When the 2015 fall signing period rolled around, Jarvis Doles had nowhere to go. Then a senior at Hammond High, the 6-foot-8, 200-pound forward saw several other Baltimore-area basketball players sign letters of intent to Division I schools, but he was faced with "a lot of anxiety" as the scholarship offers he coveted didn't come through.
Much has changed since then. Doles put together a second-team All-Howard County season, graduated from Hammond, turned in a successful AAU campaign with 6th Man Warriors and enrolled at Mt. Zion Prep in Northeast Baltimore. This week – one year after his Signing Day disappointment – Doles found the right fit in Drexel, which offered him a scholarship earlier this fall.
"It's definitely good," said Doles, who signed his letter of intent with the Dragons this week. "It feels great to not have to worry about where I'll be going next year. It feels good to tell my mom that she doesn't have to pay for college. It's on me."
Boston College, Cal Poly, Canisius, James Madison, San Diego and Southern Utah were among the other schools that reached out to Doles. More programs would've likely come calling during this season, but Doles said he "felt as though I can go to Drexel and make an immediate impact. Once I found a school that had all the components academically and athletically, I was fine."
Doles, who spent his first three years of high school at Mount Saint Joseph, wasn't exactly an unknown prospect before the Drexel offer materialized. Mount St. Mary's, Doles said, recruited him heavily before the 2015 fall signing period, though he didn't feel like it "was the place for me at the time." As his senior season progressed, Wright State emerged as an option – until the Raiders fired coach Billy Donlon.
Doles, who said he averaged around 15 points and 12 rebounds for Hammond, decided to take his chances on the AAU circuit. He had previously formed a bond with 6th Man Warriors coach Lafayette Nelson, who was just 22 when he died last May.
"With him passing, I didn't really have any adult insight into where I should go," Doles said. "He was kind of my rock. Once he passed, I felt kind of alone and abandoned. I made a call to one of my Hammond coaches and he got me into Mt. Zion. That's when I really decided to go and it was probably the best thing I ever did. It put a chip on my shoulder and made me work harder and really want it."
Though it's early in his post-grad season, Doles believes he's already made strides on the court and off. He cited coaches Roderick Harrison and Brian Scott for pushing him to "get that grit and that edge to play hard at all times. … That's the biggest thing Mt. Zion has done – help me raise my sense of confidence."
In Drexel, Doles said he's found a program that recognizes that confidence and appreciates the versatility he'll bring as someone who can play the 3 or the 4. And as a bonus, Doles will be following in the footsteps of two other former Baltimore basketball stars.
"Me and Damion Lee (Calvert Hall) actually train with the same guy. He obviously went to Drexel. You see him doing well, and I thought, 'OK, maybe I can kind of follow in his footsteps.'
"[Freshman point guard] Kurk Lee (St. Frances) was probably one of the biggest selling points. He was my host on my visit. I felt the love, felt welcome and felt at home when I was on the visit. Two Baltimore guys, obviously the connection is going to be there off the bat. I've seen him play and know how good and unselfish he is. I think together we can make a dynamic duo."
Kurk Lee is the Dragons' second-leading scorer through two games (15.5 points per game). Damion Lee, now playing for the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Development League after a fifth year at Louisville, is 10th on Drexel's all-time scoring list. Doles said he can't wait to join Kurk Lee next fall and follow in Damion Lee's path.
"I trusted my heart and went with my decision," Doles said. "I was trying to chase that high-major dream at Mount St. Joe; now I was just trying to find the right school where I could fit in and make an impact. Drexel was right for me. Now I'm just trying to prove to everyone that I belong and do great things there."