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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, June 15, 2024

Senior Profile: Jay Dieterle — leaving Tufts, entering a legacy

Men’s basketball senior Jay Dieterle overcame uncertain beginnings to leave the program better than he found it.

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Jay Dieterle plays against Middlebury on Feb. 17.

September 2020. An eager Jay Dieterle arrives in Medford, the lone rookie recruited to play for the Tufts Men’s Basketball team, and begins the move-in day routine. He discovers his dorm room, says goodbye to his family and walks to 62R Talbot Ave. for his mandatory COVID-19 test.

It comes back positive. On just day one, he becomes familiar with The Mods, Tufts’ lonely quarantine housing, before he can even hang a poster above his twin XL bed. Welcome to college, Jay.

The beginning of the college experience for the Class of 2024 was unconventional, to say the least, but the adversity that dominated Dieterle’s first-year experience paved the way for the storybook moments of his senior year. As graduation approaches, he reflected on his athletic and academic achievements as a Jumbo that created a foundation for future adventures.

Born and bred in Franklin, Mass., Dieterle knew he wanted to continue calling New England home during college. He attended high school at The Rivers School along with Tufts teammate Tyler Aronson, who graduated in 2023, and the Tufts connection emerged early on in Dieterle’s high school career.

“When [Aronson] was getting recruited by Tufts, I was a freshman in high school, so I had already known the previous coaching staff that recruited me,” Dieterle said. “It was just the familiarity when they started recruiting me as a junior, I’d known them for two or three years at that point. It didn’t feel like I was talking to a college coach; I’m more friends with them.”

Though some other NESCAC schools were contenders in Dieterle’s recruiting process, the strong relationship with the coaching staff solidified his decision to commit to the Tufts basketball program.

“My final three schools were Williams, Amherst or Tufts, which are all pretty similar,” Dieterle said. “I think just between that familiarity with the coaches and then being only an hour away from home, it was kind of a no-brainer.”

The pandemic, though the most devastating, was not the only disruption of Dieterle’s first year. Bob Sheldon, who recruited Dieterle as the head coach of the Tufts men’s basketball team, announced his retirement in October of 2020 after over 30 years at the helm. Matt Malone, his long-time assistant and Tufts’ assistant athletics director for facilities and event operations, stepped in as the interim head coach briefly before the 2020-21 season was ultimately canceled due to COVID-19.

“It was just the cherry on top to a weird freshman year,” Dieterle said. “It was obviously tough because my coach had never seen me play in high school, and he had no film of me at Tufts because I didn’t play, so I felt like I was in this weird in-between phase.”

Tufts hired the men’s basketball team’s current head coach Brandon Linton, in the summer of 2021, and when Dieterle arrived back on campus that fall, he finally started to feel settled at college.

“I never felt like I adjusted freshman year,” Dieterle said. “My sophomore year I started playing well, [and then] I got hurt. Junior year, I started off hurt. Every single year has had a different piece of adversity, and I think just trying to persevere through that taught me. It all accumulated [during] senior year, having such a good year as a team and breaking a lot of records that the program has had. I felt like I wouldn’t have done that and the team wouldn’t have been able to do that without the adversity that we go through.”

As campus life ramped back up post-pandemic, basketball kicked into high gear, and Dieterle had opportunities to get involved with other organizations at Tufts. Majoring in clinical psychology, he has worked in the Cognitive Development Lab at Tufts for the past two years, and he has served as the men’s basketball representative on the Student Athletic Advisory Council during his years as an upperclassman.

“Academics was not the priority when I was being recruited,” he said with a laugh. “I was more just like, ‘let me get into a place and then, you know, I’ll figure it out from there.’” His uncle works as a psychologist in Denver, which ultimately inspired his interest in the discipline, and he will continue his studies with a master’s in sports psychology at Boston University next year. He will also serve as a graduate assistant coach for the Terriers’ men’s basketball team to give back to the game that gave him so much since the age of three.

Playing basketball at Tufts was so much more than wins and losses for Dieterle.

“Men’s basketball does such a good job connecting you with alumni. Every time we go somewhere, there’s alumni coming to a game or alumni coming back to watch our practices,” he said. “So you don’t feel like it’s just your team, you can sense that there is that legacy and family … pretty much every team says it, but I feel like it’s hard to do, but we do a good job with it. … The alumni network is something that I love the most about it.”

As a soon-to-be-alumnus himself, Dieterle reminisced on his favorite basketball memories. Iconic moments were not hard to come by, as his career included three NESCAC tournaments and two NCAA tournament appearances, reaching the NCAA Sweet 16 in his senior season.

“I think my favorite memory would definitely be the win at NYU this year,” he said. “It felt like a home game because we had so many fans there, and then all the alumni came into the locker room after, and we were all just losing our minds celebrating and partying. It was just so fun because it wasn’t just our team celebrating, it felt like we had a bunch of people behind us that were celebrating, too. So, that feeling I will never forget, ever.”