PORTLAND, Ore. – Junior Max Jacobsen has been one of the surprising contributors for the Northern Arizona men's basketball team midway into the season. On Saturday, he plays in his home state against his original school when the Lumberjacks face off against Portland State at 8:35 p.m. Arizona time at the Stott Center in downtown Portland.
"It always feels good to go home and play in front of my family," said Jacobsen, who is averaging 8.3 points and 4.6 rebounds this season. "They are all going to be there so I am really looking forward to that."
Jacobsen originally signed with Portland State out of Lake Oswego (Ore.) High School. After redshirting his first season, Jacobsen transferred to Clackamas Community College. He scored 20.8 points per game with 8.0 rebounds per contest, earning a scholarship to NAU and a second chance in the Big Sky. After seeing action in only 17 games last season while dealing with injuries, he has seen an emergence in his game under Head Coach Jack Murphy and his staff.
"He has been fantastic," said Murphy. "He is shooting at a high percentage and is second in the conference in field goal percentage. We need to do a better job of getting Max more opportunities, especially scoring chances. He has been great for us."
Jacobsen opened the season with a career-high 10 points against Oregon in Eugene. He has posted six games in double digits on the season, including his first career double-double against Loyola Marymount on Dec. 5. He followed that performance with a career-high 22 points against Montana State in the Big Sky Conference opener.
"He has had a heck of a year," said senior guard Stallon Saldivar. "He is a big presence down there and gives us an option in the post. He has been boarding really well which has been great for us. His production level has been very high and he brings it every day."
Jacobsen, who has scored in 14 of 15 games this season, credits the improvement this season to his offseason work in the weight room. New NCAA regulations allowed student-athletes to stay on campus this summer, providing time to work with their coaches and the strength staff.
"A lot of it was the offseason," said Jacobsen. "We worked really hard and we were here all summer. It allowed us to get in with our strength coach Cody Hodgeson and he really pushed us hard this summer."
The Lumberjacks enter the game against the Vikings on a two-game losing streak and have lost five of the last six games to drop to 5-10 and 2-3 in the Big Sky Conference. Portland State joins the Lumberjacks in a four-way tie for fifth place in the standings at 2-3, setting the stage for an important game.