He's back: hoops hero Sam Jacobson working with 833
It's been 15 years since Sam Jacobson packed the gym at Park High School, wowing onlookers with heroic performances on the basketball court.
For Jacobson, who is considered one of the best Minnesotan basketball players in history, a lot has happened on the hardwood since then -- including a trip to the NCAA Final Four, a move to Los Angeles, three NBA seasons and a stint in Europe.
However, one of Cottage Grove's most beloved sons has returned.
Jacobson, a 1994 Park graduate who finished his prep career eighth on the state's all-time scoring list, is back where it all began and looking to help others who are trying to replicate his success.
Jacobson, 33, in conjunction with District 833 Community Education, has begun a one-on-one basketball clinic called Jump Start and is training players on an individual basis at Cottage Grove and Lake junior high schools.
Jacobson said he hopes his program will complement and support the other existing camps and clinics in the area.
"I'm trying to be an extra resource for basketball around here," Jacobson said. "I'm not trying to come in and take over anything that's already here. I'm hoping to complement Woodbury, Park and East Ridge as a whole and work with all the coaches on every level and provide that one-on-one training to their players."
Not every school district in Minnesota is lucky enough to have someone with Jacobson's background available to its youth.
After graduating from Park in 1994, Jacobson went on to play four years with the University of Minnesota, where he helped lead the Gophers to the NCAA Final Four in 1997 and a NIT championship in 1998. In his four years at Minnesota, Jacobson scored 1,709 points. After his senior year, Jacobson was selected by the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the 1998 NBA draft alongside current NBA players like Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce. With the Lakers, Jacobson was coached by the legendary Phil Jackson and played with superstars like Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, Dennis Rodman, Glen Rice, Robert Horry and Eddie Jones.
Jacobson's most productive professional season came in 1999-2000. After being traded to the Golden State half way through the season, Jacobson averaged 5.0 points per game in 13.5 minutes played for the Warriors under head coach Garry St. Jean.
Jacobson's final NBA season came in 2000-2001 with the Minnesota Timberwolves. After the season, Jacobson underwent an abdominal surgery and spent the following year recuperating as well as spending time with his newborn daughter, who was born with a heart condition. Jacobson, who now lives in Apple Valley with his wife and three children, last played professionally in 2007 in Italy and said he is officially retired.
Jacobson, whose parents still live in the Cottage Grove home he grew up in, said it feels good being back.
"For me, I was so driven to get to a certain point," Jacobson said. "I couldn't let my guard down and do these types of things, because every day I was so focused on that one thing -- I had to get in the NBA, I had to reach my goal. Now, after my career has died down and things have settled down, this is always a passion I've had in the back of my mind. Now is the right time to come back and try to give back what I've learned. I've kind of learned everything I'm going to learn. Now, I just want share it with others and pass along my knowledge."
Jump Start will stress the small stuff
Last week, Jacobson made an appearance at the Wolfpack basketball clinic, which is run by the Park varsity coaching staff.
"We're just thrilled to have Sam around Park High School and Park basketball and this community," Park head coach Tim Walton said. "Sam is just a great individual. He was a tremendous student-athlete and a good role model. For him to be back active in the community is just a great deal for everybody involved."
Jacobson said one-on-one training wasn't readily available when he was growing up, but that it is now happening all over the metro area.
"I just want to help kids on a personal level, to be interactive with them, and to get Park, Woodbury and East Ridge on track to be a basketball presence on the East side," Jacobson said. "I've been coached by the best coaches in the world and played with the best players in the world. To bring that to kids at this age and to help them develop the skills that they need to get to the next level is what I'm trying to do.
"But, I'm not going to bring some magic formula where a kid is all-of-a-sudden going to be a superstar, just because I taught him a couple moves. But, it's just another perspective and another tool."
With the Jump Start basketball training program, Jacobson will focus on very specific techniques and skills like shooting, ball handling, passing, defense and footwork along with other aspects of an individual's game.
Walton, for one, said a player will only go as far as how hard he or she works on his or her game.
"What we tell every kid at every camp is that it is ultimately up to the individual and their willingness to improve," Walton said. "Obviously, if you have someone of Sam's knowledge, background and ability level, to be able to tap into his experiences would be a great benefit."
Michael Kilsdonk, a Cottage Grove youth basketball coach and member of the Cottage Grove Athletic Association, brought his son Mikey to train with Jacobson.
"The number one thing for me was his credibility," Kilsdonk said. "He brings credibility. He's done it. For Mikey to get that personal training from someone who has had the experiences he has had, you can't do much better than that."
Jacobson, who knows a number of kids from this area have traveled as far as Minnetonka or Apple Valley for individual training, said he hopes Jump Start will help players work on the slight nuances of the game that can take them from the end of the bench into the starting lineup or from being a good high school player to earning a college scholarship.
"I'd like to work more on a personal, one-on-one basis," Jacobson said. "What does each kid need to work on specifically? Say a kid is the eighth or ninth man on the bench, but he wants to be a starter. His goal is to start and help the team win. I'm hoping to be able to work with coaches to be able to learn what that kid needs to do and to improve upon to be able to step in and help and to get playing time."
Currently, Jacobson is scheduling appointments on a month-to-month basis on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and learning what works best for everyone involved. However, he hopes to train players year round and plans on doing so for a long time.
"A lot of time, especially in the summer, kids are playing a lot of games, running up and down and developing bad habits," Jacobson said. "They're not getting that teaching they need. I think we've kind of lost the art of the technical, little developmental skills that kids need to reach the next level.
"My motivation and drive is to help kids that have the same goals and passion that I did as a kid to improve on their game. Hopefully this is a start to a long road."
To contact Sam Jacobson regarding any topic email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Sam Jacobson file
-- Born July 22, 1975 in Cottage Grove
-- Graduated from Park in 1994
-- Finished prep career eighth on the all-time leading scorers list in Minnesota high school history.
-- Averaged 18.2 points per game as a senior at the University of Minnesota
-- Helped lead Gophers to 1997 Final Four and 1998 NIT championship.
-- Drafted 26th overall in 1998 NBA draft by the Los Angeles Lakers.
-- Averaged career-best 5.0 points per game for the Golden State Warriors in 1999-2000.
-- Last played professionally in Italy in 2007.
Jump Start basketball training with Sam Jacobson
Total game development: Tuesdays and Wednesdays -- Third to fifth grade, 6 to 7 p.m.; Sixth to eighth grade, 7 to 8 p.m.; Ninth to 12th grade, 8 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays: Four sessions at Lake Junior High -- July 7, July 14, July 21 and July 28. Wednesdays: Four sessions at Cottage Grove Junior High -- July 8, July 15, July 22 and July 29. Cost: $140.
Shooting/ball handling: Thursdays -- Third to fifth grade, 6 to 7 p.m.; Sixth to eighth grade, 7 to 8 p.m.; Ninth to 12th grade, 8 to 9 p.m. Three sessions at Cottage Grove Junior High -- July 16, July 23 and July 30. Cost: $105.
-- Resister online at www.cecool.com or fax a registration form to 651-458-6620 or by mail or walk-in at District 833 Community Education Program Center, 8400 E. Point Douglas Road S., Cottage Grove, MN, 55016.