Nov. 24, 2015
By Jon Cooper | The Good Word
– Nick Jacobs considers himself a people person.
That evaluation might not quite come across to fans who see only the ferocity of his slams, the fierceness in his determination to find an opening to get up his shot in traffic in the paint, or in battling for position to rebound.
“I’m very sociable. I’m a real likeable guy,” said the 6-8, 257-pound power forward, breaking into a smile as big as he is. “That’s one of the good things about me. Even if you don’t know me, if we walk by each other, more than likely I’ll give you a ‘What’s up?’ or a nod, like we know each other. I’m a really nice guy.”
He’s made himself quite likeable around the Georgia Tech campus.
Through the team’s first four games, Jacobs has scored 15.0 points (second on the team), grabbed 6.5 rebounds (third), shot 61.0 percent (fourth) and 83.3 from the line (second). It’s been a heck of a homecoming for the Atlanta native and former South Atlanta High School star who could barely contain himself waiting to make his Georgia Tech debut after transferring from Alabama.
“He’s been great,” said head coach Brian Gregory. “He’s been great in terms of his post-up game, he’s made free throws, which is important because he’s going to get fouled in there. His aggressiveness offensively has been good. We hoped that he would be a low-post scoring threat, and that’s exactly what he’s been. The key always with players is consistency. There are areas that he needs to gain greater consistency, but scoring around the basket isn’t one of them.”
That scoring around the basket is the part of his game where Jacobs has always felt he most excels.
“I have a knack to score the ball,” he said. “I like having the ball in my hands, because I feel like scoring is my best attribute.”
Jacobs has proved that by scoring in double-figures in all four games, including lighting up former SEC rival Tennessee for a career-high-tying 23 on 60 percent shooting (a season-best nine field goals in 15 attempts) in Tech’s 69-67 win on Nov. 16.
He’ll get a shot at another former SEC rival on Thanksgiving afternoon, when Georgia Tech takes on Arkansas at Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center as part of the NIT Preseason Tipoff (the game tips off at 2 p.m. and can be seen on ESPNU). Jacobs averaged 8.3 points on 66.7 percent shooting), 2.5 rebounds and a block in 17.8 minutes in four games against the Razorbacks, during which the Crimson Tide went 3-1.
Jacobs knows that he needs to do more than score the ball, however, if he wants to help the Jackets improve to 4-1 on the season and raise his personal record against Arkansas to 4-1.
“I really pride myself in scoring the ball, but most important I need to improve in areas like rebounding and things like that,” he said. “Coach [Gregory] wants me to rebound and defend the ball as well as score because, at the end of the day, pro scouts, NBA and guys overseas are going to look for the small things. How are you on the defensive end? They’re going to look at things other than scoring the ball.”
To make those improvements, Jacobs has worked tirelessly with assistant coach Mamadou N’Diaye.
“Nick has been a pleasure to work with,” said N’Diaye, a former two-time All-SEC center at Auburn. “He works extremely hard and has been getting better every single day on his conditioning. He’ll be able to help us a lot.”
He’s committed enough to take instruction from N’Diaye and put aside the Alabama-Auburn rivalry.
“It was kind of tough, just knowing he’s an Auburn guy,” Jacobs joked, adding. “Mamadou is a really nice guy and a great coach. He really wants the best for me. He really wants what’s best for the team. I listen to all the coaches for advice.”
N’Diaye never noticed any grudge and doesn’t expect to see one now that he and Jacobs are united in White and Gold.
“I might have joked with him about it early on,” said Mamadou. “He wasn’t there when I was there. It’s an important thing but I think right now we are both GT. That’s what we share. Our past is our past. We have to focus on the present.”
Jacobs is locked in on the present and is enjoying getting the opportunity to show his skills off in front of his family and friends.
“I’m very excited to be back home,” he said. “In Tuscaloosa, I loved the campus and all, but I couldn’t really have family to come support me. Being back at home, my family, my friends, former high school coaches can come watch me. Being here has given me a real good opportunity to have a good senior year. So I’m very excited.”
He’s also excited to be the difference-maker on the floor, that he couldn’t be last season when he had to sit out as part of his transfer and take it all in from the bench.
“Just sitting there watching last year’s games, watching how we were one or two possessions away from winning the game,” he said. “I’m going off the coaches. The difference I would have made, as Coach said, I have a knack to score the ball.”
He’s been able to use that knack effectively this season, by virtue of his being able to effectively use last year as a transition period into Gregory’s system.
“Just being on scout team all last year gave me a sense of what I’m going to be seeing,” he said. “Being able to practice and go hard and make the guys better helped me prepare for going into this year.”
He has personal goals for his final go-round, on and off the floor, and is driven to reach both.
“When I say personal goals for this year I want to think big,” he said. “Having a good season overall, making a run for the (NCAA) Tournament. As far as my personal goals, just graduating, doing it for myself and my family because my mom would be real proud of me if I graduated, especially from Georgia Tech. I want to prove all those people wrong by doing something that they said I couldn’t do. So I want to get better as a player, make a run to the ACC Tournament, win it, hopefully, and then put myself in the right position to be a pro next year.”
The bottom line is that he won’t let himself fail — a sentiment as much for the people around him as for himself.
“Nobody can make you do something. It has to come from within, but I use other people as my way of doing things,” he said, “Most important, I don’t want to see myself fail because that’s really going to disappoint others who believe in me — my mom, my family, my girlfriend. I’m really going to prove people wrong who doubted me from the jump. I take that as a way of focusing down and locking in on the main task, which is just getting the job done.”
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