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Scooter Pursley / Associated Press, Published March 16 2013

Like his mom, Shanley’s Jacobson named state’s top player

BISMARCK – Twenty-nine years after his mother won the first Miss Basketball award in North Dakota, A.J. Jacobson of Fargo Shanley is the latest Mr. Basketball.

The 6-foot-6 senior guard-forward received 11 first-place votes and 65 points in voting by the North Dakota Associated Press Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. Seven players were selected as finalists for the award presented annually to the top senior in the state by the NDAPSSA.

Jacobson said his goal first and foremost was to win a state championship – which Shanley did Saturday night with its 73-54 win over Bismarck. With his 27 points, he also became Class A’s all-time leading scorer surpassing Valley City’s Jeff Boschee.

“It’s just an honor to be mentioned with all these great players,” the humble Fargo Shanley Deacon said.

North Star guard Jacob Hagler was second with three first-place votes and 33 points, followed by Nate Mertens of Devils Lake with one first-place vote and 25 points.

In 1984, Lidgerwood’s Pat Smykowski (Jacobson) was named Miss Basketball, concluding a brilliant career that included a state championship, four all-state teams and three trips to the state tournament. She later went on to star at North Dakota State. Her son will also go to North Dakota State next year.

“I try not to think about it, she was such a great player,” Jacobson said of his mother. “I definitely grew up with a basketball in my hand. I don’t try to live up to her, but she’s been a big influence in my life and it’s helped.”

Jacobson averaged 26 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, three blocked shots and three steals.

“He works so hard on his game,” Shanley coach Shane Alderman said. “He doesn’t just go to the gym, he works on specific things. He’s had high aspirations for a basketball career for a long time.

“With his mom, I’m sure it’s a family pride thing for him. All of his family are great competitors.”

Jacobson’s sister, Sarah, is a freshman who helped lead Shanley to a third-place finish at this week’s state tournament. Sarah started as an eighth-grader. Pat played at Lidgwerwood as an eighth-grader.

The mother said her family’s focus is on competing hard and not necessarily winning awards. But she is excited for her son.

“I’m very proud of him. . To know what he has done to get there,” Pat Jacobson said. “The kid has drive and he’s a four-plus student. He’s a well-rounded person. We couldn’t be more proud.”

As for the Mr. and Miss Basketball award?

“My name was brought up a lot early on because I was the first,” she said. “But we try to keep our family focus on it being a team game.”

The other finalists were: Jacob Volk of Dickinson Trinity, Erron Collins of Mandan, Mac Kroeplin of Grand Forks Red River and Trevor Zacher of Beulah.