When the question was asked, Jaren English was quick and emphatic to reply.
Sure, he's an All-Conference player at the Atlantic 10 level and one of several reasons why the St. Bonaventure basketball team has high hopes for a special season whenever the 2020-21 campaign finally tips off.
But is he even the best athlete in his own family?
"My brother is the best athlete," he says. "By far."
Jaren's brother William is currently chasing pro baseball dreams after being drafted in the fifth round of the MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Angels two summers ago. He decided to forego a full scholarship at Tennessee to sign with the Angels. He's ranked in the organization's top prospect lists by multiple sources.
While both brothers clearly share athletic genes, Jaren has worked for each opportunity he has earned during his career.
Overlooked with little interest from Division I programs coming out of high school, he went the junior college route at Ranger College in Texas. There, he helped the Rangers earn a berth in the NJCAA Division I title game, starting all 33 games as a freshman.
His efforts there got him on St. Bonaventure's radar.
"Nothing has ever come easy for me. I wasn't always the strongest or the most athletic," he said. "I just try to outthink my opponent, make the right play, and be a great teammate."
His work ethic stands out immediately to his coaches.
"He has a chip on his shoulder because he wants to win and he wants to be a great teammate, and he does both of them very well," Billy Gillispie, his coach at Ranger, told the Olean Times-Herald last year. "The reason (he's made it to the D-I level) is because that's who he is; that's who he is on a daily basis. I know you guys like to have some Cinderella story or whatever, and the whole deal is: he's at St. Bonaventure and had other Division I offers because that's who he is. He's earned that, and he'll continue to earn things because of the way he goes about things on a daily basis."
He had won a spot in the Bonnies' starting lineup entering last season before another hurdle came his way. A hand injury just before the start of the campaign cost him nearly a month of the season – and later in the year, a concussion sidelined him the first two games of the Atlantic 10 schedule.
"I've never been hurt that much in my life," he said.
Injuries might have slowed his debut season, but they certainly did not derail it.
When all was said and done, English started 23 of 24 games played, averaging 11.9 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.
Those injuries also helped him set the stage for what he hopes to be an even better junior season.
"Everything happens for a reason," he said. "I was focused on trying to stay ready when I got back; taking care of my body more. I lost a lot of weight. I learned what it takes to be a better player, learned what I need to put into my body to be able to play 30, 35 minutes a game at a high level."
By the time the season hit the home stretch, English was turning the corner. In conference play, he averaged 13.2 points and 5.2 rebounds, including a career-high 21 points vs. George Washington and 17 points each against A-10 frontrunners Dayton and Richmond.
A late first half explosion from Final Four hopeful Dayton put the Bonnies away in their upset bid at UD Arena in late January, but it was there a turning point came for the Michigan native. After halftime, he provided a spark that left anyone watching with little doubt of his ability to contribute against the A-10 elite.
"In the second half, right there I knew that I am a guy who can compete at a high level in the conference," he said.
He competes in the classroom as well where he is an outstanding representative of the program, owning a 3.6 GPA as a sports media major. He earned Atlantic 10 All-Academic Team honors for his work, and he one day hopes to translate that into a career in sports broadcasting.
"I want to be the next Woj. I look up to him," English says of St. Bonaventure alum and current ESPN NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski. "I want to one day be a sports broadcaster, it's always been my dream. I feel like I have a niche for talking about the games that I love. I've always wanted to be like Stephen A. Smith, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith. Those guys have a lot of fun with what they want to do and when my career is one day over that's what I want to do."
Junior Jaren English could one day be dropping news �� on social media as the next @wojespn, but for now he's focused on one thing: Helping the #Bonnies get a ring ��#Bonnies || #Unfurl pic.twitter.com/icXLuikeNO— Bonnies Men's Basketball (@BonniesMBB) September 8, 2020
For now, the focus is on taking the next step with the Bonnies, just a year removed from what seemed like it was going to be another 20-win campaign before the COVID-19 shutdown ended any hopes of an A-10 Tournament run.
English used the offseason to not only work on his game but grow closer with his brother. The two, usually separated by nearly the entire continent chasing their own athletic dreams, had the rare opportunity to work with – and push each other – during the spring months.
"I know it's crazy that I look up to my little brother, but he's living out his dream and watching him compete with the Angels affiliates is exciting and a dream come true for him and for me," he said. "During the shutdown, I was trying to help him with his (workout) programs and he helped me keep my body in shape. He knows the right things to do and over quarantine we became a lot closer. It was the first time we've been able to be together for a long period of time in awhile, working out every day."
Like most Bonnies, he hopes that his friends and family will be able to attend games at the Reilly Center this season. Bona's close proximity to his home served as a major selling point in his recruitment.
Whether or not arenas will be full this season, though, his goals reflect the humble, hardworking skills that have made him one of the A-10's better returning players.
"I just want to win an Atlantic 10 championship and get a ring on my finger."
- By Scott Eddy, Assistant Athletic Director for Athletics Communications
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