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College Preview | Top 144 Previews | More Interviews

By Shawn Siegel

August 17th, 2006


Q&A w/ Northern Iowa's Ben Jacobson


First year head coach Ben Jacobson takes over a Northern Iowa program that won 23 games last year, advanced to the NCAA Tournament, and is seemingly on the up and up.  But the former assistant will have to do it without the services of his namesake, star guard Ben Jacobson.  Coach was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule about what should be an intriguing and exciting year for Panthers fans.


Shawn Siegel (CHN): You lose three seniors that played huge roles the past few seasons, including star Ben Jacobson.  How will you try and replace them?


Ben Jacobson (BJ):  Our three departing seniors basically played every minute of every game the past three seasons at the two wing positions.  It will be extremely difficult to replace them.  Not only were they productive on the court, but their leadership and toughness set a new standard for our program.


As a true freshman, guard Travis Brown showed the ability to score the basketball in a variety of ways.  His continued development, particularly defensively, will be critical to our teamís success.  He has all the tools to be an all-conference caliber player.


Juniors Jared Josten and Adam Viet have patiently waited their turn. While playing sparingly the past two years, they have worked very hard and are an integral part of our program.  With the graduation of Crawford, Jacobson and Little, their opportunity is now.  Jared is a combo guard who is extremely quick, is a good defender and can score.  Adam is battling a knee injury, and his healthy return will be important, as he is the best three-point shooter on our team.



CHN: What do you expect the strengths and weaknesses of this yearís team to be?

BJ:  The biggest strength of our team is the experience of Brooks McKowen, Grant Stout and Eric Coleman.  Brooks will be a four-year starter at the point.  He has helped guide us to three consecutive 20-win seasons and three NCAA tournaments.  We will count heavily on his leadership and toughness.  Grant and Eric have been starters for us the past two years, and have proven through their play to be one of the better inside combinations in our league.  Grantís versatility at the offensive end, and his ability to rebound and block shots, have made him one of the top players in the MVC.  Eric was Freshman of the Year in the league two years ago and we hope that he can make a huge stride forward, as Grant did between his sophomore and junior year.  If he does, heíll be one of the premier post players in our conference.  Weíve added quality depth to the front court with freshmen Jordan Eglseder and Adam Koch.  We feel both players can have an impact on our team as freshmen.


Replacing graduated seniors Ben Jacobson, John Little and Erik Crawford at the wing will be our biggest challenge.  Ben, John and Erik were very good at both ends of the floor, and provided us with great leadership and toughness.  We have talented players that will step into those roles, however they lack the game experience of those three.  There will be three freshmen and one sophomore among six players vying for playing time at those two positions.



CHN: Which of your guys stands out as deserving more credit than the numbers might suggest?


BJ:  Brooks McKowen is our teamís leader.  Heís been an integral part of our teamís success the past three seasons.  He has provided valuable leadership, even though the majority of the spotlight has been on other players.  Brooksí work ethic in practice, outside of practice, in the weight room and in the classroom is exactly what you like to see from your veterans.  He has taken on the role of point guard without ego and concern about personal statistics.



CHN: What should we expect out of the incoming players. Who will make the biggest impact?

BJ:  Jordan Eglseder is a 7-1, 265 pound center from Bellevue, Iowa.  He joins us as one of the most highly touted recruits in the history of our program.  Jordanís size alone makes him a difficult matchup in our league.  He has all the skills necessary to be an impact freshman in the MVC.  Jordan has good hands, good touch, scores around the basket, can handle and pass the basketball and works extremely hard at developing his game.


Adam Koch is a 6-8, 210 pound forward from Ashwaubenon, Wis.  Adamís versatility at the power forward position will allow him to have an impact on our team as a freshman.  He has the ability to make three-point shots, is comfortable handling and passing the basketball, and is very capable of finishing plays at the basket.


Kwadzo Ahelegbe, Kerwin Dunham and Stephen Jones are the three freshman guards in our program.  Ahelegbe is a point guard, Jones is a combo guard and Dunham is a wing.  All three players will compete for playing time.



CHN: Talk about which coaches really helped you reach the level of success youíre at today? Do you still keep in touch with them?

BJ:  Rich Glas and Greg McDermott have been the two most influential men in my coaching career.  Having played and worked for both Coach Glas and Coach McDermott, I have learned valuable lessons in what it takes to be successful in both basketball and life.


Coach Glas has won 490 basketball games.  He is a tremendous teacher of the game.  However, he is an ever better person, and has taught me more about the game of life than the game of basketball.  His priorities and values are exactly right.  He has been a tremendous role model for me and Iím excited to have him on staff as I begin my head coaching career.


Coach McDermott has really prepared me to be a head coach.  Over the past six years, he has taught me the importance of building relationships.  The quality of young men weíve had on our teams, and Macís unique ability to connect with people, have our program at a place where itís never been.  Macís attention to detail in all aspects of a basketball program is second to none.

Realistically, what should we expect out of the Panthers this season?


BJ:  Our goal is to return to the NCAA tournament.  In order to achieve this goal, our players understand that each game is critical.  Weíve received at-large bids to the tournament two straight years.  A big part of why that happened has been our success in the non-conference schedule, and the overall strength of the Missouri Valley Conference.  This year, we have once again put together a challenging non-conference schedule, which will help prepare us for league play.  We are scheduled to play 14 games against teams that appeared in postseason play a year ago.  If we are able to replace the leadership and quality of the departing seniors, I believe we can have another quality season and make a run at a fourth-straight NCAA tournament berth.


CHN: Good luck this season coach.

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