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Although he inches closer to another program record every time he steps on the court, York College senior guard Jared Wagner's focus is on winning. York Dispatch

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The transition into the Middle Atlantic Conference just got a little more intriguing for the York College men’s basketball program.

After a dominant senior season, Spartans guard Jared Wagner recently joined the Hood College staff as a graduate assistant. Hood, located in Frederick, Maryland, won 17 games in the MAC Commonwealth last season. Next season, York College becomes a member of the MAC.

While it will be difficult to go against his former teammates and coaches, Wagner is ready for the challenge next season.

“It will be emotional, but I have a job to do,” Wagner said. “I will always be a York College Spartan alumni, but for the next couple years I have a job to do and part of that job description is to beat York twice a year and maybe sometimes three times per year.”

Finding a job: Wagner sent out an estimated 40-50 emails to coaches at NCAA Division II and NCAA Division III programs to find an opening for the upcoming season. The Central York High School graduate said he wasn’t interested in NCAA D-I positions at this time because they wouldn’t permit him the chance to coach during games and it was important that he continue the progress he made coaching AAU basketball for the York Ballers and as a volunteer at Eastern York High.

“What I really wanted was an opportunity to coach and grow,” Wagner said. “What I felt was best for me with the trajectory I was on the past couple years was to continue to build on the skills I have. I didn’t feel like it would be good for me to take a job where I couldn’t continue to do that.”

Building a bond: The relationship between Wagner and the Blazers’ coaching staff began five years ago when Hood College coach Chad Dickman recruited Wagner before his senior season. Wagner visited Hood, and although he chose to play at York, he maintained a relationship with Dickman and former assistant coach Sean Westerlund, who recently became the head coach at Bryn Athyn College.

Wagner said the Hood coaches were in contact with him recently while they attempted to recruit Eastern York senior Trevor Seitz, a player that Wagner had a relationship with through his Eastern York and York Ballers coaching roles.

Wagner found the letters that the Hood coaches sent him while they recruited him years ago. The staff said Wagner would be a good fit and he was a high-priority recruit. Although he chose to play at York, the trip down memory lane made him realize it was the correct choice to join the Hood staff.

“Reading that, I felt that they were right,” Wagner said. “At the time, York College was a little bit better of a situation for me as a player, but it ended up circling back around with (Wagner) joining the staff.” 

Embracing the chance: With Westerlund’s exit and one other assistant on the staff, Wagner anticipates he will have a large amount of responsibility in his first season. He added that while there is a lot of pressure in taking on a big role in his first job, he chose Hood over other positions he was offered because the program gave him the chance to step in and contribute immediately. 

Wagner said he built a strong bond with the Hood coaches. In addition, York College men’s basketball head coach Matt Hunter has a good relationship with Dickman. Those two factors combined to make the school the perfect fit for him.

“It came down to my relationships with them,” Wagner said. “I felt totally comfortable with them and I know they felt comfortable with me and I knew I would be walking into an opportunity where they trust me, would allow me to interact with the players and offer suggestions to make the program better.”

Wagner will get his master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies in human behavior over the next two years. He said that degree is important to him because it will allow him to achieve a deeper understanding of how people work, which will help as a coach.

After he spent the past few years volunteering his time to build a coaching resume while he also became one of the best players to ever wear a Spartans’ uniform, Wagner is ready to continue the work ethic that got him this opportunity. His plan is to eventually become a head coach at the NCAA level and he knows to get there he will need to put in more effort than ever before.

“It’s still just grinding through everything and continuing to work at everything I do,” Wagner said. “Continue the process I have built for myself and keep working on that as a person and a coach.”

Reach Rob Rose at rrose@yorkdispatch.com.

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