Editor's Note: This excerpt is from our sister publication, The Fifty Most Interesting Athletes. To read the entire profile on Jalen, published in February, click the link below.
It’s spring of 2022, and the weather in Lawrence, KS, is nothing short of a big tease. The sun is shining, and the trees are beginning to bloom. But more importantly, Jalen Wilson needs new tires.
Fresh off winning the national championship with his fellow University of Kansas teammates, a weekend trip home to Texas is looming. The need for some fresh rubber means he pushes back his scheduled photo shoot until noon. He apologizes for this. The thing is, he’s stuck at the local tire shop, where he’s been waiting for more than an hour.
As time bleeds from the day, Wilson takes charge and decides he’ll try again tomorrow. With a simple text message, he announces his departure with a destination of McCarthy Hall. Those new tires will have to wait, because the film crew is waiting on him.
These days, it’s hard to guess what an elite college athlete will be driving. If you play at Kentucky, it’s an NIL-deal Porsche for the whole team. For Wilson, it’s refreshing to see him pull up in a nondescript Honda. Getting out of it requires some contortionist skill, but as he straightens his lean 6-8 frame, a smile emerges and an out-stretched hand offers a friendly greeting.
As we head for a quick tour of McCarthy Hall — the $12 million dormitory opened in 2015 to house 16 male basketball players and 17 other students — Wilson is quiet, and moves with the grace of a swan. He’s smooth and efficient. He is calm. He is at peace. There’s no doubt he’s a star, at home in Lawrence with the ghosts of James Naismith and Phog Allen.
Read the entire profile for free here. While you're there, check out our award-winning journalism and photography used to share amazing stories of accomplishment and triumph over doubt. The Fifty Most Interesting Athletes is our sister publication. Athletes are nominated, then reviewed by a select committee before stories go into production.