Jacobsma ready to guide Central back to the top
First-year women's basketball coach Mike Jacobsma is building Central College back into a championship program—one day at a time.
"It doesn't happen overnight," Jacobsma said. "We're laying the foundation and building the program from the ground up."
Jacobsma, the fifth coach since 1973, inherits a once-thriving program. Central has captured six Iowa Conference titles, five NCAA Division III tournament berths and the 1993 national trophy.
And although the Dutch have struggled to post double-digit wins the last seven seasons, Jacobsma expects this year will be different.
"It's a fresh start for the entire team," Jacobsma said. "They're buying in to what we're teaching and what Central women's basketball is all about."
The turnaround starts mentally.
"We have to believe in each other and expect to win every day," Jacobsma said. We need to create opportunities to give ourselves a chance."
Rebounding will be the squad's focus and the Dutch have a goal to be the best in the league. Central has added some size to its perennially small roster with four players reaching the 6-foot mark, but the Dutch are still undersized compared to the competition. Jacobsma isn't too concerned.
"Smaller means quicker, faster and tougher to box out," Jacobsma said. "Once we secure the basketball we want to push it up the floor and put pressure on their defense. We've been talking about valuing each possession. We earn the right to play up-tempo by getting stops on defense and taking care of the basketball."
That means attention to details.
"The little things add up," Jacobsma said. "Our players have to execute their job every play, on offense and defense. We need to be consistent and hold ourselves and teammates accountable every day, not just game day."
But the strategy isn't limited to the hardwood. Central's also focused on reaching a team grade point average of at least 3.61. Jacobsma, previously an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Division I Univ. of Evansville (Ind.), is embracing the Division III philosophy of a well-rounded player.
"We're developing our players to become championship people on and off the floor," Jacobsma said. "If they bring our core values—heart, guts and Dutch pride—each day they'll be champions no matter what the win-loss record is."
Returning starter Cory Bacon, a 5-4 senior, averaged 4.5 points and 2.6 assists last year.
"Cory has experience and provides that senior leadership," Jacobsma said. "She brings athleticism to the position and is one of team leaders in strength and conditioning workouts."
Annie Sarcone appeared in 22 games off the bench. The 5-6 sophomore averaged 6.5 points and two rebounds.
"She brings her winning attitude from the softball diamond to the basketball court," Jacobsma said. "Shortstops and point guards lead their teams. Annie has an excellent opportunity to impact both of our teams."
A 5-foot sophomore, Jolissa Tapia, is another possibility.
"Jo brings a competitive fire and plays hard every possession," Jacobsma said.
Kalli Richardson, a 5-3 freshman, will also get a look.
"Kalli's more of a scoring point guard," Jacobsma said. "She has an extra bounce in her step that can be deceiving. She can beat defenders off the dribble or stop and pop to hit the pull-up jumper."
Co-captain AJ Baker, a 5-8 senior, averaged 7.4 points and 4.7 rebounds. The squad's returning MVP also had a team-best 31 steals.
"AJ understands the game very well," Jacobsma said. "She is a great person and the team respects her. She's an added coach on and off the floor and is very hands-on within the program."
Returning starter Kelsey Schuring, a 5-7 senior, and Alyssa Schwartz, a 5-7 junior, are also in the rotation. Schuring averaged 6.2 points and 3.2 rebounds while Schwartz had 7.2 points and 2.8 rebounds.
"They both bring toughness and a sense of resiliency," Jacobsma said. "They'll be key for us executing the offense if they understand and accept their roles. And they've both been shooting well in practice."
A 5-5 freshman, Rachel Evans could provide a spark.
"She's deceivingly quick and gets her hands on a lot of balls defensively," Jacobsma said. "And she's not shy about shooting the basketball."
Senior Sarah Paulson will finally have a chance to play a complete season. The team co-captain suffered an injury late in her sophomore season and missed the first half of her junior year studying in Spain through Central Abroad. Paulson is the squad's returning scoring leader, averaging 8.6 points and 3.6 rebounds in just 14 games. She received honorable mention all-conference recognition as a perimeter player but is moving inside.
"Sarah is comfortable being a go-to player," Jacobsma said. "She can hit the key shot and knows what it takes to take over a game when she needs to. My challenge for her is to get up and get every rebound."
Hilary Beaird, a 5-8 sophomore, appeared in 20 games off the bench and is set for a breakthrough season.
"Hilary is very improved and is going to be the surprise of the team," Jacobsma said. "She's put in the extra work over the summer and throughout preseason to prepare for this year."
Nicole Strasko, a 5-8 junior and team co-captain averaged 8.2 points and 5.3 rebounds in 24 games last year. She also posted two double-doubles.
"Nicole's the workhorse of the program," Jacobsma said. "If you put her against a brick wall she'll run through it for her teammates. She's not afraid of anything. She's always diving on the floor, boxing out, chasing after rebounds and sprinting the floor. You couldn't ask any more from a post player."
Melanie Hopkins, a 5-10 senior, missed the first half of the 2010 campaign studying abroad in Spain. She's moving from the guard position and could have a major impact.
"Mel is stepping into a new role as a post," Jacobsma said. "She has the ability to knock down the outside shot which will extend the defense and open up areas around the rim for other players."
Abby Oakland is in her first season as an assistant coach. A four-year letterwinner in both basketball and golf at Division II Southwest Minnesota State Univ., Oakland was a six-time academic all-conference honoree and received ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District recognition.
"Abby is a great addition to the program," Jacobsma said. "She is a good mentor and fits our priorities of faith, family, academics and basketball."
Gary Boeyink is in his 33rd season on staff. He was the team's first and only head coach for 28 years, posting a 399-287 career mark and guiding Central to the 1993 championship.
Central opens the 2011-12 campaign Nov. 15 against Bethany Lutheran (Minn.) and makes its home debut Nov. 19 against Monmouth (Ill.). The season is highlighted with a trip to Dayton Beach, Fla., for the Land of Magic Classic Dec. 28-29.
"Florida will be a fun trip with two days of basketball and two days of sightseeing," Jacobsma said. "It's a way to reward the players for their commitment to excellence."
Simpson and Coe, Iowa Conference co-champions the past two years, will battle for the league title once again. Jacobsma also expects Wartburg to be in the mix.
"The league is one of the best in the country," Jacobsma said. "It's very competitive. We just have to put ourselves in situations to be successful, make the conference tournament and anything can happen."