A good number of the students attending Palo Alto High School have lived in or around the city of Palo Alto for most of, if not all, their lives. For those who haven’t, they know that transitioning to a new home can be tough. Having new teachers, making new friends, being in a new environment, and getting involved in new sports teams and school organizations can be a difficult transition. Boys’ basketball welcomed one of these Palo Alto newcomers.
During the 2016 off-season, the Paly boys’ basketball team (19-3, 10-0) acquired five-foot-10-inch junior shooting guard Jared Wulbrun, who had just moved from Birmingham, Alabama. Wulbrun scored 24 points in his first regular season game as a Viking, hitting six of seven three-point shots and six of seven shots from the free-throw line. Wulbrun’s sharpshooting along with his court vision and high basketball IQ, will be essential as the Vikings finish out league play this week.
The Wulbrun family ventured to the west coast because Jared’s father, Jeff Wulbrun, accepted a job offer at Stanford University as the head assistant coach for the men’s basketball team.
Basketball has been a passion for Jared Wulbrun for as long as he can remember. Moving to Palo Alto, he had mixed emotions about having to assimilate to his current team.
“My first impressions were varied coming from a team that won a state title last year. I wasn’t sure what the season would be like, honestly,” Wulbrun said. “It’s always a hard thing to come into a new school, a new team, and expect everything to go smoothly. I was playing for a starting job which means you’re going against others on the team for one or two spots, which can cause problems. For the most part there were no issues or hard feelings between any of us, which did nothing but help the team chemistry grow.”
During the preseason, Wulbrun first played with the team in an out-of-state tournament and quickly realized the strength that the team possesses.
“I soon figured out that we had something special with our group,” Wulbrun said. “I came [to Palo Alto] this summer and was able to play with the team in their summer tournaments and in our second tournament in Reno, Nevada. I saw what we had the potential to accomplish this year.”
Wulbrun credits senior captain and point-guard Miles Tention for making his transition smoother than he expected.
“I always give credit to Miles [Tention] for how he immediately looked for me in games and treated me like we had played together for years, even though it had only been a few weeks,” Wulbrun said. “That made me feel comfortable right away, making the transition easy.”
Wulbrun made an immediate impact on the team, aiding the Vikings’ championship in their first regular season tournament in Burlingame, which he believes set the mindset for the rest of the season.
“After [the Burlingame tournament], we all got the feeling like we could do some big things this year and so far we have, going 20-3,” Wulbrun said. “Everything gelled perfectly and we were playing at a very high level. My thought was that ‘We could only go up from here.'”
According to junior forward William Schlemmer, Wulbrun has had an impact on the team as a knock-down three-point shooter as well as a great friend.
“He’s pretty much become family since I met him because he moved here over the summer and got a chance to get familiar with everyone else on the team and he’s a great person to have around on and off the court,” junior forward Will Schlemmer said. “He’s a good shooter and hustler so he’s willing to do the little things to get the job done.”
Having clinched the top seed in the De Anza League, the team looks to continue their dominance against its toughest and most anticipated league opponent of the season, the Los Gatos High School Wildcats (16-6, 6-4), who currently sit in second place in the league, at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at Gunn High School. The two teams met earlier in the season, with the Vikings dismissing their arch-rivals in an intense, 66-57, victory.
During the his first taste of the Paly-Los Gatos feud, Wulbrun poured in 17-points, 12 of which came from beyond the arch. According to Wulbrun, he felt the intensity of the matchup and is keen to bring the heat on Tuesday.
“I’ve heard that at Paly, most people aren’t very fond of [Los] Gatos,” Wulbrun said. “The first game showed that. We need to come out on Tuesday with the same mindset that we did at their place a few weeks ago. It’s also senior night, and I know we all want to send our four seniors out the right way: at home with a huge [win] over a rival.”
Tuesday’s game is Paly’s annual basketball “Senior night,” where seniors, Tention, Jack Simison, Ethan Stern and Eelis Copeland will be honored.
For Paly, the key to stopping the strong Los Gatos squad is limiting the play of Wildcat six-foot-six-inch junior forward Dylan Belquist. Belquist was named to the De Anza League first team last year as a sophomore and dunked over six-foot-five-inch tall Schlemmer for two of his 20 points the last time the two teams met.
“We just need to play our game and make sure to not give them second chances on the offensive glass,” Schlemmer said. “As for Dylan we just want to play as a team and have someone besides him beat us. These next two [league] games are extremely important. One of our goals this year is to go undefeated in league and we are close to achieving that goal.”