After tweaking an ankle in the season-opening basketball game against Arlington on Dec. 5, Ashland-Greenwood’s Cale Jacobsen shrugged off his head coach’s suggestion that he come out of the game.
No way he was leaving his teammates in the first game.
“Coach told me I shouldn’t go back in, but I told him it was fine,” he said.
Jacobsen, then a junior and all-state multi-sport star for the Bluejays, returned to the court. But it was the last game he’d end up playing in that season.
“We broke a press, and I was driving downhill with my left hand,” Jacobsen recalled. “I jump-stopped to shoot a layup, and on the way up I heard it pop. I didn’t even land, I just fell to the ground.”
There wasn’t much pain in his left leg. Maybe just a three out of 10, he thought.
“Honestly it didn’t hurt. It just felt super limp and weak,” Jacobsen said.
After a visit to the doctor, Jacobsen’s nightmare became a reality. He had a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee. He remembers his mom breaking down in tears at the hospital. He did, too, after getting home from school that day.
Jacobsen’s junior season was supposed to be a special one. He had earned all-state status after averaging 23.8 points per game as a sophomore. He already owned a couple offers to play basketball from Missouri Western State University and Nebraska-Kearney. The 6-foot-3, 185-pounder was fielding calls from mid- and low-major college basketball recruiters, too.
But instead of basketball, Jacobsen’s focus had to shift to rehabbing his knee. The family took things slow and easy to let everything heal after surgery. He agreed to be involved in ACL and ACL rehab research at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, which not only benefits him and his recovery, but others in the future.
Rehab is never easy. Jacobsen learned that almost immediately.
He admits that it wasn’t the best idea in the world, but he ignored the doctor’s orders of staying in bed for five days following the operation. He was in surgery on a Wednesday and wound up watching Ashland-Greenwood play in the gym that Saturday.
“That probably wasn’t great for my knee because it swelled up bad,” Jacobsen said. “But I wanted to be there for my team. I just wanted to show them I was fine and I wanted to be there for them.”
Jacobsen has turned into somewhat of a player-coach for his AAU basketball team, Nebraska Supreme. Not being able to play does have a silver lining, though. He sees the game from a different perspective on the sidelines. He’s always learning.
“When you’re on the sideline, you really see who’s active and who’s communicating, and I think that’s one thing that I wasn’t very good at,” Jacobsen said. “Just the way we talk about switching on defense, if someone’s in trouble we just need to switch it, solve the problem. That’s something where I can help my teammates out.”
Supreme recently competed in an event in Indianapolis, and Jacobsen came along for the ride with his dad, Brad, one of the coaches. On the way back, he had the opportunity to take an unofficial visit to Drake, one of the schools that’s stayed in contact with him since the injury.
After breakfast, a tour of the practice facility, locker rooms and the weight room where he got to chat with the strength and conditioning coach, Jacobsen saw where the Bulldog players stay. He’s interested in business, so he got to see some of Drake’s business classrooms, too.
Jacobsen also got to meet with Drake assistant Matt Gatens, who has had his share of knee issues in the past.
“He’s (Gatens) been there for me and helped me through the tough stuff,” Jacobsen said. “And coach (Darian) DeVries is such a great guy all together.”
The plan right now is to be ready for Ashland-Greenwood’s football season, where Jacobsen, who’s also fielding interest from North Dakota State, Nebraska-Omaha and Oral Roberts on the basketball court, could see time at both quarterback and receiver. Then it’s back to the basketball court. The long wait will be over.
What’s going to be going through his head after all but three quarters of his junior season were stolen from him?
“I know now that I absolutely will not take it for granted and just enjoy it, because I had it taken away,” Jacobsen said. “A big part of it is, obviously I want to win, and I think we have a group that can win. So I just need to go out and make my teammates and myself better.
“It’ll kind of be different for me this year, because they all played for a whole season and I’ll sort of be the new guy.”