Jack Gohlke’s development at small Christian college paved way for March Madness legend

The feel-good story of this year’s NCAA Division I men’s tournament so far is Jack Gohlke, an ice-in-the-veins 3-point shooter who got his start at Michigan’s Hillsdale College.

Gohlke, a…

The feel-good story of this year’s NCAA Division I men’s tournament so far is Jack Gohlke, an ice-in-the-veins 3-point shooter who got his start at Michigan’s Hillsdale College.

Gohlke, a 6-3 guard for the Oakland Golden Grizzlies, put on a shooting clinic over two games last weekend that will likely be shown in March Madness promos for years to come. The unlikely star hit a near-record 10 3-pointers and scored 32 points in 14th-seeded Oakland’s massive upset win over the University of Kentucky, a 3 seed.

That win was Oakland’s first tournament win in the round of 64, busting nearly everyone’s brackets in the process. The Golden Grizzlies then faced red-hot NC State, fighting to the end in an overtime loss on Saturday.

Gohlke hit another six three-pointers against NC State on his way to 22 points, along with the pair of free throws that sent the game to overtime. Though the Golden Grizzlies failed to advance past the round of 32, Gohlke’s unbelievable performance over the two-game stretch cemented him as a March Madness legend. 

After the improbable win over Kentucky, Gohlke received a name, image and likeness (NIL) deal from TurboTax and Buffalo Wild Wings. 

Gohlke also received a barrage of interview requests, even making an appearance on SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt.  

“I didn’t even open my phone; I knew it was going to blow up,” Gohlke said of his overnight stardom. “I had unlimited messages, and I couldn’t go through it. I was getting a lot of DMs, opportunities, and I was like, ‘I can’t do this right now. We’re trying to win another game.’ I don’t want to shift my focus from the most important basketball games of my life to this thing.” 

The star status Gohlke achieved in such a short time was unfamiliar territory for a player who came off the bench for the Golden Grizzlies most of the year. Despite being overlooked for much of his college career, Gohlke’s hard work and dedication paid off at precisely the right moment. 

The Pewaukee, Wisconsin native was a 0-star recruit out of high school and received no Division 1 offers for basketball. He found a home for five years at Division 2 Hillsdale College, a “small, Christian, classical liberal arts college in southern Michigan that operates independently of government funding.”  

In 2022, U.S. News named Hillsdale one of the top 100 Liberal Arts colleges in the nation.  

It was at Hillsdale that Gohlke’s game went to the next level.  

After playing fewer than five minutes per game in his first two seasons there, Gohlke scored 9.6 points per game in 2021-22 and 14.2 points per game in 2022-23.  

After Gohlke’s growth at Hillsdale, he entered the transfer portal for his final year of eligibility. He received a few Division 1 offers but eventually settled on Oakland. The decision paid off, and the rest is history. 

Grant Basile, Gohlke’s friend since grade school who plays professionally overseas in Italy, gave some insight into Gohlke’s future in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 

“He’s not quite sure where he wants to end up — maybe the G-League, or whatever he thinks is the best opportunity,” Basile said, referring to the NBA’s development league. “Despite all the memes – that he’ll be a high-school history teacher tomorrow – that game was not just a one-time thing. He’s had a couple games like that. I don’t know how many high-school games where he’s hit 10 3s, but it’s nothing new…He still has a big career ahead of him. People got to see what I’ve been fortunate to witness first-hand last 15 years of my life.” 

Not too shabby for a 0-star recruit from a small Christian college.