running), and it helps me out and boosts my confidence going into next season.″
Jaramillo averaged 8.6 points, 3.2 assists and 2.1 rebounds in 25 games for a team that went 9-18, including 6-6 in the conference.
With 2.6 steals per game, Jaramillo led the MASCAC and ranks tied for 12th nationally in Division 3.
“It’s about determination, being focused at all times,″ said Jaramillo, who had 10 steals in a MASCAC tourney win over Framingham State last month.
Jaramillo’s accomplishments exceeded what he thought he would do as a freshman after being a 1,000-point scorer at Cardinal Spellman.
“I wasn’t expecting much playing time,″ he said. “I knew it was going to be a lot harder and a lot more fast-paced than high school basketball. I knew I would have to earn my way up there.
“I improved pretty well with patience, learning the pace of the game, being able to control the pace of the game, things of that sort. I think the mistakes I made helped the most, being able to learn from my mistakes and being able to get better.″
The Bears return just about everyone next season and the incentive to make up for what happened this winter will be there for the returning players.
Jaramillo will be a central figure with one full season of experience under his belt.
“I think he has some real good skills,″ said coach Joe Farroba. “I think he has a real good feel for the game. He changes speeds as well as anybody I’ve ever seen come through here. He comes up the court with one speed. He kind of lulls people and then all of a sudden he’s got a real good first step to go by people and get to the basket.
“A.J. got his opportunity and took full advantage of it. I’d like to see him get a little bit stronger in terms of physical. In terms of getting better, there’s a lot of that. He can get better.″
Jaramillo said he plans to increase his strength and will work on his shooting during the offseason.
The reigning MASCAC rookie of the year has something to build on after making a key contribution to Bridgewater State.
“I didn’t think it would be this quick for it to happen,″ said Jaramillo. “It will help a lot. Now I know what I’m coming into next year and what to prepare for.″
BSU players picked: Two of Jaramillo’s teammates, juniors Ryan Carney of Easton and Plymouth North graduate Rayshon Ward, were selected to the All-MASCAC second team.
Carney, who exceeded 1,000 points in his career during the conference tourney, was fifth in the MASCAC with 17.4 points per game and third in both assists with 3.9 and 3-pointers made with 48. The Oliver Ames graduate enters his final season with 1,027 points.
Ward was sixth in the MASCAC in scoring (17.1) and second in rebounds (10.6) while ranking third in blocked shots (1.4). He shot 48 percent and had 15 double-doubles.
Ward, who also made the all-conference second team a year ago, enters his final season with 960 points and 534 rebounds.