By KIP CHEEK
MENDOTA – Rick Jacobs could do it all on the basketball court – run, jump, pass, defend, score, shoot the three. Wait, the three-point shot wasn’t in existence when Jacobs was a star for the Mendota Trojans from 1968-1971.
But not getting that extra point when converting a shot from beyond what is now the three-point arc still didn’t stop Jacobs from piling up the points for the Trojans during his three-year varsity career. In fact, more than a half-century later, Jacobs still sits tied for seventh place on the all-time scoring list at MHS with 1,408 points.
For all of his accomplishments during his basketball playing days, Jacobs has been bestowed the ultimate honor by being named to the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association (IBCA) Hall of Fame. Jacobs will be inducted into the Hall with fellow members of the Class of 2023 at the IBCA Hall of Fame Induction Dinner on Saturday, May 6 at Illinois State University’s Redbird Arena in Normal.
“I’m very honored to be inducted into the Illinois Basketball Hall of Fame,” said Jacobs. “I would like to thank Jerry Cassidy for starting my nomination prior to his passing and Tom Cassidy for completing my nomination. I would also like to thank Pat Beals for providing all of the statistics.”
Jacobs’ MHS varsity career began his sophomore year under Bob Beals, himself a member of the IBCA Hall of Fame. With his height, Jacobs mostly played in the post that year, averaging 13.5 points per game. He became more of a wing player his junior year, scoring 509 points and averaging 21.2 ppg.
Then came his senior season, when the star-studded Trojans flourished. Mendota was ranked in the top 10 in the state that season and finished with a 27-2 overall record and an 11-0 NCIC mark. The Trojans averaged 90.5 ppg, scoring 100 points or more in nine games, and Jacobs concluded his senior year with 522 points (19.3 ppg). Unfortunately, Mendota’s season came to an end in the sectional championship.
“My basketball career was influenced by great coaches, great and talented teammates, talented opposing players and a very supportive family,” said Jacobs.
“Before high school, I was influenced by Earle Boner, who was my junior high basketball coach. Coach Sam Snuffin influenced me during my freshman year, as our team went undefeated. During my sophomore through senior years, I played on the varsity team, with coach Bob Beals and coach Herman Kreiling, both great influences on me.”
Jacobs achieved many honors during his tenure at MHS, including first-team all-NCIC twice, first-team Pekin Holiday Tournament twice, first-team Chicago Daily News All-State, first-team Galesburg Gazette All-State, first-team Associated Press All-State and first-team Illinois Sportswriters Association All-State.
“I was fortunate enough to have some great teammates,” noted Jacobs. “My teammates were a very talented group of guys. One of those was my brother, Terry, who was a junior and the second leading scorer on the 1971 team. Not many brothers get to play together on the same team, but there were two sets of brothers on the 1971 team. I was lucky enough to play on the same team as my brother along with the Phalen brothers, Brad and Brian.”
Jacobs said the support he received from his family was a great inspiration during his playing career.
“My dad, mom, sisters and Uncle Rusty attended every game,” Jacobs added. “They were there to cheer us on in the Pekin Tournament, which we won. Winning the Pekin Tournament was one of the most memorable moments of my high school basketball career.”
Tom Cassidy was honored to be able to inform Jacobs of his selection to the Hall of Fame during a recent gathering at the Mendota Elks when Jacobs was back in town from his current residence in Montello, Wis.
“Rick’s name is still mentioned by Mendota basketball fans when discussions are held as to the all-time best team and the five best players who ever played at MHS,” said Tom Cassidy, who graduated from MHS in 1976 and was inducted into the IBCA Hall of Fame in 2004.
Pat Beals, who was a sophomore during Mendota’s unforgettable 1970-71 season, remembers Jacobs as a versatile player who could do it all.
“He could bomb from the outside before the three-pointer was in place,” commented Beals. “He could drive and slash to the hole while holding his own in the paint with the big guys.”
After MHS, Jacobs continued his basketball career on a scholarship at Centenary College of Louisiana, playing on the same team as NBA Hall of Famer Robert Parish. He also battled against some well-known players in high school, including Bob Guyette from Ottawa Marquette, who went on to play at the University of Kentucky, and Jim Crews from Normal U-High, who later played at Indiana University.