Uplift’s Markese Jacobs is all the way back

Uplift's Markese Jacobs (0) dribbles around Orr's M. Taylor during the regional semi-final game, February 28, 2018. | Allen Cunningham/ For the Sun-Times.

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.”

Follow Joe Henricksen and the City/Suburban Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

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9 comments

  • Duke Carnoustie

    Nothing in this report as to whether Jacobs’ AAU team is WINNING games.

    This is proof that AAU is crooked and that high school is where the real action is since the games count!

  • reason

    yes this is baseball season and there is an abundance of talent I for one would like to know where the big name talent is going little coverage AAU basketball is bandit ball most of the talent goes elsewhere after HS so who cares the hardest single sports thing to do is hit a baseball

  • hoops hardcore

    OK. Now the reasons why I believe HS baseball is far behind in popularity as opposed to HS basketball:
    1. major league baseball is the only baseball medium that gets widespread coverage and attention. other mediums like the college world series has niche fans like the student body or the family members of the team. the casual baseball fan will only reach for MLB.

    2. baseball is a summer sport. this means its played outdoors in warm weather. the casual baseball fan would rather be doing something outdoors too, not watching baseball for 2 hours and 30 minutes. basketball conversely is a winter sport that gets played in the warmth and comfort of indoor gyms and arena’s. its fast paced and games usually lasts about 90 minutes.
    3. baseball has complex strategies and rules that the casual fan may not be able to keep up with in order to follow the game. basketball appears simple to the casual fan, put the ball in the hole.
    4.the casual fan of baseball probably has never ever played an inning of the sport. while the casual fan of basketball has played in the driveway, or at the local YMCA, or down at the rec center with some friends, or played in a pick up game at this one park i was passing on my way home.

    My point is simple: more people who aren’t serious about either sport can identify more easily with basketball because it is a sport/game that they are more familiar with.
    baseball is a great game, but it isn’t for the casual person because you can’t casually find 14 to 18 people wanting to play pick-up baseball or that are familiar enough with how to play. I don’t know of many rec leagues for adult baseball enthusiasts? basketball is a sport/game that is naturally more accessible to all people around the globe…whereas baseball is culture based in many cases, and has a number of pre-requisites to play like other people. basketball can be a solitary activity if one so chooses.

  • hoops hardcore

    I have to agree with Mr. Real on this one. Michael O’brien is your guy for HS sports, not just basketball. Joe Henricksen is strictly basketball. He publishes the Illinois Prep-Hoops Report: a scouting service for college basketball coaches that highlights the abilities of local and state basketball players. Is there a guy that does this for baseball in the Chicago area? I’m certain there is a scouting service in Illinois that covers baseball and highlights the abilities of high school baseball players? The fact that it isn’t as well known says much about baseball’s popularity in and around Chicago. Not that kids don’t play, they do. Not that families and fans aren’t invested, they are(just read Mr. Penn’s comments). But the fact remains and what Mr. Real said is true…baseball just doesn’t garner the attention basketball does at the high school level. I could offer my opinion on the reasons why…but that is another writing.

  • Ferracioli

    Thanks I’ll try

  • hoops hardcore

    Man this is good to hear! I am a Chicago basketball guy and anytime we have a highly touted player like this it would be a blow to the cache of the entire city’s hoop legacy if he couldn’t get his attitude right. All the potential in the world to go with eilte-level athleticism will take you far unless a kid isn’t in the correct frame of mind. Sounds like Mr. Jacobs is clearing out the cobwebs in his head. Good luck to that young man!

  • David Penn

    Why do you continue to write about high school basketball? The season is OVER!! The Sun Times (and you) said virtually NOTHING about Chicago high school basketball this year especially CPS schools. The reason why AAU teams and street agents are able to lure Black athletes away from other sports is because of people like you. Write about BASEBALL! It’s high school BASEBALL SEASON!

    • Be real

      This is JOE HOOPS REPORT!!!!! About H.S. players… Just be cause the school season is over doesn’t mean basketball stops.. I’m sure it’s a baseball junkie writing about Baseball so go find it… If not then face the reality that nobody wants to read about H.S. baseball players…

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