Bruin Brotherhood


In the professional athletic environment, the team-as-family metaphor is not uncommon. You hear it all the time in interviews and read it in sportswriters’ columns. Players speak of their teammates as “brothers” and “sisters,” and locker rooms and athletic facilities as a second home. A coach is an obvious paternal or maternal figure. It’s part of the ethos of team sports: all for one, one for all. So much more for student-athletes. At a private university like George Fox, with a limited enrollment and small campus, student already feel at home and comfortable forming relationships. Student-athletes claim another membership within that campus family. The team. The Bruins.

Freshman basketball players Jacoby Wolfe and Ryan Thistlewood feel this phenomenon more than most. Dorm-mates, friends, and emergent basketball stars, both have ties to George Fox rooted in more than a team or a residence hall. Thistlewood, for example, studies engineering not only because he loves it, but also because it’s something of a legacy.

“I always knew I wanted to be an engineer,” said Thistlewood. “Both of my parents, my brother, and my grandfather are all engineers. It kind of runs in the family.” Thistlewood’s family of engineers also, apparently, is a family of athletes. “Both my parents played college basketball at the Colorado School of Mines. My grandfather did as well.”

While Thistlewood’s familial ties helped him find his vocation, Wolfe’s family is rooted in a place: Newberg, Oregon. George Fox University. Attending the same university as your parents offers a unique perspective and fosters a sense of history, genealogy, and identity. “In, total, 60-plus of my family members have gone to George Fox,” explains Wolfe.

Many longtime fans of Bruin basketball have grown accustomed to seeing a Wolfe in the navy-and-gold. “Both of my parents played basketball here,” said Wolfe, “along with my sister, two cousins, and my aunt.”





Fitting, then, that Wolfe and Thistlewood should begin their Bruin careers together – and with such early success. Even in the Bruins’s ultra-high-tempo offense and intricate system, both have seen significant playing time. Wolfe averages 18.4 minutes per game, and Thistlewood typically clocks 20.5. Playing in the post, Wolfe has made the most of those minutes, averaging 5.5 points and 4.6 rebounds. Working on the wing, Thistlewood’s points-per-game is 6.1.As the men’s basketball program continues to develop, the fan support has remained vigorous. Wolfe and Thistlewood in particular have earned a following, which appears, loud and vocal, at all the home games.

“With all the freshmen on the team, it gets the younger fan base to come out to games. We just have a great group of guys that people enjoy supporting,” said Wolfe.

Thistlewood credits the community already present in the freshman class with the strong fan support – and he says the support matters. “It helps a lot being in the dorms, having your floormates come to the games. The fan support is awesome. The crowd can make a huge difference in a game. Have you ever tried to shoot a free throw with a bunch of fans yelling random – and very amusing – things at you?”

For both Wolfe and Thistlewood, all this is interconnected: George Fox, basketball, family, belonging. To remove any one thing would be to collapse the system, and both agree that the experience so far has been completely worthwhile. Of course, coming into any university – even one as intensely personal as George Fox – can be jarring. Wolfe had concerns before the year began.

“I was worried at first,” he said, “coming to a college in my hometown. I was worried I wouldn’t get the full college experience.” When he arrived, he found he loved life at George Fox – though he also found unexpected obstacles.

“The time basketball takes up in my life, trying to balance school, basketball, and a social life, is tough. But doable.”




For Thistlewood, similar challenges arose when it came time to balance his time – a familiar pitfall.“The hardest part for me, adjusting to college life, was the workload and time commitment. In high school I spent two hours a day on basketball and then had little homework. Now, in college, it’s four hours of basketball and then tons of homework. After practice it’s trying to force myself to study instead of going to bed or hanging out with friends. Being an athlete means you sacrifice a lot, but in the end it’s totally worth it.”

What drives Wolfe and Thistlewood? Why all the late nights, the long trips to away games, exhausting homework after exhausting practice? They’ll tell you the motivation is twofold. Behind both men stand inspiration and a support structure: their families. And ahead of them are dreams, ambitions, possibilities.

For Wolfe, playing basketball is a relational act, something shared, especially between father and son: “As a kid my dad and I would be outside [playing basketball] for hours and hours. Basketball is where I met my best friends. It sent me to this school, which means my grandparents have the ability to see me more often.”

Thistlewood’s experience is similar in its relational intent. Everything he does, on the court and in the classroom, is an act of remembrance, of continuing where others have been: “My dad has been the biggest influence in my life by far. After every game he would tell me how proud he was, whether I did well or not. I’ve looked up to him all my life, and I am proud to call him my dad. My grandfather is a cancer survivor and taught me that if he can fight through cancer, then I can fight through my struggles.”

And, as they look ahead, all the inspiration and support motivates them along their journeys. Thistlewood and Wolfe have plans – big plans.

“I’m hoping to be someone kids can look up to and want to follow,” said Wolfe. “My goal is to find my passion here and carry it on to a career and then a family one day.  I haven’t decided on a major yet, but I’m hoping God will point me in the right direction.”

“I would like to win a league championship and make it to the NCAA tournament,” said Thistlewood. And his ambitions beyond basketball are unsurprisingly relational. “I hope to continue my engineering degree and then get a solid job right after college, to make many friends and stay in touch with all of them.”

With three-and-a-half more years at George Fox, Wolfe and Thistlewood have plenty of time to accomplish these goals, and whichever new ones arise. And, on the court and off, it seems likely that they’ll prove quite successful. After all, it runs in their families.