Nov. 10, 2010
DeKALB - Northern Illinois head women's basketball coach Kathi Bennett inked three players to National Letters of Intent on signing day Wednesday, completing the first part of her inaugural signing class with the Huskies.
Bennett added Natecia Augusta out of Limestone High School in Peoria, Ill., Janae Jackson from Inkster High School in Detroit, and Claire Jakubicek from Cary High School in Cary Grove, Ill. The trio will join the Huskies for the 2011-12 season.
"They each have the attitude and work ethic that is necessary," Bennett said. "They have some intangible qualities - they want to be good teammates, they have some toughness about them, they are as good of people as they are basketball players - and those are really the things that matter."
Augusta is the No. 2 ranked forward and No. 12 overall player in Illinois, as rated by ESPN HoopGurlz. Nationally, HoopGurlz counts her as the 60th-best forward nationally, despite the fact that Augusta missed almost her entire junior season after tearing her anterior cruciate ligament. Prior to the injury, she averaged 24.3 points and 10.7 rebounds per game while shooting 66 percent from the field, and was a candidate for 2010 Illinois Ms. Basketball. Entering her senior year, Augusta is again a candidate for the award. She has been named all-state twice, including a second-team selection by the Chicago Sun-Times in just her sophomore year.
"Natecia is going to be an incredibly exciting player," Bennett said. "She has a charm and a personality that, as a teammate or a coach, you can't help but want to up your game for. She will be an immediate impact player, and is going to be one of the better players in the MAC, I believe."
Jackson enters her second year as the team captain of an Inkster squad that has six Division I prospects on board. The Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan placed her on its Class A All-State Special Mention list after her junior season, and on its Class B All-State Special Mention squad following Jackson's sophomore year. The Mid-Michigan Prep News listed Jackson as the 17th-best player in the region as a junior, when she help her team to regionals.
"Janea has a next gear and a next level," Bennett said. "I'm really excited to bring that out in her when she gets here, because she definitely has it. She's a very talented player and I think she is going to fit with our chemistry really well."
Jakubicek was the first player to verbally commit to Bennett and her staff, a fact that Bennett holds in high regard.
"Claire was the first player to commit to this coaching staff, and you have no idea how special that is," Bennett said. "Every coach dreams about players like Claire."
Jakubicek is coming off a junior year in which she was named to the 2010 Northwest Herald All-Area First Team and was a Daily Herald All-Area selection for the third straight year. Last season, Jakubicek averaged 16.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 3.1 steals per game. As the two-time team most valuable player, she guided the Trojans to a regional championship and split Fox Valley Conference Division title. A three-time all-conference honoree, Jakubicek was named to the Chicago Sun-Times Top-50 Players to Watch list as a sophomore. With 1,096 career points after just three years, Jakubicek ranks third on Cary's all-time scoring list.
"(Claire) has just got so many intangible qualities basketball-wise, but she has so many intangible qualities off the court, also," Bennett said. "She communicates, she's a great teammate, she's coachable, she plays all out, all the time. She makes us better immediately, and I'm really excited about her."
The Huskies open the 2010-11 season, the first under Bennett, with an exhibition against UW-Parkside Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in the NIU Convocation Center. NIU's regular season begins Saturday, Nov. 13 at Minnesota.