When Jay Hansen found out he was going to be inducted into the Arkansas State Hall of Honor, he said it sent cold chills all the way down his arm. Hansen said it was the same feeling he used to get when he would run out onto the floor in front of a packed crowd at the field house in Jonesboro.
“It is an incredible honor and just so unexpected,” Hansen said. “It just shows how important your teammates and your coaches are, and all the people in my life who kind of helped direct me to the place that I am today.
“It is just an absolute blessing, and I absolutely could not have gotten there on my own. I am 5-10 and 140 to 150 pounds soaking wet. I couldn’t have done any of that on my own.
“I had to have some really good teammates and coaches.”
Hansen, who was inducted into the Hall of Honor on Sept. 21, is one of 27 players in the Arkansas State men’s basketball program history to reach 1,000 points. He scored 1,025 points in his four-year career at ASU. He ranks third all-time with 384 career assists, and his 133 career steals rank him seventh in the program.
“I was there when Jay was being recruited and watched him in high school,” former teammate Matt Garner said. “We would watch players in the [National Education Association] Tournament, which included schools like Jonesboro and Highland, and we would watch all these teams play.
“Jay had an ability to get an edge on you and take it to the basket. He spent a lot of time at the basket. In practice, we all hated covering him because he never seemed to tire out. You always had to stay right in front of him. If he even had a little step, he was to going to pass you.”
Hansen played basketball for Arkansas State from 1981 to 1984 under head coach Marvin Adams and assistant coach Nelson Catalina. Hansen got to play against NBA Hall of Famers Karl Malone and Joe Dumars during his time. Hansen graduated from Highland High School in 1980 and has a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He and his wife, Connie, live in Benton, and Hansen works in Little Rock for Cameron Valves and Measurement.
“When I really look back at what ASU did for me, [it provided] me the education and the guidance that really allowed me to have a good, well-rounded knowledge base and [gave me the ability] to be stable, earn a solid living and to really support the most important people in my life.”
Hansen and his wife have been married for 20 years but have known each other for much longer. Hansen said he and his family moved to Highland in December 1969, and his wife’s family moved that following January.
“She was one grade ahead of me,” he said. “When I was in peewee basketball, she was a peewee cheerleader.
“We were very close growing up and all through school. After college, we went our separate ways, and we each got married to other people. And we got divorced and got back together.
“It has been a fabulous story since then.”
Hansen said the biggest thing that stands out to him about his time at Arkansas State is the bond he formed with his teammates.
“We put in a lot of hard work, a lot of blood and sweat together. A lot of people think scholarships are given away, but man, you earn that scholarship.
“When you go through things like that together, obviously, it sticks with you. I still get together with those guys, and we will still keep in contact. We will absolutely be friends forever.”
Scott Horrell played forward and center for the Indians during the same four years as Hansen. Horrell said he also played against Hansen and his brothers in grade school, so he has known Hansen for a long time.
“He was one of the best teammates I ever had. He is also a very good friend, and we got along really well,” Horrell said.
“He was my point guard, and big guys love their point guard. So I tried to take care of him when he would get picked on. Jay is not the tallest guy in the world, so [other teams] would try to intimidate him, but it never worked,” Horrell said.
“There are a lot of great players who have come through and left their mark,” Garner said, “but Jay made our program competitive and kept us in so many games. Jay just didn’t have any support from the rest of us.”
Todd Cooper, who joined the program the same year as Hansen and was his roommate for the first two years, said that even though they were both competing for a starting role, it never got in the way of their friendship.
“He wasn’t the fastest guy or the quickest guy or the best shooter or ball handler, but he did everything really well,” Cooper said of Hansen. “Even though it is cliche to say it, he gave everything 110 percent.”
Cooper said by their freshman year, Hansen was the starting point guard.
“He was the one who ran the show,” Cooper said.
Hansen said Arkansas State basketball has “absolutely changed tremendously” since his time.
“The players are so much bigger, stronger and more athletic, and the style of game has changed immensely,” he said.
“I think in my four years that I was there, we averaged maybe 60 points a game. But my goodness, now they score 60 points by halftime,” Hansen said.
“Back then, it was more about controlling the game, and nowadays, it seems to be who can put up the most shots, because it doesn’t matter if you shoot 35 or 40 percent,” he said. “If you shoot more times than the other team, you are probably going to score more points.”
Hansen said his 1981 self would have some trouble today. Garner disagreed.
“For me, Jay had this ability to do what needed to be done,” Garner said. “He was raised with all those brothers and knew what it was to compete.
“He could morph into whatever he had to be. Today’s game is not the rules of the game, but the nature of the player, and he is that kind of player.
“Whatever I have to do to beat you is what I am going to do.”
Hansen has been a member of Holland Chapel Baptist Church in Benton for 16 years and used to be heavily involved in the church’s basketball ministry. But about five years ago, he tore his calf muscle.
“When I got through rehabbing, I went back and tried to play, but it is not in my nature to play half-speed,” Hansen said. “I couldn’t play like I wanted, so I picked up golf.”
He said he has played golf all his life. His brother, John, is the head golf coach at Highland High School.
“I am a pretty good golfer for as little as I get to play,” Hansen said. “When I look back at that ministry now, that is what God had in mind for me — to use my basketball skill as a platform to share the Gospel.
“The respect those young men had for me as an older person able to play basketball as well as I could gave me the opportunity to share the word of God to thousands of young people.
“That is what I am really truly thankful for.”
Nick Calaway, the student pastor at Holland Chapel, said Hansen is definitely missed on the court.
“Jay had all the respect of those guys,” Calaway said. “He would give the Bible lessons, and then they would see how he’d carry himself on the court and actually played. He had their utmost respect.
“He helped us carry that ministry for over a decade. He just represented everything a godly man should in sports.”
Staff writer Sam Pierce can be reached at (501) 244-4314 or email@example.com.