Cardinal Confident In Casey
Jan. 11, 2001
|Sport: Men's Basketball
Hometown: Glendora, CA
High School: Glendora
Webster's Dictionary defines confidence as 'faith or belief that one will act in a right, proper, or effective way.' Confidence is the word to describe Stanford basketball. The 2000-01 team believes it will act in such an effective manner that it will take home the ultimate prize - a National Championship. With 13 wins to start the season, the Cardinal is proving to itself and its fans that it deserves to be contending for the title.
What gave the Cardinal all this confidence? Stanford has been to the NCAA Tournament for the past six years and last season captured its first number-one seed. Stanford sat atop the polls with a number-one ranking for three weeks in 1999 and regained the honor in the first week of 2001. The Cardinal captured back-to-back Pac-10 titles in 1999 and 2000. Three starters are returning - one of which was 2000 Co-Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Casey Jacobsen. If one player exemplifies the faith this team has in itself, that player is Jacobsen. He does not hope that this team can win a national title, he believes they will. And he will do everything in his power to make sure that they have the chance in the spring.
There are 325 Division I men's basketball teams that begin the year with various expectations, some to have a winning season, others to make a post-season appearance, and a handful that have the talent and skill to become the National Champions. Come April 2, 2001, only one team will cut down the nets. Jacobsen wants to be part of that team, but he has many goals for the season and his understanding of success does not rely on the final game. He puts emphasis on the journey. He shares, 'Expectations (of ourselves) are higher than ever. I feel like we are one of the best teams in the country, and I want a national championship, but whether or not we win that, we want the Pac-10 [title]. We want to do well in the tournament. If we do well and win, that's great, but if we go in and play poorly, then we'll be disappointed.'
Jake, as his teammates call him, has more to contend with than just the end of the season. The Cardinal faced Duke and Arizona over the winter break - and came away with two wins. Duke, ranked number one in the country at the time, and Arizona, continual Pac-10 rival, were major tests for Stanford. Both games were of national significance and both were nationally televised. Jacobsen notes, 'Those were two games that we circled on our calendar early in the season, and I think a lot of teams were doubting whether or not we could compete at that level and whether we deserved our high ranking. With those two wins, we proved that we do belong among the elite teams in the country.'
Duke and Arizona were tough games. The Blue Devils fell in the final seconds of the game when Jacobsen drilled a medium-range jumper to give the Cardinal a one-point lead and victory. A little more than two weeks later, Jacobsen walked into the McKale Center in Tucson never having beaten the Wildcats. He had the drive and walked out with an impressive victory. Before the games, he said, 'We are not afraid of anybody and we can beat anybody. A lot of teams say that, but it's not true. We know we have to play well, but if we do, we can win. We've got to bring it.'And Stanford brought it. Jacobsen comments, 'The Arizona game was our best example of coming together as a team and sharing the basketball. We had five starters that played incredibly well and we had bench productivity - they might not be scoring, but we're all sharing the ball and shooting a high percentage and knocking down our free throws. If you look at all the stats and look at the little things, it's spread out among all of the players on our team.
So far this year, the Cardinal has proved that it will continue what it started last season. Jacobsen is already being mentioned as an All-America candidate and is also a John Wooden and Naismith candidate. He was named MVP of the Puerto Rico Shootout, but watching him in practice after the team's return from San Juan, one could not guess how well he had done. He was scrambling across the floor, shooting the lights out as usual, pushing himself with his free throws and hustling on every defensive play. Teammates agree that Casey's importance with the team lies not only in his game performance, but also in his daily routine. Fellow sophomore Julius Barnes says Jake 'works hard.' Kyle Logan seconded the statement adding, 'especially in practice, he works really hard.' Freshman Nick Robinson commented, 'He's such a hard worker, but he's calm. His being relaxed helps everybody else relax and work hard.'
His work ethic stems from his desire for team success, but he also wants to prove himself individually. After receiving First Team All-Pac-10 honors last season, he set the bar higher for himself. He says, 'As a freshman, everything was so new and it didn't sink in all year. Having a year to mature, I got a chance to work through it all, from being ranked number one to going on the road [during the school year]. I feel like other teams know more about me than they did last year. I won't be a surprise now. They know me. I have to really step up my game and be more mentally tough.'
Stanford Athletics Highlights:
|A candidate for National Player of the Year and All-American honors ... Leads the top-ranked and 13-0 Cardinal in scoring (17.8 ppg), while adding 3.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game ... Ranks second in the Pac-10 in three-point percentage (.479) with a team-high 34 treys in 71 attempts ... Shooting .497 (74-149) overall from the floor and .758 (50-66) from the charity stripe ... Earned Fox Sports National Player of the Week honors after hitting the winning basket with 3.6 seconds remaining to lift the Cardinal past then top-ranked Duke, 84-83, on December 21, 2000 ... Scored a career-high-tying 26 points in the win over Duke ... Named MVP at the Puerto Rico Shootout and earned All-Tournament honors at both the Stanford Invitational and the Cable Car Classic ... Had a brilliant freshman campaign, earning First Team All-Pac-10 honors and being named Pac-10 Co-Freshman of the Year after leading the Cardinal in scoring (14.5 ppg), becoming the first freshman to do so since 1985-86 ... Ranks second on Stanford's list of freshman varsity scorers with 449 points in 1999-2000 ... Made a freshman-record 74 treys in 170 attempts (.435).|
Jacobsen spent last summer improving his mental toughness by playing with and against some of the best players in the country. He worked at the Nike All-America Camp and worked out with Richard Jefferson (Arizona) and Charlie Bell (Michigan St.). Then he spent time at the Michael Jordan camp working out with the original number 23. Asked if he modeled his game after the former Bull, he responds, 'Of course. Every kid did. Any guard who played tried to pick up some of his game. I grew up during his prime.' Jacobsen also spent time in Hawaii playing with the USA Basketball Men's Select team, which played against and worked out with the Olympic team. He recalls, 'I played against the best competition of my life, both NBA and college players. It helped me practice to think more like a leader rather than just sitting back and letting things happen.'
The most important lesson Jacobsen learned over the past year was how to keep his mind in the game. Whether he picked it up from his summer play or his teammates or his friends and family, Jacobsen realized that he couldn't get down on himself. He shares, 'People close to me always say, 'Don't listen to the critics,' because they're just trying to get you down. It's hard when you're young and you are trying so hard and they think that what you're doing isn't good enough. You have to be your own person. I have to be my own player and not try to be what they want.' After only a year in the college ranks and he already knows the key to success: confidence.
by Jessica Raber