December 20, 2016 by Seth Rubinroit
Julian Jacobs now plays for the Los Angeles D-Fenders (Seth Rubinroit/Galen Central)
By Seth Rubinroit
NEW YORK–Travis Wear thought he was safe.
The 6-foot-10 forward successfully graduated from UCLA without being posterized by USC point guard Julian Jacobs.
But it did not take long for Jacobs to finally dunk on Wear in practice once the collegiate rivals teamed up this season on the Los Angeles D-Fenders.
“His athleticism…it’s freaky,” Wear said.
Jacobs has brought the leaping ability that electrified Galen Center crowds to the NBA D-League.
“It’s funny because he will do it so nonchalantly,” said D-Fenders coach Coby Karl, who played for three NBA teams including the Los Angeles Lakers. “Not too many of us in the world have that ability to go through an entire practice and then all of the sudden jump up and dunk over people.”
Athleticism was never a question mark at USC for Jacobs, who averaged more than a dunk per game as a junior during the 2015-2016 season.
He was named to 2016 Pac-12 All-Conference First Team after leading the Pac-12 in assists per game. But he had the worst three-point shooting percentage among USC players with more than 20 attempts.
Jacobs surprised many by deciding to turn professional after his junior season. He went undrafted, but signed with the Indiana Pacers to play in the Orlando Summer League. He earned an invitation to go to training camp with the Lakers, but was waived during the preseason. He ultimately signed with the D-Fenders, the Lakers’ developmental league team.
Jacobs is averaging 5.3 points and 2.7 assists in 17.1 minutes for the D-Fenders, but he is shooting just 27.8% from beyond the arc and averaging 2.4 turnovers.
“His ability to get into the paint is an NBA-level skill,” Karl said. “He still needs to take care of the ball and get comfortable with the game, the spacing, the timing, the rhythm. It’s a lot different than the college game.
“Once he picks those things up, continues to work hard and learn…his talent is unquestionable.”
Galen Central caught up with Jacobs before the D-Fenders played the Westchester Knicks at the Westchester County Center in White Plains, New York.
Jacobs discussed why he has no regrets about leaving USC, an arrangement he made with the Utah Jazz, as well his thoughts about the current USC basketball team.
What was the highlight of your time at USC?
All of last year. Last year was really, really fun. We ended up making it to the NCAA Tournament when going into the season nobody expected us to, except us. We had a couple of shining moments: beating Arizona at home, making the NCAA Tournament and beating UCLA three times. The entire year was one to remember.
What clicked for you personally last season?
The whole maturation process of being in my third year under [coach Andy] Enfield. We had a really good group of talented kids who were also good kids. We all bought in, and team morale was high. Coach finally had the guys that he recruited who were all good kids. The core group of guys didn’t have the most experience, but we had enough experience.
When did you start to think about leaving USC?
Shortly after the season ended. I felt like I was ready, and I still feel like I’m ready to play at the next level.
Who did you talk to about declaring for the NBA Draft?
I had a group of good people giving me feedback. I got feedback from a couple of teams in the NBA who were interested. It was more me believing in myself than anything.
The group of people I had around me put me in a good position. I had about eight or nine pre-draft workouts, and did pretty well overall. I was in a position to be drafted by the Utah Jazz, but they wanted to send me overseas for a year, so I decided to go undrafted and try to make a roster by going to training camp.
I got good feedback from people in my circle. It wasn’t some abrupt decision that I made one day to leave school; it was an informed decision.
Were you surprised when you weren’t drafted?
No, because like I said, I decided not to. I feel like everything happens for a reason. Just because I didn’t make a roster right now doesn’t mean that I won’t in the future. I feel like it’s all a part of the process.
I wasn’t surprised that [the Jazz] wanted to draft and stash me. I just didn’t want to go overseas for a year, and that’s why I went undrafted.
What has impressed you about the current USC team?
They are playing well. I really like their freshman, De’Anthony Melton. He’s been one of my favorite players.
Obviously the guys I played with—Jordan [McLaughlin], Chimezie [Metu]. And it’s good to see Shaqquan [Aaron] playing well, because he couldn’t play last year after he transferred. But he’s really talented.
I think the coaching staff does a really good job of bringing in talent but also really good people at the same time.
I’m not surprised that they’re undefeated. I hope they can carry it over to conference play because right now they are looking like one of the top-25 teams in the country. I’m really proud of them because they are continuing to do well.
Is there any part of you that regrets leaving?
I don’t regret anything I’ve done. Everything I’ve done, I’ve put a lot of thought into it. I felt like it was my time to leave and pursue my dream.
But that doesn’t take anything away from them. I’m really happy to see them doing well, but I don’t regret anything I’ve done.
What do you still need to do to prove that you’re ready for the NBA?
Just developing my shot and decision-making. Those are the two biggest things. I need to show NBA teams that I can run a team. And in today’s NBA, if you can’t shoot the ball, you are going to have a tough time staying on teams, or even making teams. I feel that’s a big focus for me.