Jason Lamar Berkhalter g97
Jason Berkhalter g97 made his mark as a premier athlete at both the high school and collegiate levels in his hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana, breaking multiple round ball records during his three years as a uniquely gifted Taylor University Fort Wayne (TUFW) Falcon.
Jason’s father, Louis Berkhalter, and uncle, Tom Brower, introduced Jason to basketball when he was just six. Three years later, his father signed Jason up for tackle football in the Metro Youth Sports league in Fort Wayne. Jason showed promise in each of various sports he tried, but basketball and football would remain his favorites.
Training at home, church, and school combined to give Jason a solid grounding in Christian teachings. This included the influence of godly relatives on his life and the positive formation provided by St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) and its St. Paul Lutheran Grade School, where Jason was a fourth generation student.
Stellar prep school careers in both football and basketball at Concordia High School in Fort Wayne led to multiple honors. Jason made All-State linebacker and was one of the few athletes in Concordia’s history to be named First Team All-Summit Athletic Conference and All-Northeast Indiana in both football and basketball.
Jason’s collegiate journey started on the Taylor University Upland (TUU) campus. His high school coach, Glenn Parrish, took him there to visit, and Provost Daryl Yost h96 proved particularly instrumental in Jason’s decision to attend TUU.
Jason had a brush with glory before the season even started. While working at the Taylor Boys Basketball Camp as an incoming freshman, he won the right to represent the other Taylor camp staff against the legendary Rick “The Rocket” Mount, the celebrity speaker, in a game of H-O-R-S-E. Neither Rick (of Lebanon/Purdue/ABA fame) nor Jason could remember having been beaten before in H-O-R-S-E. Jason pushed Rick to “s,” until Rick, who had repeatedly emphasized the importance of being able to shoot with either hand during his talks, finally won by shooting left-handed from outside. From that day forward, Jason began to work hard on shooting with either hand.
Although Jason played one year (1992-1993) for the fabled Coach Paul Patterson at Upland, Jason’s outsized scoring talents as a fluid, airborne 6’3” shooting guard/swing man didn’t mesh well with his coach’s conservative philosophy of rigidly regimented ball control.
So Jason transferred to the other Taylor University campus, back in his hometown, and gained more than just a new head coach. Bud Hamilton g68 became his personal mentor, confidant, and a source of repeated blessings, one whom Jason recalls with great fondness for his wisdom and guidance. Many a memorable conversation started with, “Coach, I need to talk!” Jason’s chief regret was that he didn’t lead a TUFW team to a national championship for his coach, but there was very little else Jason failed to accomplish on the court during his three incredible years as one of TUFW’s all-time scorers, rebounders, and prime-time players.
Jason’s sophomore year (first season, 1993-1994) at TUFW the Falcons went 16-12. Jason led the team in scoring (799 points), rebounding (307-147 offensive), and blocks (32) while almost matching Scott Haddix g94 in steals (54 to 65). For all he handled the ball, Jason had the fewest turnovers on the team per minutes played. His 32 points-per-game average (he had played in 25 of 28 games) led the nation in scoring as he shot an incredible 68.3% from the field, including 40.9% from three-point range and 73% otherwise. Highlights included 43 against Ohio State University-Lima, 51 against Indiana University-East, and 45 against Indiana University-Kokomo. Honors ensued. Over the course of Jason’s career, The Journal Gazette, The News-Sentinel, The Indianapolis Star, USA Today, and Hoosier Basketball Magazine featured him.
Jason’s junior year (1994-1995) the Falcons went 19-9. Although his enormous talents were no longer a secret, Jason still scored 868 points, grabbed 259 rebounds, blocked 44 shots (one behind Carl Wunsch g97), and made 70 steals (one less than Tim Cooper). He was still averaging over 30 points a game, once again the highest in the nation, scoring 40 or more six times, and was named the team MVP (the second of three straight awards). Jason was named to the NCCAA I District III First Team and made NCCAA I All-American Honorable Mention, a major achievement on a campus in transition in terms of its athletic identity, for the school was no longer a part of the NCCAA II nor in a conference (NCCAC).
Jason continued his blistering pace his senior season (1995-1996), even though the team got off to a slow start against a somewhat tougher lineup of opponents. But the Falcons regrouped, winning 10 of 11 games down the stretch, including a memorable Senior Night victory over Earlham College. The Falcons finished the year 19-10.
One last run culminated in a commendable if slightly disappointing third place trophy at the inaugural League of Christian Colleges National Tournament in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as the Falcons just missed making the title game. Jason would bury 42 against American Baptist University to clinch the third-place victory in his final contest. Earlier in the season, Jason had seized a school-record 38 rebounds in a hard loss to Northland Baptist.
During his last year, Jason poured in 741 points, pulled down 279 rebounds (124 offensive), blocked 27 shots, and stole the ball 63 times. Although his scoring average dropped to a “mere” 27.7 per game, for the third straight year Jason led the nation in scoring.
Thus, over three remarkable seasons, Jason had scored 2,408 points, corralled 845 rebounds (484 offensive), pilfered opponents 187 times, and blocked 103 shots in 82 games played. No one else in the nation matched his combined scoring-rebounding double-double numbers (a fraction under 30 points per game, over 10 rebounds per game) during the three years he played for TUFW.
When Jason bumped into Rick Mount again at a shooting clinic, Rick congratulated him for his outstanding career, but especially for learning to shoot with either hand.
In 2009 Coach Hamilton retired Jason’s #52 jersey for his stunning exploits on the hardcourt. It seemed a fitting honor for a former player who had been introduced before games as “The Franchise.”
Jason returned to the TUU campus to complete his BA in business administration in 1997 and would then add an MBA degree from TU in 2008.
Jason went through a difficult period when his father died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 2000. Louis had been very encouraging to Jason and had faithfully counseled him to pray for wisdom. Although it was a painfully bleak time of personal crisis, Jason would ultimately deepen and renew his Christian commitment.
Jason is also very grateful for the loving support of his mother, Cheryl Young; his stepfather, Leonard Young; and his sister, Brandi Berkhalter, who have each played important roles in his life.
Jason is currently employed by Pain Management Group, headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, where he is a Regional Director of Operations, with a focus on Southern Indiana and Arkansas. He was previously Vice President for Investments at The Mutual Fund Store in Fort Wayne and a financial advisor at Wells Fargo Advisors before that, following still earlier positions at AAA, GE Healthcare, and The Horace Mann Companies.
After an extended courtship sparked during their time together some six years earlier as graduate students in Taylor’s MBA program, Jason married Dara Johnson (TUU ’02, MBA ’08) in August 2014. Dara is now Executive Director of Alumni Relations at Taylor University.
Jason and Dara live in Carmel, Indiana, where they attend Northview Christian Life Church.