By Emily Orthwein
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Persevering through hard times is something all too familiar for Jarvis Ray, a 6-foot-6 TCU senior basketball player from New Orleans. Through thick and thin, he always has a smile on his face.
Ray grew up playing basketball in New Orleans from a very young age.
“I’ve been playing basketball for a very long time, ever since I was five years old,” Ray said. “The first thing that got put into my hands was a basketball.”
At the beginning of Ray’s eighth grade year in 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina was one of the most destructive hurricanes ever, ranking in the top five of deadliest hurricanes in the history of the Unites States.
While Ray was in class, him and his brother were told to evacuate immediately. Their mother, Elaine, was stranded at work. Ray went months without talking or knowing if his mother was even alive because she could not get to a phone.
“Katrina was a very hard experience to go through,” Ray said. “Most people think that it’s why I pushed myself so hard into basketball, but I was thinking and worrying about my family the whole time.”
After evacuating to Houston for a few days, Ray then moved to North Carolina to finish out the school year.
As a student athlete, Ray has made an impact on the TCU community and its basketball program. Ray will do anything for his teammates to make them feel better, making them laugh, and pushing them to work harder no matter what obstacle is in their way. Ray says that it helps him realize that he needs to take some of the advice he gives other people, making it a two-way learning experience.
Head coach, Trent Johnson, also leaves a major impact on his players, especially Ray. The second-year head coach has built up TCU’s basketball program by coaching his players to be better people on and off the court. Johnson teaches them that ‘the ball will stop bouncing eventually,’ and the importance of getting a degree and learning how to be ready for life after basketball.
“Coach Johnson teaches us to grow as men,” Ray said. “ He treats us like men and expects the same respect back. So we all work hard on the court and in school to prepare for our futures after basketball. [Coach Johnson] has made me a better person.”
Johnson is a mentor to all of the players, but Ray has a few personal mentors on and off the court. On the court, Ray looks up to, Karviar Shepherd, a freshman and starting center for TCU.
“Even though [Shepherd] is younger than me, I look up to him because he will never lead us the wrong way,” Ray said. “He’s a young player, but a hard-working one who doesn’t act his age. If I’m out of line on the court, he will grab me and tell me to calm down.”
Off the court, Ray’s mother is his biggest mentor. Her name is tattooed on the inside of his arm. She will call him after every game and tell him to work harder and to be the best he can be.
“I would do anything for her,” Ray said. “ I don’t know what I would do without her. She gives me tough love but will never steer me wrong.”
Family is important to Ray. It is a family trait to be hard working, which motivates Ray to do the same thing every day. Ray’s mother would do anything for him and his brother growing up, working two to three jobs at a time. Ray is jumping the hurdles in his life to move that family trait on.
“With all of the set backs I’ve had in my life, I’ve changed the way I approach different situations,” Ray said. “It changed my study habits and work ethic on and off the court. I keep fighting every day to be better.”
Chris Hall, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Medicine, has seen Ray grow as a student athlete as well for the past four years at TCU.
“Jarvis has been through a lot in his time here,” Hall said. “He keeps things light but when its time to come into work, he comes in to work. Having to go through Katrina and live through that, it’s humbling, but it will never be the same. He has not let little obstacles get in the way of pushing himself through his tough times.”
It is just as important to Ray’s family as it is to himself to graduate from a school like TCU, considering he will be the first out of his immediate family to graduate from college. It says a lot about the type of person Ray has become, being a student at TCU. Nothing will stop him from over coming that obstacle to graduate in May.
“It means so much to my family and I to graduate from a terrific school and go out to make my own path,” Ray said. “It’s an amazing feeling because I know where I came from and to be here now, being happy, playing basketball, about to get my degree, will not only make me happy but it will make a lot of people happy.”
The future looks bright for Ray. His goal is to try to play somewhere professionally but nothing is more important to him than getting his degree.
“The basketball is going to stop bouncing sooner or later,” Ray said. “But no one will ever be able to take my degree away from me. I will always have that to fall back on.”
Ray hopes to use his situation to help make a statement to his younger cousins and kids everywhere that it doesn’t matter what you have gone through or where you come from. Ray says, “if you work hard you can get your degree even if you’ve struggled, you’ve struggled for a reason.”Ray’s story should bring inspiration to the younger generations that with hard work and dedication you can attain anything. Though Ray will graduate soon, he has left an impact on TCU’s campus and basketball program as an example for younger Horned Frogs to look up to.