Jay Pal will soon begin his final collegiate season with the San Diego State Aztecs after transferring from Campbell University.
The forward brings a wealth of experience to the Aztecs. A team that enters the season ranked 17th in the country will need Pal’s energy on and off the court to thrive.
Pal is a gritty player who was one of the top defensive big men in the Big South Conference last season. Standing 6-foot-9, the forward had 48 blocks last year, which was third highest in the Big South Conference, and averaged 7.0 rebounds per game, which was fifth.
After losing Nathan Mensah, Pal could be a great replacement that fits right into head coach Brian Dutcher’s plans.
“Oh definitely,” Pal said on episode 98 of The SDSU Podcast when asked if SDSU’s defensive mantra suits his game “That would be easy for me because defense is something I take pride in. I’m up for the challenge. I like playing defense.”
The Aztecs have high expectations for this season. They are coming off one of the biggest seasons in school history and have a chance to repeat this year.
Episode 98 of @TheSDSUPodcast
Special Guest SDSU forward Jay Pal (@JayPal_22)
— East Village Times (@EVT_News) October 18, 2023
Pal said that the team is ready to take on the challenge of being named the preseason favorites to win the Mountain West Conference. Competing for a championship was a major reason the former Campbell star committed to the Aztecs.
“As soon as SDSU called me I was interested from the jump,” Pal said. “I knew they were good people, good coaches, and they welcomed me with welcoming arms. I made the decision to come here.”
Jay Pal’s Basketball Journey
SDSU marks the fourth program in his collegiate career. Prior to Campbell, he spent two seasons at Jacksonville State, where he played in one NCAA Tournament game. Before that, he played a season at the junior college level in 2019. Making it out of JUCO is not easy. In fact, the percentage of junior college players making it to the NBA is less than 1%. The odds aren’t stopping Pal.
He has a great story of pursuing his dreams of playing basketball at a high level. Even when times were tough, Pal never quit. Pal was told many times that he would not make it to where he wanted to go, but he didn’t allow negative voices to dissuade him.
“I don’t think there was ever a time where I would give up basketball,” Pal said. “Has there been times where it has been hard? Yeah, for sure. I’m thankful to have mentors around me who have watched me grow. They made sure I kept my faith that this is my purpose and the ball is not going to stop now.”
His high school coach described him as just another student at Omaha Central High that no one saw as a D1 athlete. Following a year in prep school, he played the second half of the season in junior college. From there, he transferred to Jacksonville State, then Campbell, before landing with the Aztecs.
At each stop, he improved significantly. Beginning his career as a little-used role player, Pal averaged 12.3 points and 6.9 rebounds last year. He earned Big South All Tournament Team honors last season; however, the team fell one game short of the NCAA, falling 77-73 to UNC Asheville in the Big South Tournament Championship game.
Jay Pal (@JayPal_22) influenced the Campbell win and every aspect of the game: passing, defending, getting key steals and blocks, guarding every position all while playing with foul trouble the whole game. Yet another top athlete from Omaha pic.twitter.com/Ls8wXnSsw2
— 𝐃𝐚𝐯𝐢𝐝 (@CypressAlou) January 5, 2023
Now calling sunny San Diego home, Pal will continue to play with the grit and passion he has been playing with his whole life. In fact, Pal stated on The SDSU Podcast that leadership is the one thing he would like to improve on for this season. Being a transfer to a new program can’t be easy, but if Pal turns into a vocal leader, then credit is due not only to coach Dutcher but to the entire team for coming together.
“I want to be more vocal on the floor,” Pal said. “Also being a leader knowing I’m one of the older guys in the group and utilizing that to my advantage to help the team.”
The transfer will be put in positions to do just that.
EVT recently spoke with SDSU assistant coach Dave Velasquez. He had high praise for Pal, explaining that the only reason the staff brings in a transfer is for them to help the team immediately. He also explained that as defensive-centered as SDSU is, offensive skill is usually what they are looking for in a transfer or a recruit.
On tape, it is easy to see why the staff coveted Pal’s services. The forward can score the rock at a high rate. He averaged 12.4 points on 58% shooting last season. Furthermore, he scored in double figures in 23 of 32 contests, including three games where he scored 20+ points. Pal scored a career-high 26 points in the championship loss to UNC Asheville.
His ability to contribute on both sides of the floor will be what earns him a lot of minutes.
“Pal can play the three or the four,” Velasquez said on an upcoming episode of the SDSU Podcast. “He is a really good cutter. He times up his cuts really well and he can stretch it to the three. He gives you a unique balance where he is a good passer but he is also really good at the pick-and-pop.”
As Velasquez said, Pal is a unique player that will do a lot of great things for the Aztecs this season.
It is an exciting time of year as the season is just a few weeks. Pal got his first action in an Aztecs uniform this past weekend in a closed scrimmage against Arizona State. In 15:43 minutes, he recorded four rebounds, dished two assists, and recorded a block. He had no points on only two field goal attempts.
SDSU will play Cal State San Marcos in an exhibition game on Oct. 30 at Viejas Arena.
Chris is a graduate of the University of San Diego. He is the former Sports Editor for the USDVista newspaper. Chris is also an athlete and is huge fan of San Diego sports. Chris has covered the San Diego Loyal, and contributes regularly about the Padres.