SDSU unveils new basketball practice facility

by Patrick Carr, Sports Editor

Among the Jeff Jacobs JAM Center’s countless amenities, perhaps the most important one will be the showcasing ability it has on potential recruits in the future.

The new $15 million practice facility was unveiled Sunday in a private ceremony that included the high-end donors who made it a reality.

The new facility jolts SDSU a step up in the recruiting world. Women’s basketball head coach Stacie Terry is excited because she recruits against Pac-12 schools that all have high-class facilities like the JAM Center.

Men’s head coach Steve Fisher also realizes how important it can be. It helped, in way, to convince incoming freshmen Nolan Narain and Jeremy Hemsley and sophomore transfer Max Hoetzel to commit to SDSU.

Narain said he absolutely made the right choice to play for the Aztecs. He was originally a class of 2016 recruit, but graduated high school early and reclassified so he could enroll for the 2015 fall semester and redshirt a year.

Hoetzel will also sit out this year after transferring from Indiana University. He’s a 6-foot-8 “marksman,” although his numbers with the Hoosiers don’t quite back that up. SDSU recruited him in high school from nearby Calabasas.

The TVs inside the facility were all playing highlights of memorable games from last year: the men’s NCAA tournament victory over St. John’s and the women’s win over University of Nevada in the first round of the Mountain West tournament.

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony in front of the JAM Center, the players got their first glimpse of what will now be their home. They were awestruck, smiling and whipping out their phones to document the experience for social media.

Next were the team lounges, complete with leather armchairs, HD TVs and a kitchen. The design of the whole inside of the building is sleek and sharp — “tasteful,” as Fisher put it.

When senior forward Winston Shepard walked into the team lounge on the bottom floor the first time, one thing caught his eye. There were four murals on the wall of what he called “Aztec royalty.” One of them depicted Xavier Thames.

“I need one of these,” Shepard said.

The posters were also his favorite part — not the personalized lockers, comfy lounge, film room or sound system on the courts.

The whole experience, though, wasn’t lost on Shepard.

“I didn’t know what to expect, it definitely blew my mind,” he said.

Then there were the locker rooms. They’re circular and each player’s locker has a backlit panel above it with his or her number, photo and hometown. There are ventilated shoe storage containers and outlets to charge devices.

Each locker has another name on it — that of one of the many donors that turned the JAM Center from a thought in Fisher’s mind to a reality.

“We’ve had a roller coaster of people that have been involved, and we’ve raised the money,” Fisher said. “People have been willing to dig into their pockets and say, ‘I Believe.'”

Malcolm Thomas, Fisher’s first big recruit in the program who played at SDSU from 2009-11, was on hand for the unveiling. Jeff Jacobs, son of Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs and for whom the facility is named, was also there.

For the women’s basketball team, whose locker room and lounge are identical to the men’s, it wasn’t the posters that got them excited.

“It’s the little things,” Terry said.

They all ran to the showers when they found out they weren’t communal.

After the players and media had their opportunity to see the bowels of the JAM Center, the donors followed. After all, they footed a majority of the bill.

Toward the end of the reception and after a team photo in the locker room, Fisher walked alone in the locker room, stopping to look at the names of his players and the names of the donors for which the lockers were named.