Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Najah Jacobs Powering Division II Phila. University in Hunt for CACC Title

By Rob Knox
@knoxrob1

LINCOLN UNIVERSITY, Pa ---
Najah Jacobs is instant excitement and energy whenever the electric Philadelphia University junior guard enters a game. Watching Jacobs fly up and down the court with the speed of an Acela train, attacking the basket, and unleashing a buffet of sweet moves is one of the best treats for women’s basketball fans.

She stepped onto The Lincoln University’s orange-and-blue court six minutes into Thursday’s non-conference tilt and provided an immediate spark for the Rams during their 71-58 loss to the Lady Lions at Manuel Rivero Hall. For the second straight game, Jacobs was the Rams’ leading scorer. She finished with 13 points as the Rams dropped their second straight game.

While Jacobs’ drives are exciting to witness, it’s the development of her jumper that has made her an all-around threat, a sixth-woman supreme and put a smile on the face of veteran Ram head coach Tom Shirley.

Jacobs spent plenty of time during the offseason shooting jumpers, especially getting a chance to play with her teammates in the rugged Philly summer league loaded with talented area players from all three NCAA division schools. Her goal was to shoot at least 500 jumpers a day.

The hard work is beginning to pay dividends for Jacobs, who scored a career-high 26 points last week in a loss to Bloomsburg. Jacobs’ previous career-high was 25 po against Goldey-Beacom on Dec. 21. Jacobs is also more mature and confident player on the floor for the Rams during game.

Jacobs has been a scoring machine for the Rams this season, averaging 16.5 points per game. She has scored in double figures in 11 games this season and scored at least 20 points three times. Jacobs also handed out a season-high seven assists against East Stroudsburg.

“I think a lot of my improvement has to do with me not thinking and just playing,” Jacobs said. “Before I would think a lot about what I should do or worry about making a mistake. Now I’ve been just playing. I feel like I definitely have improved as a player. I had to develop a jump shot and I had to learn how to pull up instead of forcing things.”

Fortunately Jacobs attends a school in which men’s coach Herb Magee has a reputation for being one of the best shooting teachers in the world and her coach Tom Shirley has groomed more than his share of outstanding players during a memorable coaching career that as spanned 33 years.

Shirley has been influential in Jacobs’ development as a complete player. Shirley won his 500th game as Philadelphia University head coach last week is one way away from 650 for his career that started at DeSales, formerly Allentown College.

“He’s definitely helped my game,” Jacobs said. “He encouraged me with improving my jump shot better. He told me it would be harder for other teams to play me if I had a consistent jump shot. With him pushing me to work on my shooting, it has helped me a lot. He also gave me a lot of confidence. Its wonderful playing for him. He’s a wonderful coach and I love it.”

Jacobs, who started playing basketball by tagging along with her older brothers to the playground, had an exciting summer interning with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office. Jacobs did lots of paperwork, briefing and sent paperwork to defense attorneys. In addition, she also observed jury trials and watched attorneys pick juries.

“It was exciting, terrific and very intense,” Jacobs said of her experience. “I interned in the juvenile unit, but I also had some time in the homicide unit which was scary but a fun experience. I want to become a criminal defense attorney so it was interesting to see the other side because I spent most of my time with prosecutors.”

One thing Jacobs learned following her experience is that her favorite television show “Law and Order” takes plenty of editorial liberties. A graduate of Central High School, Jacobs knew she would continue her career within the city limits because she is close with her family. She had a strong high school career in which she was able to easily get to the basket and score with ease.

Shirley remembers when Jacobs was a freshman, she consistently assaulted the basket even if there were three or four defenders already in great defensive position. He found the best way to utilize her talents was bringing her off the bench. It wasn’t a role she was particularly fond of when it first happened this season especially after being one of two players who started all 27 games last year.

Last season, Jacobs ranked sixth in the CACC with 98 assists. She led the Rams in steals (35) and assists and was fourth on the team in scoring (10.1 points per game).

Now, Jacobs has embraced her role for the Rams.

Against The Lincoln University, Jacobs along with sophomore Bria Harris caused plenty of havoc and helped the Rams carry a 36-26 lead into the locker room. The Rams stretched their advantage to 48-32 with 12:32 remaining before the Lady Lions rallied from a double-digit second-half deficit to win for a third time this season.

Monica Schacker and Megan Finn scored 10 points each while Mary Newell had 15 rebounds for the Rams (8-5).

Despite the loss, the Rams are still in an excellent position to accomplish all of their goals. Undefeated in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC), they have two games each with city heavyweights Holy Family and University of the Sciences on the schedule. Jacobs will be a big part of whatever success Philadelphia experiences the rest of the season.

“Najah is a terrific young lady,” Shirley said. “She was a typical Public League player when she came here where she was all about slashing to the basket and didn’t take a lot of jump shots. She’s matured and developed her jump shot. She’s done a much better of making shots, and a much better job with her decision making in transition which is really important.”

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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