Jermaine Townes, 39, has not let his age stop him from earning a spot on College of DuPage’s basketball team. | Courtesy of College of DuPage
Age is a state of mind. If that wasn’t the case, 39-year-old Jermaine Towne wouldn’t be playing basketball for the College of DuPage.
“I’d been taking classes here for about six months, and never even knew they had a team,” said Towne, a veteran of Desert Storm.
“One day I was looking at the college’s website, and I saw a picture of this guy holding a basketball. Then I started reading about Coach [Don] Klaas and all the wins he has had here, and I decided I wanted to play.”
In high school, Towne played football and baseball but not basketball.
“The football season ran over into basketball, so I never played in high school,” he said.
“After high school, I went into the Navy when I was 18. Then I tried to explore my ‘hoop dream’ by taking classes at Jackson State in Mississippi. I practiced for two years but never actually made the roster.”
Towne began working for Comcast in customer service. He married the girl he was dating while in the Navy and moved to St. Louis, where he lived until 18 months ago, when he returned to Illinois, settling in west suburban Lombard.
“I decided to continue my education at COD,” he said, “and I’m going to graduate with an associate’s degree this spring in computer networking.”
Klaas said he is used to “older players,” including having players in their mid- to late-20s on his team, but that Towne is the “dean” of all the athletes he has coached.
“I told Jermaine this was going to be very difficult with all the running we do and the season is long,” he said.
“You pretty much have to be in the top 10 on the team in order to play, and he’s not there. But he has an incredible desire to be out there on the court, and I want that in all my players.”
The average age of students is 34, said Brian Kleemann of the college’s External Relations Department.
“That is certainly older than the basketball players who play here,” he said. “There still is a buzz around campus, though, about seeing a guy like this out there on the court.”