THE GERMAN GIANT

By Sarah Elkeaikati

Amidst the roster of lean, athletic members of the Cal Poly
basketball team stands one player who embodies the spirit of both
the university and the team.

Whether he is on the court with his fellow Broncos boasting a
12-game season winning streak, dominating in the NCAA Div. II
Championship games or casually walking the halls of Building 1
giving high-fives to all that know him, Tobias Jahn is everyone’s
favorite foreigner.

The sophomore forward is hard to miss on campus, standing
6-foot-9 and speaking with a distinguishable German accent, he has
come a long way since moving to the states from his native
Germany.

The Broncos have endured an exhausting yet thrilling season
ending in Springfield, Massachusetts where they went against the
Findlay Oilers for the NCAA Div. II national championship.

The two teams were neck and neck up until the last moments of
overtime when a game-winning shot from the Oilers resulted in a
devastating loss for the Broncos.

Despite the fact, Jahn and his teammates remain positive.

“The results could have been better, but we’re all very proud of
ourselves,” he said. Jahn was named player of the game after
scoring 14 points and was also named to the California Collegiate
Athletic Association second team.

He is currently earning a double major in international business
and communication but he still has plenty of ball left to play.

Jahn’s initial interest in sports started with soccer, which he
played for more than 10 years until a tragic incident took the
spark out of the game.

“When I was 15, my soccer coach died of cancer,” he said. “I
kept playing for another coach but somehow, it wasn’t the
same.”

Classmates convinced Jahn to join them on the basketball court,
and he has been playing ever since.

Jahn played for a club team in Germany, the coach of which
suggested he consder playing in Texas.

“The father of the family I stayed with in Texas played for my
club team in Germany like 25 years ago,” he said. “All the guys he
had played with were still involved with the club. They called him
and he said ‘sure, come over.'”

Jahn lived and played in Texas for nine months before returning
to Germany to complete his high school degree.

After receiving his degree, he joined a travel team and competed
in a Las Vegas tournament.

“The coach from the travel team sent me over to Cal Poly for a
try out and they liked me and recruited me,” he said.

Jahn’s family still lives in Germany and is supportive of his
athletic career, though they encourage him to focus on his
academics.

“My dad would rather see me do better in school because it’s
something that you’ll have your whole life but he is the type of
guy who would support me in whatever I do as long as he sees me
happy,” he said. “If I wanted to be a painter, he would say ‘here,
I’ll buy you the paint.'”

The fundamentals of English are taught in Germany, however, Jahn
picked up most of the language during his stay in Texas.

“You have difficulties for like the first two months,” he said.
“Then you even start dreaming in that language and then you know
you’ve pretty much got it.”

Jahn credits mentor and professor Lindy Olsen, with whom he has
taken four English classes, for helping him refine his English.

“Over the quarters, [he] proved to be my favorite type of
student,” said Olsen. “[He is] irreverent, outspoken [and] quick to
smile. But when it’s time to work, he buckles down and takes care
of business.”

Though assimilating to American culture was difficult, Jahn’s
involvements in basketball smoothed the transition and eventually
lead him to become the Dirk Nowitzki of Pomona. “The atmosphere in
the locker room was something I had to get used to in the
beginning,” he explains. “Where I’m from, it was more
professional. You didn’t have to be friends with the players; you
just come together and play. Here it’s more like trying to be a
family on and off the court.”

This is his second season playing with the Broncos under Head
Coach Greg Kamanksy, Assistant Head Coach Bill Bannon and Assistant
Coach Damion Hill.

“[Jahn] has progressed and matured as a person and physically,
he has gotten a lot stronger,” said Kamansky.

Interacting on and off the court was a learning experience for
Jahn and his teammates, as well as the three coaches.

“Having someone from a different culture that you interact with
on a daily basis can only help improve our players’ understanding
that it’s a pretty big world out there with many ways of doing
things,” said Bannon.

Although his progression in the game as well as his ability to
conform to rules and social norms of American culture would make
Jahn the ultimate role model for younger players, he admits that he
looks up to his freshman teammates.

“They came in and had an immediate impact” he said. “[Freshman
forward Dwayne Fells] pushed me during every practice and it made
me better.”

Jahn is eligible for two more years of play at Cal Poly and
already has offers from Div. II teams in Germany.

“At some point, I’m probably going to do something with my
degree but as long as I can play basketball, I want to play.”

Reach Sarah Elkeaikati at sports@thepolypost.com

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