Jakubicek captures MAC freshman of the year

By Matt Hopkinson

For the first time since the 2003-04 season and the second time ever, an NIU women’s basketball player received the award of being the MAC Freshman Player of the Year.

Freshman forward Claire Jakubicek was named as the winner by the league Tuesday, and the announcement took her by complete surprise.

“I was shocked,” Jakubicek said. “I wasn’t expecting it at all. I wasn’t really thinking about it at all, but I’m really excited. I think it’s a tribute to our whole team’s effort this year. I am honored to win this.”

Jakubicek was also named to the MAC all-freshmen team. NIU coach Kathi Bennett said she was disappointed by the non-inclusion of freshman Amanda Corral to the team along with Jakubicek.

Jakubicek was the leading scorer for the Huskies until a season ending injury occurred at home Feb. 16 against Ball State.

Bennett said Jakubicek was the most deserving of the award, noting that she has intangibles that set her apart.

“There’s some good freshmen in our league,” Bennett said. “What separates her is she’s so unique. She’s played some one, some three, some four and five; she has the ability to play at a lot of different positions for us.”

Jakubicek was the third overall scorer in the MAC for freshman, tallying 11.0 points per game, trailing two players from Central Michigan, Crystal Bradford (13.3 PPG) and Jessica Green (11.7 PPG).

Jakubicek also was leading the league in free throw percentage at a 95 percent clip before getting injured and missing out on the qualification limit for the record.

Bennett said she’s been amazed with the ability of Jakubicek to adapt and thrive in the college setting, especially given the limited transition time.

“I think she finally got used to playing at another level,” Bennett said. “She got thrown in there. Once she got adjusted, she showed that she’s a natural scorer. When we recruited her we saw a smart, nifty player who can go right and left. I felt we had an immediate connection. We knew she was a player we wanted to build around.”