Due to mounting injuries and suspensions, Florida coach Billy Donovan half-joked that he could start walk-on Jacob Kurtz into Friday night’s preseason opener against Florida Southern.
Kurtz has an interesting backstory. For one semester as a freshman, he came to every single UF basketball practice. The following semester, he served as a student manager, doing laundry for the team and wiping down the court during practices. By his second year on campus, the former Oviedo Hagerty guard earned a walk-on spot on the team.
How did Kurtz work his way into UF’s closed basketball practices?
“My high school coach’s dad was Nick Calathes’ and Chandler Parsons’ coach, so that was kinda the connection that got me in,” Kurtz said.
The 6-foot-6, 210-pound Kurtz has developed a cult-like following from UF’s student section for his playing ability in mop-up duty. Last season, Kurtz made 5 of 8 shots (1 of 1 from 3-point range) and grabbed 11 rebounds in limited minutes. Kurtz was an honorable metion All-Conference player in Seminole County who led Hagerty in scoring (13 ppg), rebounding (9 rpg) and steals (2 spg).
Around the Gators, Kurtz is known as “Jake the Snake.”
“Coach Donovan called me Jake the Snake one day in front of Vernon Macklin and Vernon Macklin thought it was the funniest thing he’s ever heard,” Kurtz said. “It just kinda stuck. Ever since then he just called me Snake and then everybody else started calling me Snake.”
Given the fact that Florida could have as few as six scholarship players available for its preseason game tonight against Florida Southern, Kurtz and fellow walk-on Billy Donovan (Florida coach Billy Donovan’s son) could be pressed into duty for more meaningful minutes.
“He’s not the most talented athletically or gifted guy,” Donovan said of Kurtz. “He’s really smart and knows exactly what’s going on, everything that we’re doing. He’s a really good passer. He’s extremely reliable. He’s got a very, very high basketball IQ, if not the highest on the team one of the highest on our team. I really, really trust him.”
Said Kurtz: “I always try to be consistent every day in practice and do whatever’s asked of me. Every day I come in and work hard.”
But Kurtz doesn’t view the preseason game tonight against Florida Southern as a chance to open some eyes for significant playing time early in the season.
“I’m just happy to play and be a part of the team,” Kurtz said. “Anything to help us win.”