Jacobsen looks to seize his opportunity

Eric Jacobsen had a typical freshman season – full of ups and downs. At the beginning of the season, he was the primary backup center, beating out incumbent senior Ruslan Pateev. He showed flashes of brilliance early in the season, including a 16-point effort against Hartford. He exhibited an unusually high basketball I.Q. for a freshman and was applauded for his effort.

However, his playing time decreased as the season unfolded. Once conference-play rolled around, he rarely got off the bench. It was evident that Jacobsen was physically outmatched against the other big men in the conference. As a result, Coach Sendek elected to stick with the more experienced big men, leaving Jacobsen as the odd man out.

With Pateev gone (graduation) and Kenny Martin transferring at the end of last season, the 6'10" local Chandler Hamilton product is ready to play a bigger role in the 2013-14 season.

He bulked up this offseason and is sporting a large tattoo on his left shoulder. Needless to say, he is playing the part of the rugged big man, and one who should see a dramatic increase in minutes played.

Devils Digest caught up with the sophomore power forward/center for a candid interview:

Devils Digest: It looks like you trimmed down and added some muscle since last season. What kind strength/conditioning program did you perform this summer?

Eric Jacobsen: "I worked with Rich Wenner, our strength coach. We worked hard this offseason. I did a lot of weight lifting and just finished a pretty crazy conditioning program."

DD: Did the coaching staff have you concentrate on any particular skill(s) development in the offseason?

If so, what exactly?

EJ: "I worked on my all-around game. Offensively, I did work specifically on finishing better with contact. With the added strength, I think it's definitely better."

DD: How did you feel about the team's trip to China in August? Did it build good team rapport?

EJ: "Yeah, it was a lot of fun actually. It was a great time with all of my teammates and coaches. It was cool to travel with everyone. It did build a lot of chemistry with the guys."

DD: What was your personal highlight of the China trip?

EJ: "I would say my favorite part of the trip was seeing the Great Wall. That was pretty cool. I never thought I would see the Great Wall of China in my lifetime."

DD: Reflecting back on last year, was the most noticeable difference you experienced from high school basketball to college basketball?

EJ: "The speed and size of the opposing players. In high school, it's a whole different game. In college, you have to play against grown men. It was a great learning experience that will help me this season."

DD: There are a lot new faces on this year's roster. Has it been difficult to integrate all their new players into your system?

EJ: "I don't think so. We all get along very well. We all have each other's backs. I think everything will work out fine. We have a lot of weapons now with all the new players."

DD: Do you feel the frontcourt is thin with the departures of Ruslan Pateev and Kenny Martin?

EJ: "I think we'll still be solid. We have JB (Jordan Bachynski), a returning senior with a lot of experience. We have myself. And we have Richie (Edwards), who is an experienced post player as well. So, I think we'll be good."

DD: Being a local player, has that helped your transition to ASU? Or has it put more pressure on you (especially in regards to playing time)?

EJ: "Personally, I think it's been a lot easier. I didn't have to transition to a college in a new city. Of course, I know the area and a lot of people here. In regards to playing time last year, that was never a problem. I think playing time is a reflection of you as a player. It has to be earned."

DD: Based on the roster composition, it appears that you will have a bigger role this year (as Bachynski's primary backup). How are you approaching this increased role?

EJ: "I just work hard everyday. I don't put too much pressure on myself. I know I'm good enough to perform well. I just work hard and I think everything will take care of itself."

DD: What are your individual goals for this year?

EJ: "I just want to do whatever it takes to win games. That's all that really matters to me. I don't feel the need to score a lot. I'm prepared to do whatever is needed for the team."

DD: What about the team goals? What milestones do you hope for the team to accomplish?

EJ: "I want to go farther in the Pac-12 tournament and get an NCAA tournament bid. That would be the ultimate goal."