Dave Jamerson: Elevating His Game
By Kelly Matthews. Photos JJ Kaplan
Dave Jamerson looks like a guy who could still put up a three from downtown. For those of us a little fuzzy on basketball slang, that means to hit a shot behind the three point arc. At 6-5 and still seriously fit, Jamerson could probably teach a master class on how to take that shot.
Once upon a time, the Zionsville resident was famous for his elegant three pointers. In 1989 against the University of Charleston, he set a single game NCAA Division I record for three pointers, hitting 14 of them and scoring 60 points in one game. Yep, you read that right. He is also Ohio University’s all-time leading scorer and finished second in the nation his senior season by averaging 31.2 points per game. In addition, he’s no typical jock. He was a First Team Academic All American.
Needless to say, his #33 jersey at OU was retired. Obviously, the NBA took notice and quickly came calling.
If you are a basketball fan, no doubt you have heard of Dave Jamerson. Just Google him. Some of his greatest basketball runs are still on YouTube.
A first round pick to the Miami Heat in the 1990 NBA draft, Jamerson played for the Houston
Rockets, Utah Jazz and the New Jersey Nets. Life was fast and furious. He played against Larry Bird, Michael Jordan and Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon. He played all the famous venues – the Boston Garden and the LA Forum where Jack Nicholson sat smiling two seats away. “Man,” Jamerson said, “was that fun! It was an amazing time in my life.”
Then he blew out his knee.
There was always an Indiana connection. Jamerson’s father, John, was actually drafted in 1970 by the Indiana Pacers but never played for the team. Instead he played two years for the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots. Later, he became a basketball coach and teacher in the Akron, Ohio area. He was and still is Jamerson’s biggest fan in all areas of his sports career and his life.
Basketball great Isiah Thomas once said, “If all I’m ever remembered for is being a good ball player, then I’ve done a bad job with the rest of my life.” For Dave Jamerson, basketball was apparently just the opening act.
Just as he once traveled the world playing ball, Jamerson now circles the globe as outreach pastor for Traders Point Christian Church. He still has a passion for basketball, but now his heart and hopes go way beyond hoops.
Jamerson jokes that having to guard Magic Johnson made him turn to God, but it was really his teammate his rookie year, David Wood, that showed him there was more to life than fast living, crazy physical talent and making millions. “My friend David Wood’s lifestyle and dignified actions impressed me,” said Jamerson. “I saw that his faith sustained him. It was incredibly life-changing.” So at 23, Jamerson decided to sprint down a spiritual path that many pro athletes choose to avoid. But as his faith grew, his knee gave out. His career was over.
It occurred to him that today’s pro athletes get caught up in a wild ride that they are usually unprepared for in every way. “Lots of them are searching for meaning,” Jamerson said, “In fact, almost 80 percent of NFL athletes are in worse financial situations after they finish playing than when they started.” The spiritual and emotional hardships would no doubt be equally unsettling but difficult to measure.
Jamerson saw an opportunity to help. In 1999, he and Mark Thomas, a defensive end for the Colts, started a Bible study that exploded in growth as more pro athletes and their families started to attend. A church in Carmel was born. “The Every Nation Church,” Jamerson said, “really helped athletes and others find divine purpose.”
“Because the average professional sports career is 3.1 years, some players joke that NFL should stand for ‘not for long.’ You can get hurt or cut…even only one day after winning the Super Bowl. I’ve seen it happen,” he explained. “NFL, NBA, no matter – you can’t build your house or your life on sand whether it’s fame, money or skill.”
Today Jamerson is one of a small number of former professional athletes in the nation to become a full-time pastor. He has been on missions to 40 countries, planted churches, organized medical help, built homes and put shoes on the feet of needy children in countries all over the world. “People would be so surprised at how hard we work,” Jamerson said, “but it is the most rewarding and fulfilling job I’ve ever done.”
Traders Point Christian Church has been around for 180 years, but with the opening of a new building, it has recently enjoyed a massive wave of new members. The church has already expanded once and is about to get even bigger. Jamerson hopes the church continues its warp speed growth. “We’ve been in the fastest growing 100 churches in the nation for three years now,” he explains. “Traders Point has an incredible legacy in our city of service and leadership. We have a passion for serving this community, and we’re not going anywhere.”
April, his wife of 21 years, shares the sentiment. “We love this area. Fellowshipping with our church family, shopping at Lesley Jane’s, eating at Greek’s Pizza or hanging out at Lion’s Park, it is just home for us. Zionsville is authentic, not pretentious,” she said.
April’s Christian dance studio, Renovate Dance Center, is located in Traders Point Christian Academy (TPCA) right behind the church. “We want to develop excellent people, not just excellent dancers,” she said. “We think students achieve their maximum potential when they know they are in a safe, loving community.”
Renovate offers ballet, jazz, creative movement, tap, modern dance and hip-hop to all ages. April still teaches many of the classes herself and often accompanies her husband on mission trips. “One of my greatest experiences,” she said, “was seeing the smiles on the faces of kids in Nairobi, Kenya, as we taught them some dance steps. It was just magical and brought tears to my eyes.”
Dave Jamerson still does a little teaching himself these days. He coached at TPCA for five years and
nabbed three Holiday Classic Championships, back to back Bostick Cup championships, and has seen five of his talented TPCA players go on to play college ball.
But even though the ability to motivate others could easily lead to a lucrative coaching career, the Jamerson family likes life just as it is, saying, “The best part of the day is coming home to family because that’s really the part of life you remember.”
The Jamersons have four children, three boys and a girl: Bret, Elijah, Trey and Mia. It’s no surprise that fourth grader Mia is a great dancer like her mom. Their three boys love basketball. “In fact,” Jamerson smiles, “we named our third boy Trey in hopes that he might be able to swish those threes from downtown.”
He’d better practice. Dear old Dad will be a tough act to follow…in more ways than one.
Rapid Fire with Dave Jamerson:
Who is your hero?
My Dad. I just attended his induction into his high school sports Hall of Fame. It is his fourth one. I guess you could say I was born into a basketball loving family. Also my wife. Her faith and character inspire me every day. She really walks the walk.
Do you have a nickname?
It always has been and always will be “DJ.”
What cracks you up?
My wife. You wouldn’t expect such a beautiful woman to be that hilarious.
What is the hardest part of your job?
All of it! People think we just pray and read the Bible. There is so much more to it! We have 50 mission partners around the world and 30 short-term mission teams this year alone.
How do you handle stress?
I lean on my faith and God. Plus, working out helps.
What is your greatest strength?
My ability to strategize and keep looking to the future.
What was the worst day of your life?
The day I blew out my knee.
What will you be doing in 10 years?
I hope I will continue to make a difference in the world and still serve God to the best of my ability.
Are you happy with the way your life has unfolded?
I think God uses adversity to make us stronger and improve our lives. If I hadn’t blown out my knee in college, I wouldn’t have wound up with the team that helped launch me into the NBA.
What would your advice be to an aspiring young athlete?
Build your life on something more than sports, and surround yourself with true friends and honest people.