Cary-Grove senior Frank Jakubicek loved his visit to Belmont’s Nashville, Tennessee, campus in November. He spent the next seven months wondering if Belmont would ever offer him a spot on the basketball team.
That offer finally came Friday. The 6-foot-8, 210-pound Jakubicek didn’t need to think about it much longer. He announced his commitment to Belmont via Twitter on Monday.
“It was kind of an offer that I was waiting on,” Jakubicek said. “I’ve been talking to them for close to a year. When I went on that visit [in November], it opened my eyes to how great of a school it is. When I got the offer, I was really excited.”
Jakubicek selected Belmont over eight other offers from Akron, Bradley, DePaul, Illinois-Chicago, Northern Illinois, Western Michigan, Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Wright State.
DePaul was first to offer Jakubicek in August. His next eight offers all came within the past three weeks. When Belmont came calling, he knew he was ready to make a decision.
“You can play the what-if game: What if I get a bigger offer? Or what if it doesn’t work out like I planned?” Jakubicek said. “I decided, realistically, there wasn’t another school that I was as excited for to get the offer, and that I felt fit me socially, athletically and academically.”
Belmont has reached the NCAA tournament eight times, all since 2006. Two weeks ago, Dylan Windler became the first Belmont player ever selected in the first round of the NBA draft, going 26th overall to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Jakubicek will not be the first local player to suit up for the Bruins. Huntley graduate Amanze Egekeze played for Belmont from 2014 until 2018.
“They want to recruit high-IQ guys, which Frank is,” C-G boys basketball coach Adam McCloud said. “And guys that demonstrate the ability to improve in the offseason. They want hard-working guys, high-academic guys.”
Longtime Belmont coach Rick Byrd announced his retirement in April after 33 years coaching the Bruins. Jakubicek said there was some mild concern when Byrd retired.
“Some of the assistant coaches called and assured me that Belmont is really big on culture,” Jakubicek said. “They said they were confident they were going to get a coach that would keep that going.”
Any qualms disappeared when Belmont named Casey Alexander head coach. Alexander played at Belmont in the 1990s and was an assistant coach there for 16 seasons.
Alexander most recently served as the head coach at Lipscomb – Belmont’s rival located only 2 miles away – for six seasons, guiding the Bisons to an NIT runner-up finish in April. Alexander also retained two of Byrd’s assistant coaches.
McCloud believes Jakubicek has all the tools necessary to succeed at the collegiate level. He said the big man shot 46% from 3-point range last season. He held his own during C-G’s recent summer tournaments at Riverside-Brookfield and Ridgewood, two of the top summer tournaments in the Chicago area.
“He’s got some genetic gifts, being 6-foot-8, but Frank developed himself,” McCloud said. “He played freshman basketball on the freshman team. Not a lot of guys that end up being Division I college basketball players play freshman basketball. Usually they move up. … It’s a testament to his hard work.”
Jakubicek called it “a journey.” And the journey’s not done. C-G figures to be one of the favorites in the Fox Valley Conference next season.
“There’s been some obstacles, definitely,” Jakubicek said. “Me remaining confident in myself and my abilities. Just going out and competing, working hard to make my dreams a reality. And now that’s finally happened, so I’m excited.”