The Next Level

While the Gophers struggle through a losing season, Sam Jacobson hopes to impress the scouts.

What's most worrisome is that while Jacobson had learned to create more shots for himself early in the Big Ten schedule, the easy, open set shots haven't been falling. It's as if he needs a Kelley in his face, forcing a challenge. Babcock believes this is because Jacobson is the only go-to guy on a struggling team: Last summer, when Jacobson competed in Australia with the Under 22 National Team, he was one of the top perimeter shooters because he didn't have to put the ball on the floor or worry about scoring every time down the court. Still, the pressure of being the go-to guy in a mediocre Big Ten will be replaced by the pressure of tough, fast defenders in a dog-eat-dog NBA, where weaknesses are consumed one skill at a time. "If you can't knock down the open shot, it's pretty tough to create off the dribble, because the D will play off you and hinder your ability to penetrate," Babcock says. "For a classic 2 position, you have to have the ability to do both."

And whether he chooses to acknowledge it or not, passion and the competitive will to win also remain question marks with Jacobson. He says that intensity is there, that if the scouts and fans look at his entire game instead of paying attention to facial expressions or mood swings, they'll find a player ready for the next level. "I hope they realize I've dedicated my life to being a better player," he says. "Hopefully, they'll look at my whole game, my all-around effort. Too many NBA scouts, I think, get too impressed or react to just one element of the game."

David Kern

But what Jacobson needs to recognize is that those scouts who can put him in an NBA uniform are looking for Purdue- and Wisconsin-style performances night after night. They know he has the raw, athletic talent. They know he can see the floor and light up the basket. What they don't know is if he can scrap. To convince them, Jacobson must convince himself.

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