Markese Jacobs, currently Kansas' lone basketball commit for the 2019 class, didn’t have the high school season he was expecting.
Shortly after transferring to Phoenix Hillcrest Prep in Arizona for his junior season, the 5-foot-9 Chicago native wound up right back at his old high school, Uplift Community.
“The situation wasn’t what it was supposed to be,” Jacobs said. He declined to elaborate further.
Once he returned to Uplift, his coach, David Taylor, didn’t act as if he never left.
Jacobs was told he had to earn back his starting spot and would have to come off the bench until he proved himself to the rest of the team.
“He wanted me to mature,” Jacobs said. “Even if I was to come off the bench at any moment, he just wanted me to stay focused.”
Jacobs looks at the situation as a blessing in disguise because he likely won’t be handed the keys to the Jayhawks' offense as a freshman. As Jacobs was earning his spot off the bench, which he said came shortly before the state playoffs, he was more worried about the team than his playing time.
Through eight AAU games with Mac Irvin Fire, Jacobs is averaging 16 points, 3.4 rebounds and two assists per game, while playing alongside Kahlil Whitney, a consensus top-60 recruit.
Mac Irvin Fire is 3-5 through the first two sessions of the AAU season and Jacobs is relatively pleased with his team’s performance. His biggest emphasis is on his presence off the floor, which is something his teammates have pushed him to work on.
“I’m just trying to be leader,” he said. “A lot of people keep telling me I have to lead. That’s really the main thing with me. They feel like I’m not a leader. So I’m working on trying to be a leader.”
Jacobs said he isn’t in the ear of any other recruits Kansas is looking at for 2019, saying it isn’t his style to influence their decision. Jacobs hasn’t been to Lawrence since a trip to Late Night at the Phog a few years ago and hopes to get back to campus soon.
He has an in-home visit with the coaching staff planned and hopes to figure out a return trip.
Considered a four-star recruit by 247sports, Jacobs said he developed a new appreciation for coach Bill Self over the course of last season, as he saw his future coach take a team that used only eight scholarship players during conference play to the Final Four.
“I just feel like only Coach Self really did the best he can do,” he said. “That just shows the type of coach that he is. Only a Hall of Famer can do what he did this season. It was pretty insane what he did.”
As an undersized guard, Jacobs said he’s modeled his game after players like Nate Robinson and Spud Webb, who built solid pro careers by doing more with less.
Jacobs said he’s also started watching highlights of NBA star Russell Westbrook, because he thinks he shares the "killer instinct" that makes the former UCLA star such a successful player.
Jacobs also dismisses the notion that he’s limited as a player because of his size and thinks his game goes beyond his measurables.
“Size really doesn’t matter to me,” he said.