Inch for inch and pound for pound, Jason Bady may be the best player in the Capital Athletic Conference.
Standing just 6 feet tall and weighing only 170 pounds, the York College senior might not be the most imposing player in the warm-up line.
Once the ball is tipped off, however, the Spartans’ do-it-all standout becomes a stat-stuffing offensive dynamo and a shutdown defensive force.
Bady’s production is one major reason the Spartans, somewhat surprisingly, are in the thick of the CAC men’s basketball championship race, despite losing their top three scorers from last season’s outstanding outfit that went 24-5 en route to winning the CAC title and advancing to the NCAA Division III second round.
Coach gushes about Bady: York College head coach Matt Hunter practically gushes when talking about Bady, as a player and as a person.
“Jason is exactly what you want in (an NCAA) Division (III) player,” Hunter said. “He comes in at Point A and works incredibly hard (and ends up) playing his senior year at Point Z. We have a tremendous work ethic as a team, and he is a guy that has embraced that in season and off, in practice and out. The best players put in an incredible amount of unseen hours, and Jason has embodied that to a ‘T.’ I could not be more proud of him.”
Steady improvement: The numbers bear out Hunter’s statement.
As a freshman, the West Chester Henderson High School graduate didn’t make a huge impact, averaging just more than two points and 11 minutes per game.
As a sophomore and a junior, Bady's game grew and he became a key contributor and eventually a consistent starter, pumping up his scoring output to just more than nine points as a sophomore and just more than 10 points as a junior. He also became an outstanding rebounder, especially considering his size, and a solid distributor of the ball, averaging nearly six rebounds and three assists per game as a junior.
Blossoming as a senior: As a senior, however, Bady’s all-around game has really blossomed. This season, Bady is averaging 17.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks per game, while shooting 54.9 percent from the field, 38.1 percent from 3-point range and 80.2 percent from the foul line. He is third in the CAC in scoring, fourth in rebounding, fourth in blocks, fourth in free-throw percentage, sixth in shooting percentage, seventh in steals and 10th in assists.
Bady’s rebounding and block numbers are particularly impressive, given his size. Of the top 10 CAC rebounders, Bady is the shortest, by two full inches.
“Jason is an incredible athlete,” Hunter said. “This allows him to make plays on both ends that are truly unique for the Division III level. Offensively, he is an elite attacker and finisher around the basket. The defensive side of the ball is what separates him. He is a shutdown defender, usually tasked with the opposing team’s primary scoring guard.”
Hunter said Bady’s rebounding prowess stems from a couple of factors.
“He is naturally able to high point a ball at a level that many guys can not get to, but his instincts have (also) developed over the course of his career,” Hunter said.
Leader on and off the court: Hunter also has high praise for Bady’s work off the court as a computer engineering major, a resident assistant and a campus leader.
“(He is) very comfortable in who he is as a person and therefore does not mind speaking up,” Hunter said. “… Not only does he lead within our program, he leads all over campus … Jason is an incredible example of a Division III student-athlete.”
Spartans excel as a team: Bady’s standout senior season has helped York to an 11-6 start, including a 4-2 mark in the CAC — a conference that Hunter believes is the best in the region.
The Spartans are just a game out of first place, and York could easily be undefeated in the CAC. In each of the Spartans’ conference losses, they failed to hold on to double-digit, second-half leads.
That success can largely be attributed to Bady, who recently erupted for a career-high 35 points in a road win over Salisbury, who was ranked No. 24 in NCAA Division III at the time.
“(Jason) is a tone-setter day in and day out for us, both in practice and in games,” Hunter said. “He’s performing at an all-league level.”
Crucial home stand looms: If you’re looking for an opportunity to catch Bady in action, you’ll have several opportunities in the coming days. After playing six of their last eight games on the road, the Spartans start a crucial three-game home stand on Wednesday vs. Frostburg State (8 p.m.), followed by a Saturday game (3 p.m.) vs. Christopher Newport and a game on Wednesday, Jan. 30 (8 p.m.), vs. Penn State Harrisburg.
None of those games will be tap-in wins. Christopher Newport (15-2) is tied for first in the CAC at 5-1, Frostburg is tied with York at 4-2 in the CAC, and Penn State Harrisburg is 10-7 overall.
Bady will likely need to be at or close to his best for York to win those games. Fortunately for the Spartans, they’ve gotten Bady’s best on a nearly nightly basis this season.
That’s why, inch for inch and pound for pound, he might be the best player in the CAC,
— Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.