July 22, 2014
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
Somebody forgot to tell Nick Jacobs that you not go home again because after leaving his hometown of Atlanta to play basketball for Alabama, he’s returned to re-build himself at Georgia Tech even after once crossing the Yellow Jackets off his recruiting list in about the time one might take to snap fingers.
His reclamation project will not unfurl nearly as quickly as that long-ago decision.
He transferred to Tech and will spend 2014-15 on the sidelines per NCAA guidelines.
Jacobs is OK with that.
The 6-foot-8 forward from South Atlanta High is busy behind Tech strength and conditioning coach Mike Bewley’s, “Men at Work,” sign, welcoming a redshirt.
“Yessir. I went from playing at 240 pounds and body fat at 10 [percent], and now I’m at 260, body fat 16 [percent],” he said. “I’m going to use the whole year to get back to the player I once was, and keep it that way to build my career.”
Jacobs once was quite a player.
When former Tech one-and-done standout Derrick Favors was a senior at South Atlanta, Jacobs started as a sophomore and drew attention aplenty. Former Tech head coach Paul Hewitt was interested.
By the time he was a senior, Jacobs was considered a top-100 prep player nationally, and a top-10 forward. In averaging 23.0 points and 13 rebounds, he led South Atlanta to the state Class AAA title, and was AAA player of the year.
Vestiges of promise flashed in his freshman (6.1 points, 3.6 rebounds) and sophomore (7.6, 4.1) seasons at Alabama, as he played in a combined 68 games and started 47. Yet all that while and into his junior season, Jacobs was a yo-yo of sorts.
“I played at 255, 260 [pounds] my freshman year and then I sort of lapsed mentally as a sophomore, and played at 275, body fat 16 [percent],” he said.
With athleticism to spare, Jacobs has to learn to maintain gains once he makes them, and hold his ground (and weight).
He averaged 8.4 points and 3.6 rebounds as a junior, yet his goal of growing up and maturing while away from home wasn’t working completely. That plan was in place as early as his sophomore season, when he eschewed Tech.
“I actually got rid of Tech my sophomore year. I didn’t want to be at home; I wanted to experience something different by going away with a whole different group of people,” he explained. “It wasn’t anything against Tech whatsoever. I just wanted to try something different.”
That time has come again.
A general health studies major at `Bama, Jacobs is majoring in health, technology and history at Tech, and he is mindful that changing zip codes does not guarantee a warm and fuzzy result.
The Flats are new to him, but Atlanta certainly is not. He transferred in part to be near home, but not so much to be at home. He’ll visit the homestead from time to time, but he’s more interested in his family being able to see him play.
“I’m starting to grow as a player and learning from my past experiences things I should do and not do in order to help the team,” he said. “Some guys can’t focus when they’re home. I have one big picture in mind, and that’s to make something of myself. I’m not going to go back home and be there all the time.
“Some guys will come home and be in the streets hanging out with the wrong crowd. That’s not me at all.”
About four weeks into Bewley’s regimen, Jacobs has begun to flash vestiges. The process may be slow, but it’s definitely under way.
“My first week was probably the worst week I’ve ever had. I haven’t done a real leg-based workout in a long time, and on the court . . . I couldn’t run and I couldn’t do anything,” Jacobs said. “I’d never been so tired and out of shape in my life. I feel it coming. Today, I felt way better running and jumping.”
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