Spartan at heart: Former Central York standout returns to York College basketball family

ROB ROSE
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  • Jared Wagner has been hired as an assistant men's basketball coach at York College.
  • Wagner is former standout player at Central York High and York College.
  • Wagner had been a graudate assistant at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland.

Before he walked out of the house on Saturday for work, Jared Wagner had to take a minute to look into the mirror and enjoy the moment.

The black-and-green polo shirt that he saw in the reflection is one he had worn before, but it still signified the start of a new stage in his life.

York College's Jared Wagner, left, works to get past Mary Washington's Ra'Shawn Cook during men's Capital Athletic Conference semifinal action in Grumbacher Sport and Fitness Center at York College of Pennsylvania in Spring Garden Township, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

One year after his York College basketball career ended, the former Central York High School standout is again a member of the Spartans basketball family. Now, however, he holds the title of assistant coach.

“It just looks right,” Wagner said. “That's just how we all feel. That program made me who I am and I bought into everything (the coaches) were selling and what they believed in. That program is 100% the reason why I am who I am, so I'm just excited to be on the other end of it and try to give that effort, information and knowledge to the next guy.”

Wagner was getting dressed to meet with York College head coach Matt Hunter to recruit some players to join the highly successful program. About a month ago, Hunter called Wagner and offered him the position after the former assistant decided to pursue a different career path.

Figuring out the details: The conversation surprised Wagner, and although he had to figure out the details of how the move would work, he couldn’t help but get excited at the possibility of rejoining the team.

“Once he told me that there was nobody else that he wanted to offer it to, it wasn't necessarily a breakout-in-emotions type deal, but I was starting to think about how cool it would be to be on the other side of everything,” Wagner said.

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The only issue that had Wagner hesitating before he said yes was his current school situation. In 2020, Wagner accepted a graduate assistant position with Hood College’s men’s basketball staff and started a master’s degree program there. With a few months until basketball season begins, Wagner anticipates that there will be no issues for him with finishing his degree at Hood, located in Frederick, Maryland, and also handling his responsibilities at York College since most of his courses can be done online.

York College and Central York High graduate Jared Wagner, right, coaches during an AAU game for the York Ballers. Wagner recently joined the York College coaching staff after one season with the Hood College men's basketball team as a graduate assistant coach.

Once that was all figured out, Wagner called Hunter back the next day and accepted the offer.

Praise from Hunter: Hunter said that Wagner embodies what it means to be a Spartan in his program.

Wagner left York College ranked in the top 10 in career points, rebounds, steals, assists, games played and minutes played. He helped York develop into a regional NCAA Division III power. In their last three seasons, York has won at least 22 games each season. The Spartans didn't have a 2020-2021 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Having him on the staff, as an example of the type of player that recruits can become at York, was a major factor in Hunter’s decision to select Wagner for the job.

“It puts a face to the name when you're going through the recruiting process,” Hunter said. “You're kind of telling the story of your program and a lot of it is talking about names, and this is what this guy did and this is how he did it. Now, the players, the recruits and the families, they not only will hear me talk about Jared and his path, but they can connect with Jared and it gives it more life. It gives them someone that they can ask questions to and I think it will help our players on the floor and help them learn from a coaching standpoint, but also from a recruiting standpoint and being able to help us connect with players and families.”

Head Coach Matt Hunter reacts to a free throw earned by Zach Novick during the game as York College takes on Mary Washington in Capital Athletic Conference semifinal action in Grumbacher Sport and Fitness Center at York College of Pennsylvania in Spring Garden Township, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. York College would win the game 74-60. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Lots of responsibilities: As lead assistant coach, Wagner is tasked with a lot of responsibilities. Included in those is recruiting, coaching players during practices and games, and everything in between. Wagner credited former assistant coach Jon Showers, now at DeSales, with giving him an example of what an excellent assistant coach should be.

York Catholic grad Jon Showers begins next step on his college basketball coaching journey

Now that he’s back wearing the colors that he excelled in while on the floor in, Wagner is ready for the challenge of taking the next step in his coaching career, which started leading youth players in the York Ballers program. And he gets to do it at the place that molded him to become the person and coach he is today. He'll also get to help the next generation of Spartans find success.

“I want that responsibility and I feel like I'm ready for that responsibility,” Wagner said. “I’m super excited to be back. It's a great spot for me and that's what everybody keeps saying to me, and I obviously knew that. I’m really, really excited to see what the future is going to unfold here and excited to be back as a Spartan.”

Reach Rob Rose at rrose@yorkdispatch.com.