Jake Chrisman, Baseball is also in the future for this cager

As the crow flies, it was a mile-and-a-half ride Jake Chrisman took at 2 a.m. down Ninth East on his longboard.

Picture a 6-8 basketball/baseball player weaving down the road, starting at the Deseret Towers dormitories and ending up on Center Street in his native Provo.

Joining him on their 54-inch longboards (a long skateboard) for that early morning ride last year were the other members of BYU's heralded freshman class, 6-11 Derek Dawes and 6-9 redshirt Jesse Pinegar.

Also part of that super recruit class was 6-8 Garner Meads. Meads entered the Missionary Training Center earlier this month for an LDS Church mission to Edmonton, Alberta in Canada. Dawes and perhaps Pinegar may follow suit in suits for a mission. But Chrisman, ah, he may be something rarely seen in a BYU uniform-a freshman who stays all four years to play uninterrupted by a mission, and one that plays two sports.

That's because Chrisman is not a member of the Mormon faith. He won't be departing to foreign lands, even though he is already well-traveled. His development as a basketball player will only be challenged by the fact that he is also a collegiate baseball pitcher.

He can even throw an accurate "baseball pass" in basketball, but because of his size, he has more often been on the receiving end of those type of passes. That role hasn't prevented Chrisman from having fun with the baseball pass with the bigger round ball.

"At Provo High we used to have contests to see who could throw the length-of-the-court basketball passes to hit garbage cans," said Chrisman. "Shafer Jackson (now playing for Dixie State) and I are the champions. I have to put a little zip on the basketball to knock over the garbage cans."

Another Jackson teammate (Eric) got a steal for Provo High when Chrisman was a sophomore, and it led to Jake's dunk in a game at Springville.

"I was on the wing and dunked it off one foot," said Chrisman, who has learned to use his 30-inch vertical jump to now be able to dunk with two feet.

Chrisman's arm, which was clocked throwing a 94 mph fastball in the state high school tournament, may be the dinner ticket for the 215-pound righthander, as he follows in the baseball footsteps of his father and brother.

His father, Rick, played shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds organization. Jake's only brother, Jed, is a 6-4, 210 senior rightfielder at the University of Utah. The brothers could meet in the first and third weeks of April when the Utes play the Cougars, but the brothers have a history of facing each other, dating back to wiffle ball days in the front yard.

"Curves are Jed's weakness," said brother Jake. "He'll go for it in the dirt."

Their sister, Jessica, is a sophomore outfielder at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. Two weeks from now, he hopes to spend time with his only sister when the BYU basketball team plays nearby at the Air Force Academy.

Jake took advantage of visiting relatives earlier this season in Houston, Texas, after the Cougars defeated Rice. While the rest of the BYU basketball team was watching North Carolina beat Texas A & M in the Compaq Center, Jake was dining with his aunt and uncle.

In that victory at Houston, he was on the receiving end of a nifty Matt Montague assist for a layup. While preparing for the UNLV game in Provo, Jake was on the receiving end of seven-foot teammate Dan Howard's elbow, splitting open Chrisman's chin. Chrisman's scoring, rebounding, and minutes thus far aren't monumental. Nevertheless, his contribution is valuable to the team.

"He'll give you an effort every second he's on the court," said Dave Rose, BYU's assistant coach, who also doubled as a collegiate basketball and baseball player. "He is always playing hard."

Jake's high numbers thus far in the BYU basketball season are back-to-back career highs of six and eight rebounds vs. Texas A & M-Corpus Christi and San Diego State, and 15 points in the season opener vs. Elon College.

His prep highs in basketball include scoring 31 points vs. Emory as a junior and last season, as a senior, scoring 30 points against DeShawn Stevenson (now with the Utah Jazz) at the Iolani Classic in Hawai'i.

Jake played basketball three different seasons at the Iolani Classic, beating the nation's No. 12 team as a freshman, then losing to a team which featured future North Carolina star Jason Capel; defeating the No. 10 team as a sophomore, when Provo was ranked No. 12; and upsetting the No. 2 team last year as a senior.

Chrisman returned at that same Christmas holiday time to Hawai'i this season, but as a Cougar, when BYU played in the Pearl Harbor Classic. Aside from Hawai'i for basketball, he has traveled to Las Vegas, California, Alaska and Arizona thanks to baseball.

His time in Alaska came the summer before his prep freshman year in the Goodwill games. His team played five games at Anchorage, and he also got to see the Kenai Fjords and take a river tour to see a glacier.

Because of baseball, basketball and academics, he narrowed his recruiting trips to Gonzaga, where he was hosted by John Wooden Award candidate, Casey Calvary, and to Santa Clara and BYU.

He also was recruited by Utah State Coach Stew Morrill, a Provo High alum and friend of Chrisman's Bulldog basketball coach Craig Drury. Drury assigned Jake jersey number 34, and Chrisman continues to wear that number on the BYU hardwoods. Morrill also recruited Cougar Mekeli Wesley when he was a senior at Provo High, where Chrisman was a freshman.

Jake also spurned Morrill, but it was partly because Utah State no longer had a baseball program. However, Morrill's recruiting pitch was unique.

"You are going to get drafted anyway," said Chrisman of the recruiting ploy used by Morrill. "I thought I had a chance to be drafted and I was disappointed," said Chrisman of last June. He stayed by the phone and followed the draft on the internet just in case.

"I need to put on more weight," said Chrisman, who wants to weigh 225 or 235 to get drafted in baseball. He'll be eligible for the baseball draft again after his junior year at BYU. "I eat everything in sight and drink Weight Gain and protein shakes."

He was always the tallest kid in his class as a youngster and loves to eat his mom's cooking. She cooks a chicken Parmesan dish to his liking, but Jake can bake his favorite lemon-peppered chicken.

Aside from food, baseball has been big in Jake's life. Consider the following statistics from his senior year at Provo High: * Recorded 10 wins

* Struck out 96

* Batted .426

* Hit six homers

* Had 11 steals

Because of his stature, Chrisman says he can relate to the Arizona Diamondbacks' 6-10 southpaw pitcher Randy Johnson.

"Height gives you leverage as a pitcher," said Chrisman. Chrisman also loves the Yankees and has admiration for baseball greats Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and Willie Mays.

Chrisman throws a curve, a change up, a knuckle ball and a slider. Because he has concentrated on BYU basketball, the most recent time Jake played baseball was last August at Fremont High in the Utah-Idaho all-star game as a first baseman and pitcher.

His favorite pitch to hit is a fastball up and in. One of his longest home runs hit the armory building well outside the confines of Provo's Timpanogos Park. Jake has also been on the other end, when he made a pitching mistake in the state tournament and a Lone Peak player drilled it over the fence.

"I've never pitched a no-hitter, but I've gotten through the fifth inning without giving up a hit," said Chrisman. Against rival Timpview High, he surrendered four hits in the first inning then heard an opponent's mother yell, "we can hit Chrisman." An angry Jake allowed only one more hit the rest of that game.

One hitter Jake never pitched to is former major leaguer Vance Law, who coached him until Chrisman's senior year in high school when Law became BYU's head baseball coach.

"When I found out Vance Law was here, I had to come," said Chrisman.

Chrisman-A rare double Now

Jake Chrisman isn't alone, doubling in a pair of collegiate sports.

The 6-8 Chrisman is a forward on BYU's basketball team and plans on joining the Cougar baseball team when the cage season ends sometime next month.

Junior Forward Phil Cullen, 6-9, currently plays basketball and is also a pitcher for the University of Utah.

The most celebrated case of a two-sport athlete at BYU was Danny Ainge, who reported to the Toronto Blue Jay baseball team after each Cougar basketball season and semester were complete. Ainge's on-court nemesis was San Diego State's Tony Gwynn, who ended up starring in major league baseball, while Ainge switched to the Boston Celtics.

Chrisman's high school and now college baseball coach Vance Law was another to succeed in two sports. Law played in 71 basketball games before concentrating exclusively on baseball his senior year at BYU.

"It's tougher to double in college sports now than it was then because of the academics," said Law. "You have to be somewhat organized to do both. Jake is talented and intelligent. He's shown his quickness in cutting off the baseline in basketball. Fans haven't seen what he can do because his development will be gradual, but they are going to enjoy watching him in the process."

Other BYU basketball/baseball doubles include Dick Nemelka, Doug Howard, Tom Steinke, Roland Bevell, Glen Roberts, and Randy and Robbie Reid.

In earlier years at Provo, BYU Hall of Fame member Clinton Larson (basketball, baseball and track) was one of many who starred in at least three sports.

Others who have doubled in two sports at BYU include Ryan Hancock (baseball and football), Jim McMahon (baseball and football), Stan Younger (baseball and football), Kevin Feterik (baseball and football), Leon White (baseball and football) and Gifford Nielsen (basketball and football).