Vindicating Mike Jensen

Mike Jensen has gotten a bad rap.

The Bill Buckner of Husky Basketball, to some, Jensen has had his entire career defined by one play.

With a trip to the 2006 NCAA Tournament quarterfinals on the line, Jensen committed a personal foul that has, for better or worse, lived in relative infamy.

Armed with a four-point lead and roughly 11 seconds left in the game, Jensen made a defensive play on Connecticut’s Marcus Williams, only to foul him on a made layup. The basket cut Washington’s lead to two. The ensuing free throw narrowed it to one.

On the following possession, Brandon Roy was fouled and sent to the line. He knocked down both free throws, stretching Washington’s lead back out to three.

With 7.9 seconds remaining, Connecticut inbounded the ball, advanced it upcourt, and tied the game on a Rashad Anderson three-pointer. The contest went into overtime, where Washington succumbed to UConn and fell short of an Elite Eight appearance.

Yeah, it was a stupid play. Jensen should never have committed a foul at that point in the game and we all knew it.

But consider the alternative.

If Williams scores that layup uncontested, Washington’s lead is two points with 11 seconds remaing. Connecticut could steal the inbounds pass, or the Huskies could split a pair at the line. Either way, there’s still a good chance that UConn gets the opportunity to tie or win the ballgame.

And can you really fault Jensen for the effort?

Had he let Williams take the ball in with no resistance, Jensen would have been criticized for not making a play, for not caring. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

It’s unfortunate because in the grand scheme of his Husky career, Jensen was arguably one of the greatest role players the program has ever had.

Alongside the likes of Nate Robinson, Brandon Roy, Bobby Jones, and Will Conroy, Jensen was the guy who was ready and willing to do it all.

A 6’8″ shooting center (think shooting guard-plus-center) with bleached-blonde hair and an enigma of a tattoo on his shoulder, Jensen stuck out like the sorest of thumbs amidst his more average-looking teammates.

From 2002 to 2006, Jensen consistently held his own against bigger opponents who populated the Pac-10. Undersized and underappreciated, he played a vital role in the Huskies’ offensive gameplan, spreading defenses with his perimeter shooting, and controlling the interior for Washington’s bevy of guards.

In 2004, Jensen hit a game-winning three-pointer to knock off Washington State at home. A clutch shot that, in the context of the team’s turnaround season, couldn’t have been much bigger.

A year later, in 2005, Jensen pieced together the game of his life, carrying the Huskies to a three-point victory over a very good Stanford club. He finished with 17 points and seven rebounds that day.

And damn if that dude didn’t rule the opening tipoff for his entire career. Ask anyone who attended all or most of Washington’s games from ’03 to ’06. When it came to the opening tip, Jensen, in spite of his stature, was a monster.

For those that have met Jensen (aka “Scooter,” a nickname derived from his penchant for riding a motorized scooter around the UW campus), you’d be hard-pressed to dislike the guy. He is a genuinely nice individual with an engaging personality that makes him fun to be around.

If that isn’t enough, the guy endured a worthy amount of abuse on the road throughout his tenure as a Husky. A white guy with frosted tips and a ridiculously goofy (code: awesome) shot fake? That’ll attract some attention.

The Washington State fans know what I’m talking about. They spent four years chanting “Beers on Jensen” at their home arena, a reference to an illegal, ill-advised beer run made by Jensen and some high school teammates while at a tournament in Lynden, Wash. When you’re young, you make mistakes. It happens.

I guess what I’m getting at is that it’s time to forgive and forget. There are too many Husky fans out there who, four years later, still blame Jensen for the team’s past misfortunes, and it’s simply not right.

It’s time to move on, folks. The man has paid his dues.

A positive contributor throughout a memorable era in Washington basketball history, Mike Jensen deserves to be remembered for all the good he did on some great Husky teams.

And in closing with a super corny, all-encompassing, worldly statement about the man, let this Scooter ride free once again.

16 thoughts on “Vindicating Mike Jensen”

  1. I completely agree. I would love to have Mike on this team. He shut down Augustine in that 2nd round game when we needed it in the 2nd half and made countless plays that went unnoticed. That, and he’s a really nice guy. (P.S. most fans would have more faith with him shooting a 3 than half of our current team)

    On another note, it was Rashard Anderson who made the buzzer-beating 3. I was directly behind him when he let go of the shot unfortunately. It’s a hard image to make go away.

    I will never forget the anger I felt when the double-T was called.

  2. I’m sure you’re right about Anderson, but what was it that Denham Brown did to bite us in the ass? I distinctly remember walking away from that game hating him.

  3. Very good article. I never had anything against Jensen. I wasn’t at the UW then but I do remember all the positive ways in which he impacted the game and not just that one huge negative.

  4. Thanks for writing this. The abuse he received from some “Husky fans” at games (snide comments and yells) and on message boards was ridiculous. I’d love to have him suiting up for the Huskies right now.

  5. Jensen is seriously the person that got me into basketball in the first place. Met him at Hec Ed as a freshman and since I then “knew” a member of the team, I had a reason to watch the team.

    Been a glorious up and down love affair with not only college basketball, but high school hoops, ever since. Lucky it was during pre-season practices… if it had been mid season, I would have missed the GU-UW epic pitting the Spanish Porn Star vs. Brandon Roy. Man that was a good game.

    Honestly… I hate the UConn game and the horrible refs, and I love trash talking as much as the next person, but… if B-Roy hadn’t been jawing, who knows. Definitely can’t place the Sweet 16 all on Jensen as much as a lot of people would like to.

    Go Dawgs!

  6. Every time the Huskies miss the tip off, I always say to myself, Mike Jensen would have gotten that. He ALWAYS got the tip-off.

    Sure, he goes out with that memorable foul that we’d love to forget, but he plays better in the post than the crap we’ve got now.

    I think MBA wants to be a guard.

  7. This article is spot on. As sports “fans” we get caught up in criticizing the teams we love, way too much. Remember, these college athletes are just kids, no more than 18-22 yrs old. How mature and perfect were we at that age and especially in college. It’s not an excuse, but it’s a fact, college kids are up and down. So as much as Jensen gets crap from people (probably even to this day, which is very dumb), he did a lot for this program and will always be a Dawg! Shoot, I’d LOVE to have a Mike Jensen on this team right now.

  8. Jensen works for a large corporation, lives in the Seattle area, and is a new father. He was the first local guy to commit when Bender was the UW coach.

  9. Mike Jensen works for a great local company as a sales representive. He is also recently married and also this past summer became a father. He is an awesome father and is taking his life to another level now. He also still plays in Rec leagues in Kent and Auburn and still shows extreme power. He played in China after graduating from UW, but was forced to come home after breaking his finger. That was only one play that people always bring up, and any UW player on the floor could have done something different to get a win that day. He was forced to be a Center half the time when he is a power forward. He can drain 3’s all day long and even though he has a good post game, he was forced to rebound for the other SUPERSTARS on the team. Congrats to Mike on being a new dad, husband and his birthday was last week too :)

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