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There wasn't a whole lot Claire Jakubicek could say no to Northern Illinois University about.
So the Cary-Grove senior girls basketball standout said yes.
Jakubicek, a two-time Daily Herald All-Area player and one of the top returning players in the Chicago area this season, made a verbal commitment to new NIU coach Kati Bennett late Monday night to continue her playing career and further her education in DeKalb.
"I'm so excited," the 6-foot Jakubicek said Tuesday. "I love all the coaches at Northern and I'm so excited to play for them. I love the campus and it's a great fit for me. It's close to home and it's important to me that my family can come and watch me play."
Jakubicek, who chose NIU over Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Ball State, will join a Huskie program now being led by a first-year staff headed up by Bennett, who replaced Carol Owens after the Huskies went 10-19 overall and 4-12 in the Mid-American Conference last season. Bennett had spent the last two years as an assistant at Wisconsin where, ironically, Bartlett standout Jacki Gulczynski committed to over the weekend. Bennett has been coaching for three decades and previously held head coaching positions at Marycrest, Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Evansville and Indiana. Her 1996 Oshkosh team won the NCAA Division III national championship with a 31-0 record.
"I just got this feeling inside of me walking around campus that this is where I wanted to play and this is where I should be," said Jakubicek. "The arena (the Convocation Center) is so cool ... it's one of the coolest I've seen.
"I know this coaching staff is going to make a huge impact on Northern and turn the program around. I want to be part of the challenge of what can be done there."
In leading Cary-Grove to a 26-4 season, a share of the Fox Valley Conference Valley Division championship and a regional title last year, Jakubicek averaged 16.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 3.1 steals per game while shooting 45.6 percent from the field. She enters her senior season with 1,096 career points and should break Eve Barry's school record of 1,232 with ease.
"She fell in love with the program as soon as she met Kathi Bennett," said Cary-Grove coach Rod Saffert. "She had a great summer that helped her tremendously and she gets to stay close to home, which was important to her. I told her how proud I was of her and it's a load off her plate. Now she can play the season and help our team be successful again."
Jakubicek, who is ranked in the top 25 percent of her class at Cary-Grove, said she will study either physical therapy or sport management at NIU.