By David Willis
---- — He’s the player whose name is on the signs and tee-shirts of possibly the and most enthusiastic fanbase around Massachusetts high school sports. A group organized and rowdy (in a good way), which recently spawned a popular Youtube video.
He is Jack Konevich, Andover High sharpshooter — the namesake of “Jack’s Jungle.”
And just like Jack’s Jungle — Andover’s student fan section — has grown in popularity, Jack Konevich’s role has taken off for the Golden Warriors basketball team.
In his first year on the varsity team, the senior has gone from bench player to a key member of the Golden Warriors’ starting lineup as a slick-shooting guard who has hit 33 3-pointers through the regular season.
“Coming into this year I was just hoping to play a role and help out when I could,” said Konevich. “But because of injuries I had the chance to start, and it has felt great to step up when they needed me. I wanted to prove I belonged. And I definitely never expected ‘Jack’s Jungle.’”
The Warriors are counting on Konevich to play a key role as they work to make a run in the Division 1 North tournament, which they were scheduled to kick off on Tuesday hosting No. 9 Medford.
“We knew Jack could shoot,” said Warriors coach David Fazio. “We knew he was confident and had a high basketball IQ. But we like to say he’s our ‘swag’ guy. He’ll hit a big three and give a little shimmy. He’s having fun, and that’s what sports should be.”
Konevich entered the season hoping to carve out a niche in the rotation. But with starting guard Reid Bryant and forward Connor Merinder out with injuries, the senior found himself taking on a new role.
“I felt ready to step in and help out when we were a few guys down,” said Konevich, who last week was accepted to University of Colorado Boulder. “In the Christmas Tournament in the win over (eventual MVC Large co-champ) North Andover I hit two big 3’s in the second half. That’s when I really started to feel like I could step up. Once I started to make my outside shots I started to feel really confident and the team started to see that I was a pretty good shooter.”
As his confidence grew, so did his contributions, and he and backcourt mate Chris Dunn emerged as a deadly outside shooting duo, combining for 87 3-pointers on the year.
“The 3-point shot has always been my strong suit,” said Konevich. “Since I was a kid I have always been a shooter. I practice my shot a lot and that seems to be what I do best. The key to being a good shooter is to always have that confidence. You have to believe that every shot you take is going in. Even when you are struggling you have to keep shooting. That’s the most important thing.”
Far from just a gunner, Konevich has averaged a solid 7.2 points per game on the year, and since scoring a career-high 13 in a win over rival Lawrence has improved his average to 10.1 points a game.
Fazio said his contributions go far beyond just the stats.
“He just loves basketball,” said Fazio. “He keeps things loose. He’s the guy that has all the dance moves and will break them out before games. He is great for camaraderie and team-building. This is a very special senior class, and Jack has been a big part of that.”
As impressive as his season has been, Konevich’s name is probably best known as the namesake of Jack’s Jungle, Andover’s loud and proud student fan section that cheers on not just boys basketball but girls hoops and hockey.
“It’s pretty awesome,” said Konevich. “I sure never thought there would be a fanbase named after me. Adam Weisman has been the leader of the group. I was with him before the season, and we were thinking about senior names that could go with it. He came up with ‘Jack’s Jungle’ and everyone really liked it. It’s taken off from there.”
Previously known as the “Haak’s Nest,” named after 2009 graduate John Haak, the Warrior fans set out to give the group a new identity this year.
“This is an amazing senior class and they wanted to do something special,” said Fazio. “Adam Weisman really took the reigns and has done an amazing job. We wanted a new name and ‘Jack’s Jungle’ really works. The Jungle has really been great for us this year. Now after this year Adam will pass the torch to a new leader who will be a senior next year.”
Konevich admits he does have a Jack’s Jungle tee-shirt, but it’s not framed and displayed just yet.
“I think it’s in a drawer right now,” he said with a chuckle. “It’s pretty funny to hear people talking about the Jungle. It’s amazing how many people have gotten involved. It’s really been a great memory. It’s been awesome to have.