Ohmer explodes onto the scene in Battle 4 Atlantis

Junior guard Lamonte Bearden (1), pushes through the defense of Missouri State Bears to gain possession of the ball on Friday, Nov. 10 at E.A. Diddle Arena.

Jeremy Chisenhall

WKU’s roster features a four-year senior, graduate transfers from Virginia and Kansas and Kentucky’s 2017 Mr. Basketball. And yet, in the Hilltoppers’ run to a fifth-place finish in the Battle 4 Atlantis, it was the 6 feet 1 inch, 170-pound two-star freshman from Scott High School that made all the difference.

Jake Ohmer put together one of the best weekends of basketball anyone could ask for. He scored 15 points on 5-6 shooting including 3-3 from 3-point range against No. 18-ranked Purdue, helping lead the Hilltoppers to their first Power 5 win in nearly a decade. He then followed that up with a game-winning 3-pointer against SMU to finish off a double-digit comeback win over a team that had defeated No. 2 Arizona just one day before.

Ohmer’s emergence as WKU’s star of the tournament was sudden and unexpected, but that’s nothing new for him. In high school, Ohmer’s chances of playing Division I basketball were zero, as he had committed to the University of the Cumberlands, an NAIA college.

At the Kentucky state tournament in March, Ohmer scored 106 points in three games and carried Scott to the semifinals. With WKU head coach Rick Stansbury and senior forward Justin Johnson in attendance, Ohmer had made his presence known and earned his Division I opportunity.

“Me and coach were sitting at the state tournament,” Johnson said, “everybody kept coming to coach, and people wanted to say things (Ohmer) couldn’t do. Me and coach were sitting there like, ‘that dude can play.’ He shows it every day. With his toughness, that dude could play with anybody on the court.”

Stansbury has complimented Ohmer repeatedly on his shooting ability. That was no different after Ohmer hit a corner 3-pointer over an SMU defender with 4.5 seconds left to give WKU back-to-back upset wins.

“He did what he does; shoot that basketball,” Stansbury said. “And he can do that about as good as anybody.”

Ohmer’s 3-pointer was perhaps the biggest single play of WKU’s season thus far, and Ohmer doesn’t shy away from those big plays.

“I just try to make big plays on offense, so that’s what I did,” he said after his game-winner.

Ohmer’s emergence caught many by surprise, but Purdue head coach Matt Painter knew what he was up against.

“Ohmer’s the difference,” Painter said following WKU’s upset win over the Boilermakers. “I’ve seen guys just like him. They walk through, they don’t pass the look test, and they’ll kill you…That’s what he did. I told our guys, I said ‘do not leave him, do not let him shoot, he averaged 29 points in high school.'”

With just eight eligible players, Ohmer—who was named C-USA Freshman of the Week for his play in the Bahamas—has played a bigger role than most would expect. He’s played more than 20 minutes in all but one of WKU’s games this year, and he’s averaging 10.7 points per game on 47 percent shooting. With the success he’s had, there’s no way that role will be reduced any time soon.

Reporter Jeremy Chisenhall can be reached at 859-760-0198 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @JSChisenhall.