Arriving in Rogers Park at the beginning of the summer, redshirt junior guard Jalon Pipkins is quickly transitioning to life at Loyola — and figures to be a major contributor for the men’s basketball team in 2019-20.
A junior college transfer, Pipkins, or “Pip” as the team calls him, joins the Ramblers after a single season as an impact player at Paris Community College in Paris, Texas. He showcased his athleticism at Loyola’s final summer practice of 2019 as he threw down multiple rim-rattling dunks and soared high above his teammates to grab both offensive and defensive rebounds.
As he transitions back to Division I — he played sparingly for California State University, Northridge in 2017-18 — Pipkins is now ready for success on the big stage, according to assistant coach Drew Valentine.
“[Pipkins] provides us with shooting, length, athleticism and speed,” Valentine said. “I think he’s a physical specimen, and he can provide us with an older guard who’s physically ready to play from day one.”
A recruiting discovery by Valentine, Pipkins is a rangy 6-foot-4 guard who brings elite athleticism to the guard position for the Ramblers. In this lone season at Paris he was the Dragons’ leading scorer, averaging 21.4 points per game while shooting 46 percent from the field.
Pipkins caught the eye of the third-year assistant after he found highlights of him on Twitter. Valentine said after some research into him, he knew he had a potential player on his hands and rushed to see him play in Texas.
“One of the big ways that all coaches watch players now is through social media,” Valentine said. “Through the video equipment called Synergy I saw something about Jalon, and I looked up his stats online and his stats were of course really good so I was like ‘wow.’”
Showcasing the crazy life of an assistant college basketball coach in the process, Valentine rushed to Texas to see Pipkins play. Flying to Texas on Saturday, Feb. 16, he then drove two hours to Tyler, Texas for his team’s matchup against Tyler Community College.
This sharp turnaround left him with a major time crunch to get back to Chicago for the Ramblers’ crucial Sunday matchup against Missouri State Feb. 17. Even with the lack of time he faced, Valentine said Pipkins’ career-high 34-point performance made the trip well worth everything he underwent.
“I had just a two-hour window where I could watch him play and talk to him,” Valentine said. “I was just amazed by his competition level and how tough he was [because] every time his team needed him to step up he stepped to the plate.”
Pipkins’ performances continued to draw eyes of programs from around the country, as he continued to put up big numbers game after game. Reaching double-digit points in all but one of his 30 appearances, his consistent strong play placed him on the First Team All-Region XIV — which is comprised of junior colleges from the South Eastern area of the United States.
After considering offers from other D-I programs including Texas State University and University of Louisiana-Monroe, Pipkins said he began to feel Loyola was the right spot for him. Despite this, the potential of Porter Moser leaving for St. John’s University left him waiting and wondering.
“I knew from the beginning that Coach Moser was a great coach and that when all the jobs started opening that everybodys’ gonna come after him,” Pipkins said. “I know it’s a business and I don’t know what I would’ve done but I’m glad he came back because he’s the reason I chose Loyola.”
Announcing his commitment to Loyola the same day as Moser’s announcement that he was staying at Loyola April 16, Pipkins now faced the task of replacing back-to-back Missouri Valley Conference Players of the Year Marques Townes and Clayton Custer — an undertaking Moser said he and his teammates have worked hard all summer to accomplish.
“We’ve got a number of new guys at the guard spots who’re gonna have a real opportunity and at this time of year I couldn’t tell you who it’s [going to] be I can just tell you I like the effort,” Moser said.
Pipkins said his transition to Loyola and approach to replacing graduates Townes and Custer has been difficult, but remained that he’s ready for serious success in his first season at Loyola.
“I’ve had my ups and downs,” Pipkins said. “I came in not really knowing and not putting emphasis on the little things like defense and coach right away got on my tail and made me know of all the mistakes I was making.”
Pipkins said he remained confident he’s ready for serious success in his first season at Loyola and can’t wait to “bring a show” to Gentile Arena with his athleticism and scoring.
“I’m trying to bring a show that we’ve never had here,” Pipkins said. “I think I’m bringing a new flavor with the athleticism, and I’m just trying to bring it back to where we were two years ago so that’s what I’m trying to do here.”