In more ways than one, opponents of Struthers’ boys’ basketball team are seeing triple this season. Not
only do the Wildcats hit shots with great accuracy from 3-point range
but they also feature three Jacubecs. Jake and Nate are
brothers while Nick is their cousin. They are also just three of eight
players in a deadly rotation for the Wildcats who are currently
STRUTHERS – In more ways than one, opponents of Struthers’ boys’ basketball team are seeing triple this season.
only do the Wildcats hit shots with great accuracy from 3-point range
but they also feature not one, not two, but three Jacubecs.
Nick is a 5-foot-8 defensive stopper who scores 7.6 points per game.
Junior Nate is a 5-foot-10 sharpshooter who leads the team at 19.9
points per game and is called by coach Joe Savko: “A great all-around
player who can do anything on the court.” Jake is a 6-foot sophomore
who doesn’t mind barreling over a defender rather than shooting over
him. He averages 10.6 points per game.
Jake and Nate are
brothers while Nick is their cousin. They are just three of eight
players in a deadly rotation for Savko’s Wildcats who are currently
17-2 and captured their first All-America White Tier title in 10 years.
felt great,” Savko said about a 78-66 win over rival Hubbard that
clinched the Tier championship. “I told the kids in the lockerroom
after the win that as coaches, we were proud to be a part of it. They
did all the work, they were the reason, we were just glad to be a part
of it with them.”
Savko said it was fitting that his team beat Hubbard for the title as they fell to the Eagles in last year’s tournament.
manhandled us last year and I still remember the kids saying they
didn’t want that to happen again so they started the next day in the
weight room, they hit the track in the summer and they took thousands
of shots in the gym,” Savko said. “This is the exact same team we had
as last year but they’re all a year older. They are stronger
physically, they’re smarter, they’re just naturally matured with
another year of experience.”
And those Jacubecs are still there
and have been prominently featured in Savko’s mind since they were in
grade school. This year alone they have scored a combined 686 of the
team’s 1,271 points.
“We saw them coming up in fourth and fifth
grade and we knew we’d have some success when they got to the varsity
level,” Savko said of Nate, Nick and Jake. “They come from a great
family and all three boys are so easy to get along with.”
They are often mistaken as a trio of brothers instead of cousins, said Nick.
consider them my brothers,” Nick said. “We’ve been around each other
almost every day since we were able to walk. And on the court it shows
because we just know each other.
“But it’s not just us. This
whole team just gets along so well. It’s like a huge family and we all
treat each other with the respect of a family member.”
Nate added that the Jacubecs may get along well but they have been known to get competitive.
yeah, we always want to win at everything – everything,” said Nate. “No
matter what we do it’s about competition. When we’re golfing we make it
all about competition. When we’re shooting around, it’s about who
shoots better. We even go after each other at whiffleball.”
Jacubecs represent all of the sports, from football, which finds Nick
to be one of the better receivers/defensive backs in the Youngstown
area, to basketball to baseball.
“We have always been
competitive, no matter the sport,” said Jake. “We push each other and
we always want to do the best we can do to top the other one. But it
never goes overboard. We just bring out the best in each other.”
and Jake’s father, Jon, was a member of the 1981 Struthers team that
went 20-0 and he said he’s proud of seeing his sons and nephew excel.
thinks they are brothers,” Jon said of the two actual brothers and
their cousin. “They pretty much are because they are very close and
grew up together.”
Nate said his father is as competitive as his sons and nephew are.
always on us telling us what to do and he supports us all the time,”
said Nate of Jon, who played for Bob Huggins at Walsh University.
“Sometimes he thinks he can come out and beat us and …well…(long pause
followed by no comment and a laugh).”
“All of them have that
competitive pride and as anyone knows, Nate is probably the hardest
working kid you’ll find so they all want to work hard to keep up with
him and be as good as him,” Savko said. “What’s interesting is that
they’re all different players. Nate can do pretty much anything on the
court at 5-8. He can pass, he can shoot, he can drive, he can rebound –
he defends. Nick is a hard-nosed defensive specialist and probably has
the most perfect form I’ve seen shooting the ball. You can pretty much
mark it down when he gets his feet set.
“Jake is an all-around
player but he has no fear. He has that mentality, ‘I’m better than you
and I’m not afraid of you so I’m winning this battle.’”
And on a
sidenote, Nate and Jake’s younger brother Jarrett is on his way. Nick
said the 11-year old “could be the best out of any of us!”
Wildcats have won 13 games in a row after starting out the year 3-2
with a 77-64 loss to Canfield and a 107-79 barnburner to the top-seeded
team in their Division II sectional-district at Boardman High, Poland.
and Poland have been the two thorns in our sides as far as I can
remember in basketball,” said Savko, whose team is the No. 2 seed at
Boardman. “In the mid to late 90’s we were right there with those teams
and we’re trying to get back there. We definitely learned a lot from
those losses early in the season. I think we’ll have a different plan
of attack the second time around.”
That plan of attack will
surely feature 3-pointers as the Wildcats have routinely hit in the
double digits in 3-pointers made. Struthers is 152 of 388 on 3-pointers
as a team for 39 percent. Nate Jacubec leads the way with 44 triples at
44.4 percent accuracy while Jake has 29 three-pointers and hits at a 42
percent clip. Senior Nick Ragan has 25 triples at 35.2 percent while
Nick Jacubec and Matt Durkin are both at 23 triples with Nick hitting 41
percent and Durkin 31.1 percent.
Savko credits Durkin, a senior starting point guard, for setting the trifecta table and he also averages 11.3 points per game.
is extremely quick and he has a motor that never stops so I tell our
guys, ‘If you don’t run with him, you don’t get shots,’” said Savko.
“Matt will get the ball and get out into transition and if our kids
don’t run down with him and spot up, they’re losing out because he’ll
penetrate and kick as good as anyone.
“Another key is Adam
(Ryczaj). He’s only 6-1 but he is such a workhorse inside that he
demands a double team and when that happens, he’s a very good passer so
our shooters benefit from his presence as well.”
He is another double-digit scorer at 10.7 points per game to go with a team-high 7.5 rebounds per game and team-high 43 steals.
a team, Struthers hits 52 percent of their 2-point attempts and a very
solid 73 percent on free throws as the three Jacubecs have hit 126 of
155 freebies for 82 percent.
Seniors Durkin, Nick Jacubec and
Ragan lead the team but juniors Nate Jacubec, Ryczaj, Jordan Ryan (who
at 6-foot-3 is the tallest regular) and Ja’miere Brown also step up,
along with sophomore Jake Jacubec. Brown and Ryan combine to put in six
points per game as Ryan is effective with 19 of 25 field goals
converted. Brown has nearly as many free throws as 3-pointers (8
triples and 9 freebies).
“These guys love being around each
other and they love playing basketball together,” Savko said. “You
start with the two brothers and the cousin and there’s your nucleus for
the family but the rest of the guys are there for this team. They’re
all good friends.”
Nick Jacubec agreed.
“As a senior, I
just love being on a team with such great friends,” said Nick. “I feel
like I’m going out on a high note with this team and we’re all enjoying
it so much because we’re friends and we only think about our team and
our team success.”