Casey Jacobsen can’t forget those car rides: week after week, year after year, all the 90-minute trips that seemed to take forever as his father, Von, would harshly and unforgivingly dissect his performance en route home from Casey’s youth league basketball games. “He would say to me, ‘Just because you don’t do anything bad, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing anything good,’ ” remembers Jacobsen, who turns 20 on March 19. “I spent a lot of time crying on car rides home, arguing back and forth, yelling,” Casey admits. “I couldn’t really understand why he was so tough on me.”
He does now. Today the 6’6″ Los Angeles-area native ranks as the leading scorer on one of the top college basketball teams in the country, Stanford. The sophomore guard is averaging 17.7 points per game while sinking an amazing 45 percent of his signature shot, the 3-pointer from downtown that silences SRO crowds during its rafter-kissing arc toward the hoop. What’s more, Jacobsen, nicknamed Iceman by his teammates, has emerged as the squad’s go-to guy in pressure situations—like the upcoming NCAA tournament, starting March 15, where Stanford aims to avenge last year’s second-round loss. “Casey’s one of the premiere players in America,” says college basketball guru Dick Vitale. “He’s got great versatility. He’s not afraid. I have a feeling this kid would have been a star no matter where he played.”
That would hardly come as a surprise to Casey and his family. It is exactly what Team Jacobsen has been working toward ever since Casey hit fifth grade. It was then that Von Jacobsen asked the third of his four sons if he were ready to commit to a sport. A former standout player at San Diego State who first found solace on the court at age 7, after his own father died, Von hoped his son would choose to dedicate himself to the ultimate goal of winning an athletic scholarship to a Division I college. Like his brothers before him, Casey said yes and picked basketball. (Big brother Adam, 26, got a scholarship to University of the Pacific, where he is now an assistant coach, while Brock, 23, played at the University of San Diego.) “Losing my father impacted me a ton,” says Von, 53, who lives in the L.A. suburb of Glendora with his wife, Becky, 49, a substitute teacher, and their budding hoopster son Derek, 14. “The boys are my whole life. I want to be with them as much as I can.”
To that end, Von, a construction supervisor, arranged his hours so he could oversee the boys’ gruelling afternoon regimen of practices and games. Extra hoop time was logged on the lavish backyard court he built, which Casey tagged the Taj-Ma-Hoop. Then there were all those critiques, which have helped Von earn a tough-love reputation—unfair, his sons say—that makes him seem a bit like the Great Santini. “Looking back, he had a vision we couldn’t see,” Casey says.
A communications major at Stanford, Jacobsen manages to maintain a B average and find time for movie-and-Krispy Kreme dates with his girlfriend, Brittney Blunt, 21, a senior and All-American rugby player. He also seems utterly at home with Stanford’s hard-nosed basketball coach, Mike Montgomery. “Nothing was ever good enough for my dad, and nothing is ever good enough for Coach Montgomery,” Jacobsen says. “There’s always room to improve in their eyes.”
Mary Green in Stanford