Jordan Lauf pulls down a rebound during Toledo's win over Buffalo. BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH
Every successful team in college basketball needs a glue guy — someone who holds the team together with hustle, toughness, and effort.
For the University of Toledo, that guy is senior Jordan Lauf.
The 6-foot-5 guard from Napoleon High School has spent the past four years tipping out rebounds, diving for loose balls, taking charges, and maximizing his talent with determination and grit.
“His hustle plays have been a trademark,” UT coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “I think he has left a legacy with the younger players of, ‘That’s what it takes.’ ”
Most of what Lauf does isn’t reflected in the statistics, but his coaches and teammates definitely notice.
“It adds tremendous value,” UT senior Jonathan Williams said. “He does a lot of things that don’t show up on the stat sheets. When a ball comes off the rim, he’s tipping it out and it gives our team momentum. Not a lot of guys can do that. You need a guy like Jordan Lauf on your team.”
But what gets lost in the hustle and the floor burns is the fact Lauf, a senior, has turned himself into a better shooter, rebounder, and all-around producer.
While building a career and a reputation by doing the little things, the statistics show Lauf has improved in almost every major category.
“This year, I wanted to be more than just a hustle guy,” Lauf said. “I wanted to produce numbers. I wanted to be more of a consistent shooter and just be on the floor and produce numbers for the team whether it is points, assists, rebounds, or more defensive stops.”
Lauf has accomplished that. After averaging 19.2 minutes per game in his first three seasons, that number has increased to a whopping 33.2 per game this season.
On a team without much depth, Lauf has simply become too valuable to take off the floor. With the increased minutes have come career highs in field-goal percentage, 3-point percentage, points, rebounds, and assists.
“You look at the senior year he is having and his defense is really improved,” Kowalczyk said. “He’s become just a great team defender. He has always been a great individual defender, but he’s just smarter this year. Offensively his numbers in conference play are tremendous. He’s just been very, very productive. He’s a guy that we need to have on the floor.”
After averaging 4.2 points per game in his first three seasons, Lauf is up to 7.9 per game this season. He was a career 31.8 percent 3-point shooter, but this season has worked his way to 40.4 percent. His field-goal percentage (60.3 percent) and rebounding (5.9 rebounds per game) rank second on the team.
He identified shooting and rebounding as an offseason priority.
“It was something I worked hard in the offseason on,” Lauf said. “I wanted to become a more consistent outside shooter. That’s one area I’ve improved on. Rebounding is something where you have to want to do it. It doesn’t take much skill I guess. You just have to go after it and whoever wants it the most will get it. It’s something that this team needs. Steve Taylor is a great rebounder for us, but it can’t just be him. It has to come from everybody. I’m just trying to do my share.”
With all the increased production this season, Lauf has made sure not to abandon his trademark hustle.
“Giving it 100 percent and hustling is something I will do every minute I’m on the floor,” Lauf said. “It’s something I take pride in. It’s kind of a personal pride thing that I want to play as hard as I can when I’m on the floor and just give it everything I have.”
His hustle can manifest itself in many ways on the court, from keeping a possession alive with an offensive rebound to taking a possession away from the opponent by drawing a charge. Kowalczyk points to an 88-80 overtime win Saturday against Northern Illinois as an example.
Lauf grabbed five offensive rebounds in the game, including one with three minutes left that led to a Jaelan Sanford 3-pointer, giving Toledo a three-point lead. Kowalczyk said Lauf’s effort rubbed off on sophomore Nate Navigato, who grabbed a critical offensive rebound, leading to two free throws that helped UT send the game to overtime.
“Navigato had a chance to watch the start of the second half where Jordan Lauf carried us with some hustle plays,” Kowalczyk said. “Then, Navigato goes in and he gets a hustle play. It becomes contagious and infectious.”
Lauf left Napoleon as the school’s all-time leading scorer and has shown a will to succeed that will leave a mark on the program.
“I wanted to go somewhere close to home so I could represent myself, my family, and my school well and have my family and everybody close come watch,” Lauf said. “It’s really been a blessing these four years.”
Contact Brian Buckey at: email@example.com or 419-724-6110.
Toledo senior guard Jordan Lauf, left, might not have gaudy statistics, but his grit and leadership are unquestioned among the Rockets players and coaching staff. He’s averaging career highs in points, rebounds, and assists. BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH