Airington keeps the faith


AJ Alvarado

Redshirt-senior forward Jaylin Airington steps onto the floor after being introduced during a game at the Icardo Center. Airington leads the Roadrunners in scoring with 14.5 points per game this season. Photo by AJ Alvarado/ The Runner

Peter Castillo

Sports Editor


Through hard work, dedication and an undying belief in God, redshirt-senior forward Jaylin Airington has risen against the odds to becoming the leading scorer for the Roadrunners.

Airington was raised in East Chicago, Indiana, which is about 25 miles outside of downtown Chicago, Illinois.

Airington credits his parents for keeping him on the right track and instilling strong family values while growing up in a troubled area.

“Growing up over there was tough, the crimes rates were high,” said Airington. “My parents always kept me narrow-headed, kept me focused, kept me in church and playing basketball.”

Airington attended Bowman Leadership Academy for his senior year of high school after transferring from a public school.

“The private school was better for my grades,” said Airington. “The public schools out there are terrible and my parents wanted something better for me.”

As he continued his studies in Bowman Leadership Academy, Airington continued to play the game he loved and that led him to play against some of Indiana’s best basketball players.

Airington grew up playing against the likes of current NBA players such as Eric Gordon, E’Twuan Moore and in high school he played against 2017 Slam Dunk Champion Glenn Robinson III.

Upon leaving high school, Airington received no Division I scholarships.

However, with the help of former NBA player and streetball legend Rafer Alston, Airington found his way to California.

“My parents did some research on the internet and got in contact with [Alston]. He got me into a prep school but I didn’t go there. I went to Ventura because he went there too,” said Airington.

He attended Ventura College in Southern California. He played there for one season.

Airington decided to transfer to CSU Bakersfield because of coach Rod Barnes’ religious beliefs and the interest that they showed compared to some of the other schools that were recruiting him at the time.

“Coach Barnes belief in God opened my parents’ eyes, he’s a saved man. The coaches were the number one reason,” said Airington. “They called me every day, they showed more interest that they wanted me here.”

The desire to be the first to win at CSUB was also a driving force behind the recruitment of Airington.

“I wanted to be the first to do something here,” said Airington. “I saw that they wanted to build something here and I wanted to be a part of something special.”

Airington arrived at CSUB prior to the 2013-2014 season.

However, he was redshirted by the coaching staff.

“It was just to better myself, to get stronger and get faster,” said Airington. “When I came in, I wasn’t going to play that much because we had a lot of guards. Barnes thought it was the best decision for me.”

Airington’s quiet and calm personality does not fit the mold of a vocal leader, but he chooses to lead his teammates in a different way.

“Jaylin is a really good teammate, he’s always encouraging everyone,” said redshirt-junior guard Brent Wrapp. “He’s a quiet leader. He really leads by example and with his work ethic.”

Wrapp also arrived at CSUB prior to the 2013 season.

Wrapp and Airington have roomed together since the two arrived on campus.

Barnes said he has always wanted Airington to be a leader in his own way.

“He has a quiet confidence about him,” said Barnes. “I’ve allowed him to grow into who he is. He’s not that guy that’s going to be yelling and screaming and that’s OK.”

In Airington’s redshirt-sophomore season, he averaged 8 points per game along with 4 rebounds while starting 26 of 33 games.

For his redshirt-junior year, Airington averaged 10.2 points per game. He was named to the Western Athletic Conference All-Tournament Team as CSUB clinched its first-ever trip to the NCAA tournament.

In the opening round game against the University of Oklahoma, Airington was tasked with defending 2016 John R. Wooden award-winner and current NBA player Buddy Hield.

Airington is often credited by his teammates and coaches for his defensive prowess.

“I didn’t realize at first how versatile he was,” said Barnes. “We recruited him just as a guy who could shoot the basketball.”

Barnes said he believes that Airington is the best defensive player in the WAC.

“He’s our overall best player, I think,” Wrapp said. “On offense, on defense, he can do it all. He guards the best player, he’s consistent and I think that’s a tribute to all the work he’s put in over the years.”

After the departure of seniors Kevin Mays and Aly Ahmed, Airington has had to adjust to becoming the go-to guy on offense as well as a team leader this season.

“I learned from those guys before me, like Kev, Aly and Issiah Grayson and taken little bits and pieces from everybody’s leadership roles. I just wanted to take that role on,” said Airington.

Airington said the family-like nature of the program here at CSUB as something that has allowed him to grow as not only a player but as a man.

“Everybody here is family oriented, they love you,” said Airington. “Everyone talks to you and they get close to you. I love Bakersfield.”

In a game earlier this season in Tucson, Arizona against the University of Arizona, Airington poured in a career-high 31 points.

Airington is averaging a team-high 14.5 points per game to go with 4.9 rebounds per contest. On March 7, the WAC awarded Airington with first team all-conference honors.

The Roadrunners have clinched their first-ever regular season WAC Championship this season and will enter the WAC Tournament as the number one seed.

“[Our expectations are] to win it again. We want to go back to back and we want to get back to the [NCAA] tournament, and to win a couple games this year.”

Barnes said he believes Airington has the intangibles to play at the next level.

“I do, [believe he can play at the next level],” said Barnes. “There’s no doubt. I think he’s still growing. He can do a lot of different things. He’s not the kind of guy to be fussing about contracts and playing time. There’s always a place for those guys.”

Redshirt-senior forward Jaylin Airington steps onto the floor after being introduced during a game at the Icardo Center. Airington leads the Roadrunners in scoring with 14.5 points per game this season.
Photo by AJ Alvarado/ The Runner