How Oakland’s Jack Gohlke is processing his NCAA Tournament star turn after OT loss


PITTSBURGH — With an NCAA Tournament record 16 3-pointers over two games bringing a 15 minutes of fame more intense than he or anyone else could have fathomed, Oakland senior guard and gunner Jack Gohlke learned enough about headlines, storylines and seizing the moment to weigh in on exactly how he’d describe what he and his teammates put together over two nights here. The run ended in cruel and exhausting fashion Saturday with a 79-73 overtime loss to NC State.

“It was incredibly exciting and incredibly memorable,” Gohlke said in the tunnel of PPG Paints Arena about 45 minutes after the final buzzer had sounded. But he didn’t want to call it magical. At least not yet.

“In time, we’ll soak it all in and remember the fun of it,” Gohlke said. “But I don’t think it’s magic. I really don’t. I would just say it’s the result of a lot of hard work from all my teammates, all my coaches and myself. Obviously if we play Kentucky 100 times, we’re not going to beat them every single time. We’re maybe not even gonna beat them 50 times. But the one was put in front of us, the one that mattered, we did.

“So you play a game, and it goes a certain way, and you have to get a little lucky. But you have to work hard to get lucky, too. I think it kind of comes from that first. This team since last summer just worked incredibly hard. Finished the one (against Kentucky) and unfortunately didn’t finish tonight against a great NC State team.

“Nobody wanted this to end. I wanted to go play in Dallas so bad, but the No. 1 thing that stinks right now is we don’t have practice on Monday. So it was hard (in the postgame locker room) because I genuinely think that every guy in that locker room loves each other.”

Save for the two sections of NC State fans in red, everybody here for a Saturday night classic loved Gohlke. He came out flinging, again, and made six 3-pointers. But he missed all four of his shots in overtime, and Oakland as a team went of 1-of-9 from the field in the extra period. The Grizzlies were left to lament several big moments, probably none bigger than the final possession of regulation when Oakland threw the ball away and didn’t get a shot from either Gohlke, who finished with 22 points, or fellow senior Trey Townsend, who had 30 points and 13 rebounds.

Gohlke played 42 minutes; he entered the game after the first 3:12 and never left. He made his first shot, building on the momentum created in his epic 10 3-pointer game in the first round.

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

Oakland’s Jack Gohlke, the unlikely NCAA Tournament hero we never saw coming

In the wake of beating Kentucky, Oakland’s team was invited on “Good Morning America” and Gohlke landed an NIL deal with TurboTax that saw him film a Twitter commercial in a hotel ballroom. He got lots of attention — and lots of ribbing from his teammates — and on Saturday night, he got full attention from NC State’s defense. Gohlke was hacked, held, double-teamed and accounted for on just about every cut he made.

“Well, he’s dangerous and you just have to pay so much attention to him,” NC State coach Kevin Keatts said. “And then when you look at the fact that Trey Townsend is really good, too, they’ve got a kind of inside-out punch with those two guys who can really shoot the basketball. And what (Gohlke) has done in the last couple of days is simply impressive. Sixteen threes in two days? So you gotta pay so much attention to him.

“And here’s what makes him really special is they … do a great job of running a lot of plays for him and running all the stagger screens and trying to get elevator screens for him.”

After the win against Kentucky, Oakland forward Tuburu Naivalurua said Gohlke was a tournament “cult hero” who felt “relatable because he looks like a high school history teacher.” When someone in the locker room read aloud a tweet that said Gohlke looked like an insurance salesman, the team serenaded him the jingle from the State Farm commercials.

“Obviously, when you’ve got a guy that’s going to be an insurance salesman scoring 60 points in two games and killing it, it’s just (incredible),” Oakland coach Greg Kampe said. “I know in my life I’ve never put a sub in the game and saw the place go nuts with three minutes into a game. This place has 18,000 or whatever it seats, I don’t know. But that was the loudest roar of the night when he went in three minutes into the game and then he caught it and made it. And it was electric. And I mean, the legend of Jack Gohlke is going to go on.”

As for being a headline story, Gohlke admitted “enjoying” the attention, but said he was happiest that Oakland’s three senior starters (Townsend, Blake Lampman and Chris Conway) who spent four-plus seasons at the school got to savor Oakland’s first appearance in the NCAA Tournament’s second round. Gohlke spent five years at Division II Hillsdale College before joining Oakland this season as a grad transfer.

Lampman, a fellow grad student, gave up what might have been a fast break layup to find Gohlke for a transition 3-pointer during the second half Saturday. Gohlke made it.

“What you see with Jack comes from confidence backed by work ethic,” Lampman said. “First year in Division I, he came in here (to the NCAA Tournament) the calmest dude on the court. He was the calmest dude all week.”

Senior guard Rocket Watts, Gohlke’s roommate, said Gohlke impressed with a “relentless” drive and attention to detail. Watts said Gohlke is meticulous “about cleaning his room, slicing his pineapple a certain way, everything about him is just detailed. A great dude, a hard worker, and he got to be the hero. Easy guy to love.”

After his first two seasons on the floor at Hillsdale, Gohlke was a 25 percent 3-point shooter. He shot better than 40 percent over the next two seasons before transferring to Oakland, where he shot 321 3-pointers and just eight two-pointers. That his college career ended with 16 made 3-pointers in March Madness — and the accompanying fame — was the product of what Lampman and Watts cited. And after his career ended, Gohlke said “so many” people to thank.

“I’m so old (24) and still playing college basketball that I can get a little nostalgic about it,” Gohlke said. “What I’d say to any young player in that locker room or anywhere is just keep working. The people around me believe in me. So many people believed in me and encouraged me, and it’s really hard to do things totally by yourself. So I just want to give so much credit to my Hillsdale coaches and Hillsdale teammates for believing in me and also people from back home (in Pewaukee, Wis.). Just helping me develop and believing in my dream to come out on a stage like this, it’s pretty unreal.”

As Gohlke went through his interview circuit, NC State star forward DJ Burns walked down the hallway. Burns approached Gohlke and offered a fist bump.

“Good stuff,” Burns said to Gohlke.

Really good. The kind what will be long remembered.

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 (Photo: Joe Sargent / Getty Images)





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