By Joey Bennett
TERRE HAUTE — Some people who suffer broken backs in automobile accidents unfortunately struggle just to be “comfortable” for the rest of their restricted lives.
Others endure years of pain-staking rehabilitation and return to a semi-normal existence.
Not Jared Rehmel. He chose door No. 3.
The 2006 Shakamak graduate led the Lakers to a regional basketball championship in his senior year and a tough 12-point loss to eventual state champ Hauser in the semi-state.
He took his outstanding skills and undersized body to Olney Central College to play for Coach Mike Burris, where in his freshman year he earned all-Region 24 honors while averaging 14.4 points, 2.3 steals, 2.3 assists and 2.1 rebounds per game for the Blue Knights. He hit a team-high 79 3-pointers.
However, Rehmel was a passenger in an August 2007 accident that left him with a broken back and an uncertain future. He redshirted the 2007-2008 season in hopes of someday playing again.
If you’ve ever seen Rehmel in action or know much about him, this story has a predictable ending not involving wheelchairs or I.V. bags.
Last weekend, Rehmel completed a pretty amazing physical comeback and averaged 22.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.0 steals per game in helping OCC capture the OMC Tipoff Tournament title in West Plains, Mo.
“He has obviously made a full recovery,” Burris, the former Eastern Greene and OCC standout, said this week.
Rehmel earned Most Valuable Player honors in the OMC event and ranks fifth nationally in scoring among all junior college players at 25.8 points per game,
“My back feels great, and I am 100 percent now,” Rehmel said this week. “I really believe that sitting out a year helped me. I saw things that I didn’t see when I was out there playing. “
Rehmel didn’t wait long this season to get back in the groove, pouring in 35 points in the season opener on Nov. 2 in a 108-100 win over Sound Doctrine.
OCC was then nipped 74-68 by No. 17 Vincennes as Rehmel had 27 points.
At the OMC event, Rehmel had 29 points (including 4 of 5 3-pointers) in a 94-82 win over Missouri State-West Plains, 18 points in a 76-74 overtime win over NE Oklahoma A&M; and 20 points in a 108-68 win over Mid-America Nazarene in the finals.
“He is a special player,” Burris said. “He has a motor that never slows, and he is the most competitive kid I have coached. He is scoring from all over the court.”
While the stereotypical junior college player is normally a high-flying athletic acrobat trying to outdunk everyone, Rehmel’s fundamentally flawless, “old-school” game plays quite well in Olney — both before and after the accident.
“He never tires and has been a sparkplug for us,” Burris said. “Our guys feed off his energy. He came to us very well coached, and Coach Ernie Maesch did a great job with him in high school. He is a pleasure to be around every day.
“We really dread the end of the season, so we are going to try to make it last as long as possible.”
Rehmel predictably spreads around the praise for his success.
“I have played pretty well, but it is early, and it would not be possible without the guys on my team,” he said. “We have a really good team this year that knows how to play and that is plays a big role on how I have played.”
Burris tells a story that he feels sums up Rehmel and his attitude well. On the six-hour bus ride home from Missouri, Burris told Rehmel he had made the all-tourney team with MVP honors. Instead of celebrating, Rehmel was disappointed to hear that none of his teammates had made the all-tourney team.
“That’s the kind of kid he is,” Burris said. “Jared is the ultimate team player.”
• Roads makes nationals — Fifth-year senior Rob Roads of Terre Haute North and the Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles will compete on Saturday in the NCAA Division II national championships at Slippery Rock, Pa.
The Eagles are now ranked in the top 10 nationally among all Division II cross country teams and second in the Midwest Region.
• Three North grads competing in crew — The number of sports that Wabash Valley athletes are competing in at the collegiate level has increased by one, as three former Terre Haute North athletes are participating in collegiate rowing (also known as crew).
Lauren Shew competes at Purdue University, Sophia Bayer is at IUPUI and Conner Lentz is at the University of Dayton. All three athletes competed in the “Head of the Eagle” race at Eagle Park in Indianapolis on Nov. 1.
Joey Bennett is a former Tribune-Star sports reporter and copy editor who now teaches and coaches at Northview High School in Brazil. He can be reached at