Jake Voskuhl: Toronto Raptors' Center
By Will Dawson
The 700 Club
He stands nearly seven feet tall and wears size 17 shoes. Toronto Raptors’ Center, Jake Voskuhl, was born to play basketball. But with success came an ego as big as his sneakers. He’s from Texas where everything is bigger. One look at 6 foot-eleven inch Jake and there’s little doubt - this guy plays basketball.
CBN sports reporter Will Dawson interviewed Jake Voskuhl:
Will Dawson: You’ve obviously always been taller than most kids.
Jake Voskuhl: Yeah.
Will: But when did you realize you had something special in basketball?
Jake: When I was in high school, I played with two other and they were the marquee players. I was there and they said, “Hey, Jake’s a very good player.” But it wasn’t like, “He’s the guy.” It wasn’t until I got to high school when I kept growing at the same pace, and everyone started to slow down and I just kept going; two or three inches, two or three inches every single year. It’s funny, because there’s a picture of my wife and I in eighth grade in the yearbook together and we’re the same height.
Will: Not the same right now?
Jake: Not the same anymore!
Will: Were you raised in a Christian home?
Jake: We went to church on Sundays and so I did that, but I never had a real relationship with the Lord. I went because I was supposed to go. I went because my mom and dad told me to go and that was kind of the extent of it.
For the most part, Jake walked the straight and narrow while he lived at home. But that changed when he accepted a full scholarship to play basketball at the University of Connecticut.
Jake: I’d be out every single night of the week partying. The only night I wouldn’t be out was the night before a game; and that was because the coach took everyone to a hotel and we had curfew. But every other night I was out in the bar partying.
Will: Was there a celebrity status in play there?
Jake: Yeah there was. Connecticut was different from most schools because they’re so crazy about basketball there. So everywhere you go, everyone knows who you are and it gets to you really fast. It got to me really fast.
But being well-known on campus didn’t mean he was well-liked.
Jake: I’d go out to the bars. I had a car and it was a recognizable car. I’d come out and people would have thrown up on my car. One time somebody smeared pizza all over the side of it. Another time someone slashed one of my tires.
Will: What specifically instigated that? What were you doing to the other students?
Jake: I just think the attitude and arrogance and pride and talking down to people; and thinking and acting that you’re better than people. It just affected my relationship with all the people around me.
Jake’s high school sweetheart Jennifer also went to Connecticut. She didn’t like the Jake she saw now and broke up with him. The summer after Jake’s freshman year he called Jennifer. He realized she had changed, too.
“I said, ‘Hey, let’s get together.’ And she was like, ‘Absolutely not! I have no desire.’ I was persistent with her and eventually she said, ‘Yeah, I’ll get together with you, but the only thing I’m going to do with you is talk about Jesus.’ And it turned out she had gotten saved a week before I called her,” Jake said. “She started talking to me about Jesus all the time. Jesus this, Jesus that. And I’m like, ‘This is the last thing I want to hear.’ Eventually I started going to church with her. One Sunday, I went up there and I did it. I asked Jesus to come into my heart. I realized I needed help and I wasn’t doing things right and that was the beginning of it.”
But when he returned to school that fall, Jake gave in to his old habits.
“My freshman year. it was just alcohol and drinking,” he said. “My sophomore year I got back into drinking, but this time I got into drugs. But for the first time in my life, I didn’t feel right about what I was doing, where in times past I didn’t care. I just stayed high all the time and it was a way of numbing that empty feeling that I was feeling. Then I get to the end of that year and it was just like I was absolutely miserable. I was like, ‘There has got to be more to life than this.’ So that’s when I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to try and do it God’s way. I’m going to start trying to read my Bible every single day and I’m going to give this thing a chance and see where it takes me.’”
Jake quit drinking and doing drugs. His classmates and teachers could tell something was different.
“I went from public enemy number one to being extremely liked on campus, teachers really respected me. It was a dramatic change,” he said.
His junior year, Jake and the U-Conn Huskies won the NCAA Championship. In 2000, Jake married Jennifer and was drafted by the Chicago Bulls. He’s since played with four other teams, including his current team, the Toronto Raptors. After nine years in the NBA, Jake’s focus is clearer than ever.
“The Word says ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you as well.’ That’s just one of those things - is keeping the Lord first in my life. You know, you go through ups, you go through downs, you go through good seasons, you go through bad seasons - that’s just the nature of it. But when you have a focus on the Lord and you’re keeping the Lord first in your life, it keeps things in perspective,” Jake said. “It’s like you don’t get too up and you don’t get too down. Jesus Christ to me is who I am. I look at the man that I’ve become, the father that I am, the husband that I am, the athlete that I am and it’s a reflection of what God can do when you submit to him.”
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