When asked to identify his favorite moment of his athletic year, West Deptford High School senior Tom Jakubowski had plenty of choices to contemplate before answering.
He could have pointed to any one of his eight touchdowns as part of the football team. He could have picked out either one of the two interceptions he had in the Group 2 championship win over Haddonfield.
Or he could have picked out his 100th career hit with the baseball team. After all, baseball is his top sport, and the one he will play at the Division I level at Long Island University next year.
However, Jakubowski didn’t need time to reflect, and it wasn’t the baseball diamond or the football field that set the background. It was the basketball court.
“For me personally, getting the 1,000 points in basketball was my favorite moment, because it’s very rare to see that,” said Jakubowski, who was selected as the West Deptford Patch Male Athlete of the Year. “Most people start as a senior, but I was fortunate enough to be able to start as a sophomore. Basketball is my weaker sport, but I was able to excel and reach that mark and be a part of West Deptford history.”
When Jakubowski says basketball is his weaker sport, keep in mind that he still led the team in scoring and rebound. He went strong to the basket and battled hard for every rebound, never thinking about playing tentative in hopes of preventing an injury that could affect his baseball scholarship.
For those who have seen Jakubowski play, this comes as little surprise. Throughout his West Deptford career, Jakubowski has had a skill set and level of professionalism rarely seen. He is a throwback in the most positive sense. In a day and age where kids are taught to focus on one sport year-round, Jakubowski not only competed, but exceled in three.
The way he sees it, mixing things up makes each sport and each season were special.
“It just keeps me refreshed and ready to go when season starts,” Jakubowski said. “Most people get bored of one sport and want to quit by the time they are seniors, because they have played it for so long. Me, I never had that because each season I had a new sport and new energy.”
In the fall, Jakubowski was able to produce solid receiving numbers on a team that believes in a run first, second and third plan. He produced eight touchdowns, half of which covered over 40 yards. He only had a couple of moments each game to shine and he made the most of them.
West Deptford quarterback Jake Hannan had one completion in the championship game and it was to Jakubowski on a third-and-14. The play covered more than 20 yards and helped the Eagles win their fifth state title in school history.
“Jake's a great quarterback and he put it right in my hands,” Jakubowski said. “He put it where it needed to be, and I was able to make a play with it.”
Jakubowski’s numbers on the baseball diamond were down from a year ago, but repeating a season that featured a .500-plus batting average and 49 RBIs was never really realistic. He still produced a great year, hitting .360 with 25 RBIs and 21 steals on a team that went through a youth movement.
Baseball head coach Mike Rucci said Jakubowski's contributions were no less important, even with the dropoff in numbers.
“I told him before the season that it was going to be virtually impossible to repeat that,” Rucci said. “I know there were times where he thought he could be doing better, but he still led the team in every offensive category. He batted leadoff, hit in the two-hole, three-hole and four-hole and still came up with big hits and put together quality at bats in big situations.”
Jakubowski also joined the 100-hit club, putting himself in exclusive company in West Deptford baseball history, while also joining a crowded family tree.
“I’m just proud I got to the 100-hit mark,” he said. “My brother (Steve) reached it and I just wanted to beat him. I had a couple of cousins that have done that, so I wanted to be a part of that and be part of West Deptford’s history."
Jakubowski finished with 109 hits—eight more than his brother.
His next challenge begins this fall when he attends college. Playing baseball at the Division I level is not something he takes granted and Jakubowski knows it will take a ton of hard work to crack the starting lineup, something his current coach made clear.
“I told him his freshman year is the biggest transition year,” Rucci said. “You have to handle adversity you never handled before, whether its winning the job or not being the best player on his team. He is built to handle that, though. He was raised the right way and knows how things go so. I told their coach that he will be their captain by his junior year. That’s the type of guy he is.”
Time will tell how he fares, but his high school history makes it hard to bet against him.
“I’m just excited to get the opportunity to play Division I baseball,” Jakubowski said. “It’s rare and hopefully the coaches see my ability and give me a chance.”