Baranowski makes squad as walk-on guard

Jasen Baranowski started this season as a manager and now is on the roster.

Jasen Baranowski participated in walk-on tryouts Oct. 2. Baranowski has officially been added to the roster.

Eric Miller, University of Minnesota Athletics

Jasen Baranowski participated in walk-on tryouts Oct. 2. Baranowski has officially been added to the roster.

Jace Frederick

A month ago, Jasen Baranowski, a freshman student manager for the Gophers men’s basketball team, wasn’t hanging out with friends or relaxing on his couch like students normally do on Friday nights — he was doing the team’s laundry.

Now someone can do Baranowski’s laundry for him. He’s on the team.

The guard from Green Bay, Wis., participated in the team’s open tryout Oct. 1. He was one of only two players the coaching staff called back, and he was recently selected to travel with the Gophers this season as part of the active roster.

“Once I found out, I was speechless,” Baranowski said. “[Gophers head coach Richard Pitino] was like, ‘Alright, get out of here.’

“I went into the hallway, and I was all jacked up. I went downstairs and texted my dad. It was really exciting.”

The tryouts

Baranowski played basketball at Green Bay Southwest High School and had Division III looks to continue his career.

He visited St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wis., but his dad said at that point his son knew he didn’t want to play at that level.

“He had his heart set on playing a higher level of ball,” Gary Baranowski said.

But lacking Division II offers, Jasen Baranowski decided to attend the University of Minnesota and focus on academics. He plans to major in nutrition and possibly go to dentistry school.

Baranowski also said he hopes to get into coaching one day and being a student manager would be a good stepping stone in that direction.

He worked that job during his first month on campus and said when he watched the team practice, he thought he could compete.

“I thought I could hold my own,” he said. “I just thought, if the opportunity ever came, I was going to try to go for it.”

He made sure he was ready for a potential shot. As the student manager, he took advantage of his access to Williams Arena.

“I would just come in here at night and work on my game,” he said. “You never know if something is going to come up, and I just love basketball. So I want to make sure I’m playing.”

Baranowski said he didn’t know what to expect heading into the tryouts.

“I just kind of had to do my thing,” he said. “Try to prove that I stood out from everyone, and it went really well.”

Well enough to earn him a spot on the team. Baranowski joined the Gophers in the midst of fall practices.

“We really threw him into the fire … and kind of saw what he could do,” Pitino said. “He’s a great kid and a good addition to the program. He understands what this is all about. … So he’ll help us.”

Junior walk-on guard Kendal Shell said joining the team as a walk-on is a challenge at any time. Shell said he’s been giving Baranowski tips about being a walk-on player and the energy he must bring to the team.

Shell said he was impressed with Baranowski’s ability to acclimate to the team in the midst of fall practice.

“Trying to imagine what he went through just coming in when we’re in practice, when we’re going full speed ahead, it was crazy,” Shell said. “He handled it so well, I think. It was a lot of maturity I don’t think we knew he had.”

Knee injury

Baranowski’s senior high school season was cut short.

Gary Baranowski said his son fell to the ground less than a minute into a game in the middle of the season. He originally thought his son turned an ankle, until Jasen Baranowski had to be carried off the court.

Gary Baranowski said doctors couldn’t get inside his son’s right leg for two days because it was locked up at a 90-degree angle. When doctors were finally able to look at the knee, they discovered a torn meniscus.

Baranowski, who averaged 8.3 points and 4.0 rebounds during his senior campaign, was relegated to watching from the bench for the rest of his final season.

“It was hard,” Gary Baranowski said. “I definitely thought that was the last time I’d see him play.”

Now Gary Baranowski will see his son play in person for the Gophers on Friday night in their exhibition matchup with Cardinal Stritch University.

And Jasen Baranowski said he’s eager for that moment.

“I’m just excited to see all the people in the stands and warm up and be on the bench,” he said. “It’s really a dream come true.”