Today’s high schoolers are looking for colleges where they can do more than just get an exceptional education at an affordable cost. Many are also looking for extracurricular activities like intercollegiate sports to augment their college experience.
Jake Deer is a 2004 graduate of Johnson University Florida (Florida Christian College) who currently serves as the head men’s basketball coach at Point University in West Point, Georgia. Basketball was an important part of Jake’s life as a young man and shaped his passion for mentoring men and kingdom-focused leadership through coaching.
Jake grew up south of Indianapolis. Through the influence of Southport Heights Christian Church, he also found a love of missions and for serving those in need. Jake’s experience with Crank’s Creek, a ministry to the impoverished families of coal mining towns in Harlan County, Kentucky, expanded his worldview, solidified his faith, and stirred his calling toward kingdom-focused work.
His former youth minister, Terry Davis (JUFL ’91), served as the director of admissions on the Florida campus when Jake decided to expand his biblical knowledge and pursue kingdom service. He found the curriculum at the university to be more academically rigorous and challenging than he anticipated. He credits the mentorship of Bob Mehlenbacher (’92), the men’s basketball coach, as a critical guide to his academic and athletic growth. Jake respected Bob’s example of faith.
Jake began as an education major but graduated with a degree in Christian Leadership and Bible. After graduation, God opened a door for him to take on the youth ministry role at Christ’s Church at Mandarin in Jacksonville, Florida. Through his youth ministry, Jake connected with a sports-focused mission trip to Apache Youth Ministries (AYM).
He was so impacted by the experience that he left his church staff position to spend the next two years serving AYM. He coached high school basketball on the reservation and began seeking a college coaching role where he could make a living wage for his family and influence college basketball players to use their gifts and abilities in ministry.
In 2007, Jake returned to Johnson University Florida, where he served as the athletic director and head men’s basketball coach for six years. He encouraged his players to use their lives for the cause of Christ and annually took his team to serve at AYM.
Jake moved on to coaching roles with Francis Marion University (Florence, South Carolina) and University of Texas at Tyler before joining the staff at Point University.
“I think a coach has such a powerful platform to love, equip, and encourage young men to be so much more than what they think they are capable of,” he says. “It’s not about wins and losses. It’s not about skills and drills. It’s about showing Christ to the men God has put in front of me and helping them learn how to sacrifice and use their gifts for the benefit of others.”
Learn more about JU alumni at the Sojournal podcast.