Berry Basketball’s Owen Jacobs

How a phone call brought him to Berry.

By Brandon Park

After being recruited to play basketball out of high school by several schools, Owen Jacobs chose Berry, then Newberry College, then Berry again. After a disappointing start at Newberry, today the 6-foot-5 center anchors the 2-3 Berry basketball team, winner of two straight heading into Monday night’s game at Piedmont. 

As the Beatles song goes, for Jacobs it’s been a long and winding road. 

When Jacobs was offered a basketball scholarship by Newberry College, a small, liberal arts college in Newberry, S.C., between Columbia and Greenville, he felt he had to take it. Newberry was the only school to offer a scholarship, even though several, including Yale and Berry, had recruited him. And living in South Carolina just an hour from Newberry, Jacobs was familiar with the Division II school.

Berry’s Owen Jacobs, center

It was a last-minute change of heart; until then Jacobs thought he’d be driving to Rome to become a Viking.

Though he started Newberry’s first five games during his first year at Newberry, Jacobs saw his playing time shrink. The talent he was facing was better than he expected, he said, and his coach, Dave Davis, noticed that Jacobs didn’t really fit into the Newberry system. Jacobs finished the season averaging just under 8 minutes of playing time, 2.3 rebounds and 2.1 points per game.

It came as little surprise in Jacobs’s end-of-season meeting with Davis that he learned he was “the fourteenth guy out of the fifteen on the roster,” Jacobs said. And that was the last straw; Jacobs said he decided his career at Newberry was over before it really even got started.

And like most first-year students, he was homesick; he just wanted to go home to his family.

But Berry isn’t even yet in the picture.

Waylaid in Aiken

As a sort of default, Jacobs enrolled at nearby University of South Carolina-Aiken.

“The only time I touched a basketball that year was intramurals,” said Jacobs, a 240-pound senior. He described his year away from basketball as “miserable.”

While in high school, it was Berry’s interim head coach, Derek Taylor, who had recruited Jacobs. And after that “miserable” year at SC-Aiken, Jacobs got a phone call from none other than Derek Taylor, who told him he wanted Jacobs part of the Berry program.

By the time Jacobs arrived in Mount Berry, Taylor had moved to assistant athletic director and Jeff Rogers had been named men’s basketball head coach. Would Rogers’s system be another that Jacobs wouldn’t “fit” into?

So far this season, Jacobs is averaging 14 points and more than eight boards per game. Last season, he was second-team all-Southern Athletic Assn. after averaging 13.4 points and 8.7 rebounds per game by shooting 56 percent from the field. And that resume came after knee surgery. His sophomore year, his first at Berry, he averaged 17 points and 11.2 rebounds per game and was first team all-conference.

Reliable, dominant and hardworking are the words senior point guard, Lee McCloud, used to describe Owen Jacobs, the team captain.

“Owen is my right hand man,” McCloud said. “We work together, and I need him on the court with me. He is one of the first in and last out of the gym.”

If it wasn’t for Taylor’s phone call, who knows? Jacobs’s basketball career might have remained a fast-fading memory at SC-Aiken. As it is, he is set to graduate a Viking in May with a double major in history and education. He said he plans to coach basketball after Berry, after graduate school.

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