‘He’s a coach’s dream.’ Jahmyl Telfort leads underdog Huskies into CAA men’s basketball tournament

Jahymyl Telfort dribbling the ball down the basketball court
Co-captain Jahmyl Telfort leads the Northeastern men’s basketball team into the CAA Tournament. Photo by Jim Pierce

Northeastern enters the Colonial Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament needing four wins to qualify for March Madness. The opportunity arrives at the end of a difficult rebuilding year for the young Huskies (10-19).

“I like this time of the season because everybody’s one-and-done regardless of what you did during the year,” says coach Bill Coen, the winningest coach in Northeastern history. “So let’s rise to the occasion.”

The 11th-seeded Huskies (6-12 in conference play) will be underdogs in their opener at 8:30 p.m. Saturday against defending champion Delaware (streaming via FloHoops). In their two regular-season meetings, the Huskies won by a point at Matthews Arena and lost by three at Delaware (16-15 overall, 8-10 in conference).

An upset would advance the Huskies to a quarterfinal against third-seeded Towson (20-11, 12-6), which beat Northeastern, 72-63, in January. A berth in the NCAA Tournament goes to the winner of Tuesday’s CAA championship in Washington, D.C.

“There’s no program and coach in this league that I have greater respect for than Bill Coen,” Delaware coach Martin Ingelsby said. “I know we’re going to be up for a heck of a challenge on Saturday night.”

Coen has coached Northeastern to the quarterfinal round (or beyond) in all 16 of his CAA tournament appearances. His Huskies have reached the final a league-leading five times since 2013 while advancing to the NCAA Tournament in 2015 and 2019.

“It’s definitely going to be a tough one,” Northeastern co-captain Jahmyl Telfort says of the opener against Delaware, which arrives on a three-game winning streak around the leadership of junior guard Jameer Nelson Jr. (20.5 points and 4.8 assists per game), son of the former NBA all-star, who won the final two CAA player of the week awards. “You win the first one and you build a little more confidence. I believe anything can happen but we’ve just got to take care of that first game first.”

If the Huskies emerge as a surprise team in a month renowned for college basketball upsets, it will be based on the all-around excellence of Telfort. He is Northeastern’s lone double-figures scorer with 16.2 points per game. He leads the team with 63 assists and is tied with graduate big man Chris Doherty with 130 rebounds. 

Telfort was named to the CAA All-Stars third team this season. His teammate, junior forward Coleman Stucke, received the CAA’s Dean Ehlers Award for embodying “the highest standards of leadership, integrity and sportsmanship in conjunction with his/her academic and athletic achievement.”

The aesthetics of Telfort’s game transcend his impressive numbers. The 6-foot-7 inch Canadian is a playmaker as well as a versatile scorer who has defended all five positions this year.

“I definitely believe I can make it to the NBA,” Telfort says.

At his club team in Montreal, Telfort played alongside current NBA stars Lu Dort of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Bennedict Mathurin, an explosive rookie with the Indiana Pacers.

“He’s clearly our hardest worker—the heart and soul of our program,” Coen says. “He’s a guy that studies the college game and the pro game. He’s made himself a very good foul shooter. He can shoot from behind the arc. He’s a mismatch guy who can take somebody down into the low post and he’s a tremendous competitor. In essence he’s a coach’s dream.”

Telfort’s devotion to self-improvement precludes him from overreacting to losses. The morning after a frustrating night he’ll be back at Cabot gym, working on his game. Coen is grateful for the example Telfort sets for his teammates, including Northeastern’s six freshmen.

“That’s one of his most impressive traits—he doesn’t allow the results to diminish his daily effort,” Coen says. “I like to call him an everyday guy because he’s extremely consistent and he’s well thought-out. He’s a man with a plan each and every day. When we travel, he might get his free throws up at 5 in the morning.”

Telfort was raised with eight siblings in suburban Montreal (his twin sister Jael is a college student in Quebec). “We lived in a two or three-bedroom apartment at one point and then we got a house,” Telfort says. “We were just always together and everything we did was for each other, and that’s going to keep on going for the rest of our lives.”

It’s no surprise that he’s been able to weather this disappointing season while recognizing the potential in his teammates.

“It’s just understanding that this is a young team, and most of the mistakes unfortunately are because there isn’t much experience,” Telfort says. “I think those losses are needed to understand how hard it is to win a college basketball game and how hard you need to play. We’re all learning that the hard way.

“But that’s basically how life is, right? You’ve got to keep going no matter what. One day it’s just going to click and all of a sudden you’re going to be stacking up these wins. Hopefully it’s during the tournament.”

Ian Thomsen is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email him at i.thomsen@northeastern.edu. Follow him on Twitter @IanatNU.