Despite uncertainties, star basketball player sticking with Roane State

By Bob Fowler

Roane State staff writer

At 5’11”, Jacob Naylor may not have the height of his Roane State Raiders basketball teammates, but he was the second-highest scorer last season and started every game.

Naylor, 19, is back at his home in Russellville, Ky., a small town about an hour’s drive from Nashville. Like all Kentuckians, he was under the state’s complete lockdown and stay-at-home orders in early May because of the COVID-19 crisis.

“I definitely get a little stir crazy,” he said of what’s become the new normal of social distancing because of the pandemic. “If it’s a nice day, I’ll go outside and shoot some hoops.”

The pandemic has thrown a wrench in everyone’s plans, but Naylor said he intends to return to Roane State in the fall even though two Kentucky-based colleges have asked him to transfer.

Naylor was recruited to play basketball after Roane State Assistant Coach Alan Holt saw him on the hardwood as a high school sophomore at a tournament in Lexington. Holt remembered Naylor’s skills and began recruiting him during his senior year. By then, he’d become Russellville High School’s fourth-highest scorer ever and went on to graduate as the class valedictorian.

Naylor said “a lot of prayer and thought went into my decision to go to Roane State.” Roane State head coach and athletic director Randy Nesbit “was great throughout the recruiting process,” he said. “He’s a good Christian leader.”

Now looking back on his first year at the community college, Naylor said “Roane State has helped me grow as a player and a student.” He has a 4.0 grade point average, regularly attends Big Emory Baptist Church and said he enjoys Roane County’s “small town feel.”

Nesbit said Naylor has “the perfect attitude on the court and (is) the perfect teammate. He really improved this past season, and we can’t wait to see him prosper as an experienced sophomore player.”

“I like how much I’ve grown as a player under coaches Nesbit and Holt,” Naylor said. “I want to continue that and see where it takes me.”

In addition to playing basketball and attending religious functions, Naylor is also a student ambassador for the Roane State Foundation, the nonprofit that raises money for student scholarships and other student needs. Naylor said he assists at foundation events and attends Foundation board meetings, and enjoys sharing his student experience and interacting with those considering investments in the nonprofit’s mission.

Roane State is a two-year college providing transfer programs, career-preparation programs and continuing education. Founded in 1971, the college has locations in Roane, Campbell, Cumberland, Fentress, Knox, Loudon, Morgan, and Scott counties as well as a branch campus in Oak Ridge. For more information, visit www.roanestate.edu.

Remember, eligible adults can now attend Roane State tuition-free with the new Reconnect grant. Learn more at www.roanestate.edu/reconnect.

About Bob Fowler

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