Ex-Gophers reunited in NBA

Michael Dougherty

Hugging his two former stars, Minnesota men’s basketball coach Clem Haskins said he felt like a “proud papa” watching the Lakers’ Sam Jacobson and the Wolves’ Bobby Jackson on the floor during Minnesota’s 86-75 win over the Lakers.
Jacobson made his NBA debut with three minutes left in the game. He entered to a standing ovation from a crowd that had chanted, “We want Sam” for about five solid minutes.
In his first season with the Lakers after being the 26th pick in the first round of the 1998 draft, Jacobson had yet to play in the Lakers’ first three games. But with his coach Del Harris being prodded by the sellout crowd, Harris signaled for Jacobson to replace all-star guard Kobe Bryant.
“It felt great to finally get my chance,” Jacobson said. “I felt real comfortable.”
But Jacobson didn’t seem too comfortable when he tried to shoot his first NBA shot over the outstretched arms of towering Wolves forward Kevin Garnett.
Garnett blocked Jacobson’s initial shot, but also got part of the rookie’s arm, sending the former Gopher to the free-throw line for a chance to score his first NBA point in front of the hometown crowd.
Jacobson cooly sunk both free throws, and added a rebound and a foul in his three minutes.
Jackson was at the end of the bench with ex-Gophers teammate Trevor Winter, who is on the Wolves’ injured reserve, when Jacobson entered the game.
“Me and Trevor were down there laughing and enjoying the moment,” Jackson said. “It always feels good when one of your teammates is achieving the same things you are.”
But Jackson couldn’t yuck it up with Winter for too long, because Wolves coach Flip Saunders (a 1977 Minnesota graduate) sent Jackson into the game to chants of, “Let’s go Gophers.”
Jackson had four points, six rebounds and seven assists in 21 highly effective minutes. He said he is absolutely thrilled to be playing in front of Minnesota fans.
“Once you do something good for the city they really show they care about you,” said Jackson, the 1997 Big Ten Most Valuable Player. “That’s why I’m glad I’m back here.”
Jacobson agreed.
“That’s why I’ve always loved Minnesota,” Jacobson said of the fans. “Even though it was only three minutes that didn’t change the outcome of the game, I was excited to finally get my chance.”
Haskins was beaming outside the locker rooms, chatting it up with Shaquille O’Neal, whom Haskins coached on the 1996 Dream Team, and both of his former players.
“I’ll tell you what, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen that many Gophers on the floor in the NBA here at Minnesota,” Haskins said. “I’m very, very proud of both of them.”