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The Daily Wildcat

 

Senior walk-on Jacob Hazzard embraces hype man role

Arizona+guard+Jacob+Hazzard+%2850%29+brings+the+ball+down+court+at+the+end+of+the+game+against+ASU+in+McKale+Center+on+Jan+23%2C+2014.
Tyler Baker
Arizona guard Jacob Hazzard (50) brings the ball down court at the end of the game against ASU in McKale Center on Jan 23, 2014.

With about 10 minutes to go in Arizona’s blowout victory over ASU on Feb. 17, the Wildcats were already up 29 and a certain buzz was making its way through the crowd.

There was one thing on everyone’s mind that seemed to outweigh the massive victory coming Arizona’s way: Free JaKobe.

JaKobe is the nickname of Jacob Hazzard, the flat-top rocking hype man and fan favorite who has been a key component to the Arizona men’s basketball team since he first stepped on as a walk-on four years ago. He got the nickname after shooting about 30 times during one of the first open gyms with the team.

“I was trying to prove myself,” Hazzard said. “I wasn’t making all these shots and everyone was like, ‘Who is this dude?’ and it was hilarious. So ever since then, they called me ‘JaKobe.’”

The 22-year-old from Los Angeles played basketball at Loyola High School. He started playing three years on the varsity squad and averaged 12.3 points a game his senior year. He also played alongside current UA point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright.

Coming to Arizona as a walk-on wasn’t the easiest transition for Hazzard because he was so used to starting and playing in high school.

“My freshman year I definitely had some tough times, especially in the first couple of months,” Hazzard said. “You think you can always earn your playing time and maybe work your way into getting some minutes. When you come here you realize that’s really not going to happen because the talent is so high and so competitive here.”

Hazzard joined the team the same year as Kaleb Tarczewski, Gabe York, Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett. This was one of Arizona head coach Sean Miller’s most impressive recruiting classes.

Hazzard’s time on the team has been spent as a member of the scout team. According to Hazzard, the team runs through the opposing team’s sets for about 15 minutes before each practice to give the players an idea of what it looks like. Throughout practice, they run drills against players and simulate what could happen in a game.

“Jacob has been invaluable to all four teams he’s been a part of,” Miller said. “He has really fulfilled his role as best as we could ever hope when you bring somebody into your program in a nonscholarship way.”

With this scout work, Hazzard learned an incredible amount of plays and sets run by other teams.

“It’s crazy how many plays I know,” Hazzard said. “I’ll be watching other teams on TV and know they weren’t running that two years ago.”

Hazzard never had to look far to find his idol growing up. His grandfather, Walt Hazzard, was a former NCAA champion for the UCLA Bruins and NBA All-Star in 1968 for the Seattle Super Sonics. His uncle, Rasheed Hazzard, is currently an assistant coach for the New York Knicks.

“Because I knew someone in my family had made it to the NBA, it made it seem kind of possible,” Hazzard said. “Basketball in my family was very prominent. Those two especially kind of pushed me to play basketball and I’ve been around it my whole life, so it came naturally.”

ASU was the last matchup in which Hazzard saw playing time. He appeared in six games this season and scored in four of them.

Hazzard is studying arts, media and entertainment, and has considered going into sports journalism in the future, as well as finding a career in coaching.

With a résumé that includes a Sweet 16, back-to-back Elite Eight appearances, two regular season conference championships and a Pac-12 Tournament title, Hazzard’s list of favorite moments is a long one. His favorite personal moment was against Colorado two years ago, when he scored five points and dished an assist for a Matt Korcheck dunk.

“That would definitely be the personal moment highlight. I was just playing and I didn’t even know what was going on,” Hazzard said. “The reaction from my teammates was hilarious and all the texts and stuff I got was crazy.”

For his team moments, beating Duke two years ago at Madison Square Garden ranks among the top for Hazzard, as well as the road victory over Michigan that same season.

“We were the No. 1 team in the country at the time and being down the whole game and finally coming back in the last five minutes,” Hazzard said. “I was stressed.”

As Hazzard’s final games in McKale Center approach, he has been reminiscing about some of the great games he was a part of here, including the Wildcats’ victory over Florida three years ago after a Mark Lyons layup at the buzzer.

“I’ll go back on YouTube now and watch a game from two years and be watching the bench and look at myself and think ‘I’m going nuts,’” Hazzard said. “It’s always fun to look back.”

When he does get a couple minutes of playing time, Hazzard said it can get a little nerve-wracking.

“Especially if it’s been awhile, I’ll be like, ‘I’m about to go in for the next two minutes. Am I in shape to run up and down right now?’” Hazzard said. “… I think about all the little things. Don’t mess up. Don’t turn the ball over. Once I get in the game I’m fine.”

Through all of these memories, ups and downs that he has experienced during his time at Arizona, Hazzard said he can’t complain about what he’s gotten to see and do.

“I’m going to look back and always remember these games and times. It definitely makes me appreciate the game in a totally different way,” Hazzard said. “It humbles you because you don’t play as much and still being a very good team and getting as far as I’ve gotten without playing is kind of surreal and remarkable.”

And as his career in McKale comes to a close, everyone wants to see JaKobe freed once again.

“The dopest thing would be if I got to be in the [introductions].” Hazzard said. “Get my own little thing, see my highlights on there would be sick, just because I’ve never seen it before.”


Follow Kyle Hansen on Twitter.


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