“Grinder of the Month” with Ryan Prochaska

For sports fans, there’s nothing better than watching an outstanding athlete display their athletic skills on the playing field. But on some special occasions, the behind-the-scenes story about an athlete’s journey to success can be even more impressive than their athletic abilities. Jamaree Atwater’s story is definitely one of those special occasions.

The men’s basketball team here at Black Hawk has a rising star in Jamaree, who is a sophomore transfer from Kirkwood Community College. The starting forward’s productivity and leadership on the court has been a vital key for the Braves success this season.

Atwater first started playing basketball in the seventh grade, and he will admit at first he wasn’t all that good at it. However, that didn’t stop Jamaree from working hard at pursuing his dream of becoming a professional basketball player someday.

“I just knew in my heart and soul that I really wanted to do this, so I just put the hard work in,” Atwater said.

The next year it was evident that his hard work and determination was starting to pay off as Jamaree was already conquering the difficult task of slam dunking the basketball in the eighth grade.

“When I first dunked in the eighth grade, I thought I was going to go to the NBA, so it was kind of like just building off that moment,” Atwater said. “That by itself pushed me to keep getting better at basketball.”

Jamaree attended Moline High school, where he became a starter for the varsity team his sophomore year. Jamaree believes the experience he gained going up against junior and senior players every day made him mature not only as a player, but as a person as well.

“It was difficult being a sophomore starter. You’re kind of young out there, and the juniors and seniors kind of push you around, but it doesn’t do anything but make you stronger,” Atwater said.

As a junior, Jamaree was starting to receive letters from various Mid-major and Division II schools  and at the time, it seemed liked he was well on his way to accomplishing his lifelong dream of playing pro basketball. Unfortunately, Jamaree’s basketball future would soon to be dramatically jeopardized.

Tragedy struck for Jamaree only six games into his senior season. While on his way down from attempting to connect on an alley- oop from his teammate, Jamaree’s leg snapped in half as he landed awkwardly. While lying on the floor in agonizing pain, Jamaree started to think he may never get the opportunity to play the sport he loves again. He didn’t know it yet, but Jamaree’s basketball days were far from over with.

While recovering from his horrendous injury, the unthinkable happened. Jamaree was offered a scholarship from Kirkwood Community College.

“It was unbelievable – I’m hurt, laying in a hospital bed and the coach is telling me he wants me to play for him,” Atwater said.

Receiving a scholarship from Kirkwood gave Jamaree a whole new perspective on live. “Breaking my leg really matured me as a person, because you can’t take anything in life for granted. I took my injury as a stepping stone instead of taking it as a demoralizer.”

After eight long months of physical therapy, Jamaree was ready to return to the basketball court. Jamaree played at Kirkwood for two seasons, and he eventually would work his way into the starting lineup for the Eagles. Jamaree was definitely making the most of his second chance on the basketball court, but once again he would soon have to overcome adversity.

With too many distractions, Jamaree admits he didn’t make the best of decisions while at Kirkwood. However, Jamaree used his experience at Kirkwood as a learning curve. The basketball star is currently working diligently on his degree in business management & marketing, and he’s more determined than ever to become the first one in his family to receive a college degree.

Through all the ups and downs, Jamaree has had one constant in his life – his mother. Jamaree grew up watching his mother working two jobs to support him and his younger brother, and that is when he learned the valuable life lesson that you have to work hard for everything in life. Whenever Jamaree has an off game, his mother is always right there encouraging him not to dwell on a loss or a bad performance. She also reminds him to always stay focused. Jamaree, without a doubt, dedicates all of his success to his mother.

“It’s all for my mom. People tell me I should do it for myself, but I want to be able to give my mom a better place to live, and give her and my grandmother a chance to go see the world because they’ve done so much for me.”

From overcoming a serious injury to improving in the classroom, Jarmaree has truly displayed what it takes to be your best everyday regardless of the circumstances, and this is why he was an easy choice for “Grinder of the month.”