Jakstys elevating game at crucial time for Yorkville

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CHAMPAIGN — Some of Jason Jakstys' collection of recruiting profiles list the 6-foot-10 forward/center at 180 or 185 pounds. They could stand an update.

The future Illinois big man is still kind of skinny, but he's put on good weight since the summer. Checks in at around 205 pounds. It's noticeable to those who know him best. To those who have known him since he was an even skinnier high school freshman.

Like John Holakovsky. The Yorkville boys' basketball coach sees the broader shoulders. The better posture. The strength that's come with Jakstys' work in the weight room. And all of the confidence that's come with that development.

"I can definitely tell a difference," Holakovsky said. "He doesn't look like (former Illinois All-American Kofi Cockburn) or anything yet, but he's gained 15 pounds."

Jakstys turned that growing confidence into serious production last week during Yorkville's run at the Jack Tosh Holiday Classic at York High School. The Foxes went 2-2 during their week in Elmhurst, and Jakstys wound up on the all-tournament team along with Iowa-bound Cooper Koch, Denver commit Josh Pickett, hyped Bolingbrook freshman Davion Thompson and Rolling Meadows' breakout star Ian Miletic.

Jakstys was as dominant as he's shown all season during Yorkville's holiday tournament run — putting up more points, rebounds and assists in his last four games than he's averaging for the year. He had three games with at least 23 points and double-doubles against St. Ignatius (14 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and two steals) and Lyons Township (23 points, 11 rebounds and three assists).

Yorkville getting back to full strength after missing two of its other top scorers early in the season has helped Jakstys. He's still getting double- and triple-teamed — with rising assist numbers as he handles those situations — but there's less pressure on him to do everything for the Foxes.

"Now, he can play a little bit more freely and confidently," Holakovsky said. "I think we've done a better job of making a concerted effort of getting him the ball more in places he can score. As we've gotten other guys healthy, too, it's provided some extra scoring and help for him."

Jakstys has seen the improvement in his now-healthy team that's won five of its last games after starting the season 2-5.

"Knowing it was a big tournament, we had to really show out," Jakstys said about the Foxes' effort in Elmhurst. "We have a lot more energy. You can tell our chemistry is back."

Jakstys followed up his breakout holiday tournament season with a trip to Champaign on Tuesday this past week. He had a front-row seat to No. 9 Illinois' 96-66 drubbing of Northwestern, with special attention paid to all that Coleman Hawkins did in the 30-point victory. The role Hawkins fills now is one Jakstys sees himself occupying at some point in his Illini career.

"The biggest thing is my three-point shooting," Jakstys said. "That's one thing if I keep getting better and better I can become more of a weapon for Illinois. Coleman right now is killing it. He needs to keep doing what he's doing."

Jakstys flashed a new level of three-point efficiency in four tournament games last week. He shot 42 percent from beyond the arc and knocked down 3 of 5 three-pointers in a loss to Palatine.

Efficient three-point shooting is something Jakstys has shown for a couple seasons. At least in practice, as he struggled to have it translate to game action.

"His first couple years in high school, he was pretty much just a post player," Holakovsky said. "I think that's part of the reason he was a late bloomer as a player. Maybe not a late bloomer but an under-recruited guy at first.

"The last seven games we're 5-2 and he's shooting 40 percent form 3. He's rising up with confidence. In the post, he's so much taller and longer than everybody he can kind of go at his pace and use his footwork and pace to score. On the perimeter, everything happens so much quicker. He's got to be ready to shoot quicker. Have his hands and feet set quicker. The speed of the game, he's catching up with that on the perimeter."

Yorkville beat Joliet West 43-29 on Friday night to start the second half of its season. A 14-game slate that also includes a matchup with Stevenson at Geneva's MLK "Day of Hoops" Shootout on Jan. 15 and a showdown with Whitney Young at the When Sides Collide Shootout at Benet Academy on Jan. 20 in Lisle.

"We've beefed up our scheduled pretty significantly," Holakovsky said. "We don't have any easy games the rest of the season. ... We've got seven weeks guaranteed left. It sounds like a long time, but for a high schools senior, you only get seven weeks left and that's it for your high school career. We've got to continue to find different ways to get better and play with that urgency of how much time we have left."

Jakstys understands he's hit the stretch run of his senior season. Extra time in the gym after practice is already worked into his daily schedule, and he knows he can't let up with the Foxes chasing their first regional title since 2005.

This season, Yorkville will have a little extra support. Jakstys has already spotted fans clad in orange and blue in the stands the last couple months.

"It's amazing to have fans come to my games to support me," Jakstys said. "It's really cool and really shows how much the fan base means to the program."