JESUP — Ethan Wyant has navigated from sport to sport with relative ease over the past calendar year.
After serving as the leading scorer on a Jesup basketball team that made a state tournament run last March, Wyant captured a state title in the open 400 and anchored a 1A championship 4x400 relay on the track. He then earned North Iowa Cedar League East baseball MVP honors as a pitcher and all-district recognition on the football field.
Wyant embraces the camaraderie and competition that comes from representing his school in a variety of sports — even though he admits basketball has always been his favorite.
“My sophomore year I didn’t play football because I wasn’t enjoying it as much,” Wyant said. “But then I missed it so I went back out junior year. Competing with my friends and teammates is something I’ve always loved to do.”
As Jesup’s athletics director and boys’ basketball coach, Joe Smeins has taken pride in the manner in which Wyant represents his school.
“Ethan is one of our main leaders within our athletics program,” Smeins said. “Kids see him doing four sports. He’s a great leader and role-model for our younger athletes.”
On the basketball court, Wyant has become one of the state’s most dangerous weapons. He ranks fifth in scoring with 292 points at an average of 24.3 per game, while leading the NICL East in assists (53) and ranking third in the league with 28 steals.
Wyant scored his 1,000th career point prior to Christmas break, and Smeins feels he has become a more well-rounded player. While the other team’s leading scorer may not always guard Wyant, the Jesup point guard is typically defending the other team’s top guard.
“He’s gotten better at his defense and ability to distribute the ball,” Smeins said. “He sees a lot of traffic during games and he’s still able to get his 20 to 25 points and do it fairly efficiently.”
Smeins points to an improved 3-point shot complementing a strong mid-range game and an ability to get to the rim as keys to Wyant’s increased scoring output of six points a game from a year ago. He ranks third in the state in made free throws.
Wyant’s versatility was on display last week as he made all 12 free throw attempts during a 29-point effort in a win over Wapsie Valley before hitting 12 of 17 field goals and scoring 27 points with five assists during a win over Class 1A’s No. 1 Gladbrook-Reinbeck in a rematch of an opening-round game at last year’s state tournament that the Rebels won.
The victory in that back-and-forth game with G-R extended Jesup’s win streak to eight.
“We were up early and they took a 10-point lead there in the third quarter,” Wyant said. “We fought back and ended up winning. I think it showed the toughness on our part.”
Wyant held his own with Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s Joe Smoldt, who led the state in scoring a year ago.
“Ethan was tremendous in the fourth quarter,” Smeins said. “Not only with his scoring, but he probably had three or four assists in the second half that led to and-ones for some of our other players. His overall game was critical to our success.”
Beyond his basketball ability, Wyant is also growing as a leader.
“When you see him in the hallway at school he’s pretty reserved,” Smeins said. “But when the lights come on, he’s a different person and it’s a positive switch.
“He’s not afraid to voice his opinion. In timeouts he’s really vocal. When he was younger he wasn’t always that way. He’s really grown out of his shell and become more of a vocal leader.”
Added Wyant, “I try to help out the younger guys whenever they need any advice. I try to do whatever it takes to set an example. I’ve never been a very outspoken person, but I try to do what I can.”
After the graduation of a talented senior class, Wyant joins Tyler Lienau and Drew Schmit as returning contributors who have been supported by the growth of two other starters and multiple key newcomers in the rotation for a team that entered the week 11-1.
“There were quite a few openings this year,” Wyant said. “I feel like the guys have stepped in and done a great job and filled the role they needed to fill. It’s really what has put us over the top and made us a good team.”
While Wyant is undecided on his future basketball options, he’s determined to finish his senior season strong.
“My first summer at Jesup he was an eighth grader,” Smeins recalled. “You could tell he had a chance to be special at that point. The cool thing has been that he really worked hard to develop his game.
“His hard work is a joy to see. I know it’s made his parents proud. It’s made us proud and my job as a coach really fun. He’s a hard worker, a good player, and most importantly, a good kid.”