Soren Frantz / Photo Editor

Keene State basketball fans can expect to see a new face on the floor next time they come to a game at Spaulding Gymnasium.

On January 14, Jaylen Franklin, a men’s basketball player at the College of Wooster in Ohio, took to Instagram to announce he was transferring to Keene State College with intentions of playing for the Owls men’s basketball team. Franklin posted an edited picture of himself wearing a Keene State jersey on his Instagram account with the caption reading, “Gotta point to prove.” 

“I’m very excited,” Franklin said in an interview. “I’m very excited to play for Coach Cain. He’s been building a great program here and I’m very lucky to be able to jump right in.”

Franklin, a current junior and native of Springfield, Massachusetts, began playing college basketball at the division one level for the University of Massachusetts Minutemen as a walk-on talent in 2017. Franklin spent three years with the Minutemen, playing a relatively small role on the team, appearing in 15 games for a grand total of 41 minutes over his three years with the team. 

Then, before the start of the current 2019-20 season, Franklin transferred to the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio to play for the Scots, a division three basketball team. During his time with the Scots, Franklin participated in eight games scoring an average of 4.5 points per game while playing for an average of 9.9 minutes per game. However, even though he played more minutes per game at Wooster than he did at UMass, Franklin still wasn’t happy.

“I left there just due to things with the culture and how I was living; it just wasn’t a good situation for me,” Franklin said. “We had a great team in Wooster, it’s nothing against those guys at Wooster, I’m still rooting for them all the way. I still talk to the guys on that team on a regular basis, it was just not totally the right fit for me there. It was a personal thing.”

Therefore, Franklin knew it was time for another change of scenery. But this time, he felt like the choice was obvious: Come back home to New England. 

“I felt like I needed to come home close to my family and friends,” Franklin said. “I was already familiar with Keene and the Owls team and Coach Cain because of my friend Ty Nichols, so I chose to come to Keene.”

When the news that Franklin wanted to play for Keene State reached the Owl’s head coach, Ryan Cain, he was excited to hear he’d be getting a new player.

“I’m happy to have him. He seems like a really nice young man, you know. I think he’s a good basketball player,” Coach Cain said. “We played against him this year which is interesting. He made a three in the game against us, didn’t play a ton of minutes against us but when he was in there he played pretty well so getting a guy that’s a really good person and a good player, that’s exciting for us. The amount of detail that I can provide at this point, not having seen him play a ton, is somewhat limited, but you definitely want to add as many good people and good players in your program as you possibly can.”

Furthermore, the timing of Franklin’s arrival makes the situation even sweeter for the Owls, as Franklin will be joining the Owls during what could debatably be the team’s time of need. Although they are the defending Little East Conference champions, the Owls are stuck with a losing record (five wins and 11 losses at the time of writing this) headed into the latter stages of the season. Plus, the Owls’ leading scorer this season, Marcus McCarthy, who averaged 12.6 points per game, left the team over winter break, leaving the Owls in a very vulnerable position. Therefore, when Franklin decided he wanted to join the Owls, it was very welcoming news for Coach Cain.

“Losing Marcus, he was a key player, he played well for stretches with us, and in the middle of your year, losing a guy like that is never easy, a guy that played a pretty prominent role. Fortunately, I do think we have a lot of depth and a lot of good players, but then it’s a different puzzle. You know, at that point you’re trying to put some different pieces together, and obviously those pieces haven’t come together such that we’ve played terrific basketball and won all the games we’ve played, obviously a lot of these games as of late haven’t gone our way. So to be able to add someone else to adjust that puzzle to maybe have more success is great.”

Franklin said that the rest of the team was very welcoming too when he showed up for his first practice with them.

“I officially met them all Monday [Jan. 20] at practice. I’ve known Jeric [Cichon] for a while. I knew him growing up but I wasn’t too close with the other guys until I met them. After meeting them all they seem like great guys. They were very welcoming. They welcomed me with open arms and I think we can do something really special together.”

Along with already knowing Cichon from high school, Franklin also knew Ty Nichols, the all-time leading scorer for the Owls’ men’s basketball team, long before college. Knowing Nichols helped Franklin make the decision to transfer to Keene State.

“Oh man, I could tell you stories about Ty for days man,” Franklin said. “I’ve known him since we were like 12 years old, playing basketball against him in my driveway. He’s always been a tough kid and a tough player. I’d even tell Ty that I could see myself playing for Coach Cain and with the Owls, and now it came true.”

Cichon also remembers seeing Nichols and Franklin around town before playing with them at Keene State.

“Growing up they were always around; they were always at open gyms,” Cichon said. “I never played against Jaylen, but Jaylen went to my high school before I got there. Before my freshman year, he was a freshman at the high school I went to and he ended up going somewhere else.”

Now, with Franklin joining Cichon on the Owl’s men’s basketball team, he says he has one primary goal in mind for the rest of the season.

“My ultimate goal with this team is to win the LEC Championship in the conference tournament and make the NCAA’s,” Franklin said. “We’re trying to take it day-by-day though, you can’t do it all overnight.”

So, with the next home game for the Owls men’s basketball team scheduled for next Wednesday against their longtime rival Plymouth State, we’ll more than likely get the chance to see Franklin light it up for the Owls on his new home court. 

Matt Holderman can be contacted

at mholderman@kscequinox.com

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