Jacobs Takes Flight|
Feb. 2, 2016
By Katie Ryan, USC Sports Information
If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”
While this quote was said by Michael J. Fox’s character Marty McFly in the 1985 classic film “Back to the Future,” it is very applicable to this year’s Trojan basketball team. Each team member is committed to the same goal: success. The change in the program has been evident to the fans and the team as well. Throughout his three years at Troy, guard Julian Jacobs has witnessed the transformation of the USC basketball program.
Jacobs’ athletic career began at a young age. He began playing organized basketball in third grade and continued to develop as an athlete. While attending Desert Pines High School in Las Vegas, he competed in basketball, volleyball, tennis and aquatics.
Jacobs received a multitude of offers to play basketball at the collegiate level including Texas, Miami (Fla.), West Virginia, Cornell and Utah. While a sophomore in high school, Jacobs committed to Utah. Still young and unsure of his choice, Jacobs reopened his recruitment and took a visit to USC.
“It was close to home so my family could still come watch me play if they wanted to,” he said. “It’s a fantastic school. I always knew I wanted to go to a really good academic school. As a city, LA has a lot of offer, and the university competes in a major conference.”
After Jacobs had decided to become a Trojan, Andy Enfield was hired as USC’s new head coach. Entering a program as a freshman with a newly hired head coach could have been daunting, but Jacobs was reassured by Enfield’s previous success.
“I was excited because of what he did at Florida Gulf Coast and the run that they made,” Jacobs said. “One of our current assistants, Jason Hart, recruited me while he was still at Pepperdine, so I already had a relationship with him. The entire staff really embraced me when I arrived.”
Another one of Jacobs’ desires while playing college basketball was that he would be able to make an impact within the program.
“I wanted to play for a program that wasn’t very successful at the time and maybe have some impact in its improvement,” he said. “That’s sort of working out for me now.”
During Jacobs’ freshman season and Coach Enfield’s inaugural year (2013-14), the Trojans went 11-21 and 2-16 in conference. The following season (2014-25), USC improved to 12-20 and 3-15 in conference.
Throughout the summer and into the 2015-16 season, the USC basketball program underwent a transformation.
“The culture has changed throughout my time on the team,” he said. “In our preparation, there is an emphasis on winning and finishing because we have the ability to win now.”
A major factor in this newfound winning ability is due to Coach Enfield and his staff’s excellent recruiting.
“The coaches have done a great job at recruiting,” Jacobs said. “The players they recruit and the players currently on this team are all good kids and high-character guys. That really translates into what we do on the court. That makes a huge difference.”
This group of student-athletes has really bought into Coach Enfield’s program.
“In the past, there was a lot of individualism and egos were involved,” Jacobs said. “There will always be egos with talent, but these players are more willing to let go of that for the good of team. Everyone is willing to learn and is receptive to coaching.”
Jacobs sees himself as a facilitator of this team’s change.
“I try to lead by example,” he said. “I’m not always perfect, but as far as being vocal and making sure I do the right things both on and off the court, that’s a big part of my job.”
A little past the halfway mark of the season, the Trojans have already collected more wins in 2015-16 than they did during each of the last two seasons. USC has been a part of some thrilling games that have resulted in signature victories.
On Thanksgiving, USC beat Wichita State 72-69 in the AdvoCare Invitational in Orlando, Fla. “That was amazing,” Jacobs said. “That was our first time beating a ranked opponent in a few years, so that was big. It gave us the confidence booster we needed because we saw what we were capable of.” Next in the series of storied wins was against Arizona. After four overtimes, the Trojans were victorious over the Wildcats 103-101 in front of a full Galen Center.
“I’d say it was one of the biggest wins in program history,” Jacobs said. “We showed absolute resilience. We just kept fighting. I don’t think anyone on our team or even on the staff thought we were going to lose. Closing out games is something we’ve been really working on, and we did just that.”
Most recently, the Trojans took their skills across town to face off against rival UCLA. In front of a sold-out Pauley Pavilion, the Trojans dominated the Bruins and beat them by a decisive score of 89-75. This was Jacobs’ first career win against the cross-town rivals.
“Winning there made it even better,” he said. “Pauley Pavilion is historically one of the premiere venues to play at. The crowd that they have there is very electrifying and to go into their place and get a win was huge because no one expected us to win, except for us. It was a convincing win too.”
The fire that has been lit under this team continues to burn. They build on the confidence they’ve gained from each game, and it carries over as momentum. They are constantly moving forward. This team has embodied USC’s motto of “Fight On”, and Jacobs has been an integral part in the implementation of this change.
“Teams are going to go on runs and things aren’t always going to go your way, but you just have to keep fighting on,” he said. “For example, in the Arizona game, I just kept telling myself, ‘We’re not going to lose. We’re not going to lose.’ I think in the past, when things weren’t going our way, we’d kind of crumble. As an upperclassman on the team and as someone who’s been here, it’s my job to enforce that mindset. We have the ability to win at any point no matter the circumstance of the game. I just kept telling myself and my teammates that we were going to win, and they believed it just as much as I did.”
Jacobs has received overwhelming positive feedback from the students and community about the Trojans’ improvement.
“I think we have a buzz going,” he said. “It’s a positive buzz. I’ve had some students tell me how they think we can turn this campus into a basketball school. We have to win a lot more and do it more than one year, but the fact that they’re even considering us in the same respect as our football program is very cool. Our team is starting to create a new culture on campus.”
Jacobs is starting to see his vision of the basketball program’s transformation finally become a reality. “This is sort of what I envisioned before coming here,” he said. “To see it all finally come to fruition after you’ve put in so much hard work is really awesome.”
While the Trojans are pursuing a storied season, the year is far from over. Going into the second half of the schedule, the Trojans are focused on a major goal: going to the Big Dance. “I think we’re going to the NCAA tournament,” Jacobs said. “That’s been our goal all along. Once we get to the tournament, anything can happen.”