March 6, 2012
DeKALB, Ill. - Northern Illinois forward Claire Jakubicek (Cary, Ill./Cary-Grove) was named Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year, the league announced Tuesday.
Voted on by the league's coaches and media, Jakubicek is just the second Huskie to garner the accolade from the MAC after Joi Scott accomplished the feat for the 2002-03 campaign. Overall, Jakubicek is the fourth NIU women's basketball player to earn the honor from a conference (E.C. Hill in 1991-92 and Cindy Conner in 1990-91 both won North Star Newcomer of the Year).
Consequently, Jakubicek was also named to the five-person MAC All-Freshman Team. She's the fifth Huskie to reach all-rookie status in the MAC and first since Stephanie Raymond in 2003-04. Overall, she is the eighth player in program history to receive all-freshman recognition from a conference.
"This is a testament to how consistent Claire was throughout the year," said NIU Head Coach Kathi Bennett. "She worked really hard this summer. I felt her improvement came after we stopped moving her around. She played nearly every position for us and then we settled her in at the four, and that's when she took off. From a program standpoint, it's neat because we can build around this.
"I'm disappointed and surprised that Amanda Corral didn't make the all-freshman team as well. She has worked hard all year and is very deserving."
One of the most impressive facts about Jakubicek getting so much respect from the league is that her season has been done since breaking her right foot against Ball State on Feb. 16. A compelling display of her impact, the Huskies lost each of their first four games before finally adjusting to life without Jakubicek and beating Western Michigan last Saturday in the first round of the MAC Tournament.
Prior to going down, Jakubicek was in her best rhythm of the season. She had scored double figures in nine of her last 10 games and had her scoring average at its highest point all season at 11.0 points per game. She had also hit 37 straight free throws.
Among the MAC, Jakubicek's 11.0 points per game ranks 16th, her 46.3 field goal percentage is ninth, and her 95.9 free throw percentage would lead the league by a wide margin had she not gotten hurt and fallen under the minimum attempts to qualify.
Only two other freshmen in the MAC averaged double figures in points this season. They averaged more than Jakubicek, but both were on the same team - Central Michigan's Crystal Bradford (13.3 PPG) and Jessica Green (11.7 PPG).
Despite playing five less games than most of her teammates, Jakubicek still has the most games as top scorer (8) and third-most games as top rebounder (5). She still leads the team in scoring, field goal percentage, and free throw percentage. Her 5.1 rebounds per game rank second. Of her 24 games played, she scored in double figures 13 times, including a season-high 21-point effort against Chicago State on Dec. 11 in a 10-for-12 shooting day. She also had a season-best eight rebounds and five assists that day.
The Huskies square off against Akron in the second round of the MAC Tournament on Wednesday, March 7, at 1:30 p.m. CT at Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena.