Stu takes a break from The Hunt Down to bring you another installment of a somewhat similar feature. Take it away, Stu:
They Were Who We Thought They Were…Or Were They?
(To recap: TWWWTTWOWT’s goal is to analyze past Minnesota sporting figures to see if they were, in fact, who we thought they were. They will be graded on a scale of Absolute Dennys, with a 1 being We Let ‘Em Off the Hook, and a 10 being Crown ‘Em.)
Today’s Subject: Sam Jacobson
Who We Think They Were: legendary Minnesota high school basketball player who stayed at home, was expected to lead the University of Minnesota to multiple Big Ten titles and deep tournament runs. The final tally was one (vacated) conference championship and one (vacated) Final Four appearance, along with a (vacated) NIT title. My sense is that Jacobson’s career at the U was considered a letdown, independent of the concurrent academic scandal.
Were They Really: working against Jacobson was the fact that he was the first legitimate blue chip Minnesota prep basketball prospect in years. Take a look at this list of Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball winners. You’d have to go back to the McHale/Breuer/JimPete era to find players that major D-I schools would have wanted. (I’m working off memory here, so correct me if I’m wrong in the comments, but I don’t recall a big fuss being kicked up over Kevin Lynch, Chad Kolander, Skipp Schaefbauer, etc.) The fact that universities bigger than Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo wanted him no doubt inflated the expectations for him. Would those expectations have been the same if he came to the U as Mr. Basketball New Mexico? Of course not.
That said, he was a coveted recruit for a reason, and he was often the focus of the Gophers’ offense. If you remember Jacobson taking a lot of shots, you’re remembering correctly. He was among the conference leaders in FG and 3 pt. attempts, and among the national leaders in percentage of his team’s shots his junior and senior years. My friend Jon makes the good point that Jacobson was basically Blake Hoffarber, if the latter could create his own, less-accurate shot.
His best year percentage-wise, unsurprisingly, was the the ’96-’97 campaign, when he was surrounded by the likes of Bobby Jackson and Courtney James. His senior year marked his career-high in PPG, but also saw the Gophers completely miss the NCAAs. You can’t fault him for the Gophers losing seven players from the previous year’s Final Four team, but he was in his fourth year, and it was “his” team. They finished in 65th place.
The Grade: Sam Jacobson gets 6 Dennys. The “one of us” factor made it nearly impossible for him to meet the expectations that were set for him. His game was elevated by having players to share the load with him, and when it was his time to be the alpha dog, the results were middling.
Apocrypha: yes, he really was called “The Jewish Jordan.” He was actually Catholic.
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