There is a new name on the Mendota boys basketball sideline but it isn’t a new name in the Illinois Valley.

La Salle-Peru graduate Justin Jacobson was hired as the Trojans boys basketball coach at a special school board meeting on today.

“Coach (Jan) Thompson and coach (Steve) Hanson, the last two coaches at Mendota did a great job of laying down some ground work for me to work with,” Jacobson said. “The kids have a tremendous work ethic and they’re willing to learn.

“With some innovation and some new ideas, we can put it all together and get Mendota basketball back to what I remember it as. I told the kids at our first meeting, ‘When I was growing up, Mendota basketball was always good. You never liked to play them.’ I want that mantra to come back, so our first year’s team slogan is going to be, ‘Commitment to tradition.’ We want to bring that essence back to Mendota.”

The new coach added if people come into the Mendota gym and look at the banners hanging from the rafters two sports (boys basketball and volleyball) have two banners hanging because they have a winning history.

“I want to get back to that,” Jacobson said.

Hanson, the Mendota athletic director, feels the new hire will prove to be a good choice.

Jacobson replaces Hanson, who was the Trojans’ coach for the last two years before resigning to focus on his athletic director responsibilities.

“I just like his energy and his passion, “Hanson said. “He obviously loves the game. Speaking with people that knew him and worked with him, he was able to have good relationships with the kids. That’s what set him apart.

“His resume makes it clear that he loves basketball. He has goals, which we liked. He has been around the game for a long time and I think he is going to make the commitment to make our program our better.”

After graduating L-P in 2007, Jacobson went to IVCC (2009), Northern Illinois University (2011) and earned a master’s degree in 2015.

Along the way, he was the IVCC men’s basketball manager under former coach Tommy Canale in 2008 before becoming part of the Eagles’ staff in 2009-12. He coached grade school hoops for three years, went back to IVCC as an assistant to IVCC coach Chris Herman and then took one-year assistant jobs for NCAA Division II Eureka College and for Division II University of Michigan-Dearborn.

Jacobson also spent two months of 2018 in China as he left the United States for a position with the United States Basketball Academy in Chengdu, China. However, the position didn’t materialize into what was expected and Jacobson came back to the states.

Now, he is ready for his first head coaching position as a Mendota Trojan.

“Going forward with Mendota, I think if we as a staff — I’m inheriting a great staff from coach Hanson — we want to get the most out of these kids in every facet that you can, athletically, academically and as a person,” Jacobson said. “If we can build these young men into fine standing citizens, the winning will take care of itself. In our first meeting, we said, ‘Look, it’s going to be hard, you’re going to work harder than you ever have before but it’s going to be worth it. If you give me the effort, it’s going to be worth it.’

“They all seemed to respond really well to that. In our first day, we had great effort and great energy. Our job as a staff is to just build off of that.”

Jacobson’s staff includes varsity assistant Rob Nunn, sophomore coach Nick Ganz and freshman coach Matt Gehm, who are all returning from last season.

Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6995, or sports@newstrib.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.

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