Jarred Houston earns NEWMAC Athlete of the Year & Defensive Athlete of the Year


Arthur Mansavage

Graduate Center Jarred Houston will be leaving Emerson as its most decorated men’s basketball player.

By Jordan Pagkalinawan, Kasteel Well Bureau Chief

Emerson men’s basketball veteran Jarred Houston ended his dominant 2022-23 campaign with some notable hardware: in addition to making the All-Conference first team, the graduate center was also named both the NEWMAC Athlete of the Year and Defensive Athlete of the Year for his second consecutive season.

Houston averaged 19.4 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks, and 2.9 assists in 26 games this season. He is one of seven men’s basketball players to score 1,000 career points, alongside alumni Zachary Waterhouse ‘22, Jack O’Connor ‘22, and graduate teammates Nate Martin and Sean Coman.

“It was one of my goals coming in, just to repeat,” Houston said. “So I was pretty happy that I was able to check those boxes off. Obviously, it’s a really special award. I don’t know how many people have ever repeated Player and Defensive Player of the Year, so that’s a pretty cool accomplishment.”

Houston was also named to the D3Hoops.com All-American Second-Team on March 20, making history as the only Emerson men’s basketball player to be named an All-American in consecutive seasons.

Head Coach Bill Curley said that Houston was valuable not just as a player, but as a teammate and leader.

“He’s made all of our players better,” Curley said. “He allows other guys to be better because they’re getting open looks. He tried to truly grasp making your teammates better, and he’s the epitome of that. We have that on our championship rings: ‘Make your teammates better.’”

Curley also noted how Houston’s success came from his teammates.

“As much as Jarred makes these other guys better, he’s also reliant on other people getting him the ball,” Curley said. “What makes him so good is his unselfishness. I think he gets more joy out of passing the ball than out of scoring.”

Curley emphasized how dominant Houston was throughout the season, citing the center’s competitiveness and ability to bounce back, which was critical in the team’s matchups.

“There was a lot of talk about how other big guys were so much better. He made them look like children,” he said. “He was so much bigger and better than them, and it wasn’t even close.”

From several dominant performances—including a 37-point outburst against MIT—Curley said the team’s regular season match-up against Babson stood out more than others. Houston persevered through a sprained ankle from the previous game against Springfield, finishing that game and playing days later against the Beavers, exemplifying his willingness to put his body on the line for the team’s success.

A team source said Houston’s sprain was a grade 3, which usually involves a recovery period of six to eight weeks.

“You look at all these guys with ‘load management’ these days in the pros and guys rolling on the ground when they sprain an ankle. Jarred tied his shoe up, broke his shoelace, and was still playing,” Curley said. “For him to suit up against Babson, that was pretty special in my mind.”

“It really set a whole tone and example for guys,” he added. “You just don’t hear people doing that these days. He fought his way through it, and I think that’s what propelled him to [become the] MVP of the league.”

Houston offered his own perspective on the moment, recalling how he played with a sprained ankle and broken shoelace for five minutes before switching shoes and finishing the game.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to be healthy my whole career, not missing any games,” he said. “I kind of knew I was going to play on it. It was just getting to the point where I was comfortable fighting through the pain.”

Curley said that most people don’t realize the extent of Houston’s “warrior mentality.”

“[When] he gets to that point, it’s like ‘watch out,’” Curley said. “We saw it when we were recruiting him. That’s why I said he was too good [for the Div. III level]. He just has this different attitude that he can kick into. [People] see him as the gentle giant, and but once he laces up, he just has this nastiness to him that separates him from a lot of other people.”

Curley recalled when he and associate Head Coach Jack Barrett first went to recruit Houston.

“We were at his tournament right around this time of year, and we were going to show up every day to make sure he knows we like him,” he said. “Clark was there. They walk in, and the coach doesn’t start Jarred for some reason. Clark ended up leaving because he didn’t start, and we’re sitting there like, ‘That’s great!’”

Houston said that the team’s athletic trainers were one of the keys to his success, after he had to recover from his injury. He also credited his coaches for their knowledge and constant support throughout the year.

“[I was] soaking everything in from Curley,” Houston said. “He’s one of the great basketball minds. He played in the NBA at my position, so taking that all in. Also, taking some of my experience from the summer, playing in the TBT Tournament and learning from guys who played professionally overseas. [I was] taking that in from coaching and applying it when I got out into the hardwood.”

With his performance in back-to-back seasons, Houston said he hoped he gave the younger players on the team a good example to look to.

“My freshman year, I was a role player on a great championship team,” he said. “I never really knew how far I could take it. So [I tell them that] just because you’re in a certain spot now, that doesn’t define who you’re going to be at the end of your career.”

He also said how important it had been to rely on the team’s coaches, and how their advice inspired him throughout his career as a Lion.

“When they told me that they believed in me, and they saw these personal goals, they told me I had the chance to be an All-American, I had the chance to win Player of the Year,” he said. “I think that’s when it clicked—listening to them and realizing that who I [was] when I came in is not who I’m going to be when I leave.”

In closing, Curley remarked on how Houston has grown over the course of his five-year career.

“We were thrilled that we were able to get him,” he said. “To see how he’s matured—he got to the point where he didn’t panic anymore, he embraced being a 6’10” monster. He wasn’t trying to hide from that, and it’s really been Emerson’s luck at that point. He’s done so much to give us credibility as a player. He’s going to be sorely missed, and we’ve got big shoes to fill.”