Markese Jacobs, the Kansas commit, headed to Atlanta this past weekend with his Mac Irvin Fire club team for another EYBL session.
All spring the junior guard from Uplift has showcased his much-talked-about athleticism, which includes both a burst with the ball in his hands and some crazy bounce off the floor. He’s displayed improved consistency with his jumper and relentless scoring ability.
But there’s been something different about Jacobs, and it’s something even he admits has changed.
In addition to his pure basketball talent, what Jacobs has showcased this spring is an attitude adjustment and a revamped mindset. His body language has improved and the motor is running better. Whether by coincidence or not, it’s led to Jacobs becoming a better playmaker with improved shot selection.
“I will say I’ve matured a little bit,” Jacobs says with an agreeable grin.
This is a Kansas-bound guard ranked among the top 100 players in the country. But he was nevertheless a star player with question marks surrounding him. There were critics, including the City/Suburban Hoops Reports, who would witness a sense of selfishness and a need to be a better teammate.
There were wild, forced takes to the basket, unforced turnovers and foolish shots from the perimeter. There would be a reaction to a coach’s instruction or a referee’s call that led to poor body language or the motor shutting off altogether.
Jacobs says he heard the rumblings. And he was getting tired of hearing them. But he’s also open to conversation about them, about the twists and turns he’s taken during his three years of high school basketball.
“The whole thing with me was that everyone kept saying, ‘He’s not coachable, he has a bad attitude, he’s wild and out of control, he’s selfish,” says Jacobs, who Rivals has ranked No. 84 in the country and 247Sports has at No. 79. “My whole attitude changed. I wanted to be different, I needed to be different. I wanted to be a leader. I wanted to play poised and let the game come to me. So, yes, I do think some things have changed for me.”
To be fair, the process began last September with his return to Uplift after a brief stop at Hillcrest Prep School in Arizona.
Jacobs left Uplift following his tumultuous sophomore year. By the time fall rolled around, however, he wanted to return to Chicago. He exchanged some texts with Uplift coach David Taylor and asked if he came back to Chicago would he have a place to go?
“I told him how disappointed I was with how it ended,” Taylor said of Jacobs’ departure. “But kids make mistakes, and I was willing to open that door back up. Based on our negative exchanges we had and what it did to our team and program, his return had to come with some stipulations and with some benchmarks in place. That was to protect the players and our program.”
Months had passed, trust was lost and there were some things that needed to be rebuilt with Jacobs and his Uplift family.
So Jacobs, the dynamic, Kansas-bound point guard, began the season coming off the bench. He would enter four or five minutes into each game and wasn’t a part of the starting five until a city playoff game against Hyde Park in February.
“I feel like that started it,” says Jacobs of the benching and what it did for his maturation process. “It helped me mature. It helped me to start to understand that it’s not all about me, that it’s about the program and what comes with that. He [Taylor] made me work for it.”
Taylor didn’t tread lightly with Jacobs. The situation was what it was but Jacobs was clearly in the midst of a resurrection.
“He did everything I asked,” says Taylor. “Every stipulation and benchmark we held him to, Markese met everyone one of them. He repaired his image.”
Well, there was one minor hiccup. But it was how he handled it that again showed the improved maturity of Jacobs.
Jacobs arrived “a little late,” according to Taylor, for a matchup with Leo at a shootout at Orr. Taylor benched him for the entire first quarter.
With a big crowd on hand, Taylor immediately could see his star was “steamed” at the thought of being benched for an extended stretch. The energy Jacobs immediately played with when he checked in was a little low, but Taylor said Jacobs quickly snapped out of it, pushed through in a positive way and it was “the only slip up all season long.”
Jacobs went on to an all-area and all-state season after averaging 18.4 points, 3.1 assists and 2.4 steals a game for a team that reached the Class 2A sectional finals.
While Jacobs was never written off, he’s now all the way back. He’s playing the best basketball of his career on the club circuit, looking like a true Kansas-type player. The athletic 5-11 scoring lead guard with the strong, compact build is a dazzling finisher at the rim and a force in the open floor. He’s creating for others and his three-point shot has even become a more noticeable weapon.
“I’m sharing the ball better and I’m trying to get my teammates involved more,” says Jacobs. “The game is going to come to me no matter what, but I want to make sure I get everyone involved in the game and keep my teammates happy.”
All of it is being noticed –– by fans, the media, evaluators, college coaches and, of course, his own coaches.
“I see a difference in his attitude with the way he approaches the game, the way he studies the game now,” says Mike Irvin, Jacobs’ Mac Irvin Fire coach. “It’s a total difference from before when he was young and just playing. He’s under control. He’s playing some great basketball. The sky is the limit.”
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