January 11, 2024 

How the Jacobs sisters went from La Salle teammates to Mountain West rivals

The Australians are in their first seasons with Nevada and Fresno State

When Fresno State visits Nevada on Jan. 20, it might seem like an ordinary game in the Mountain West Conference. For sisters Claire and Mia Jacobs, it will be the first time they stand on opposite sides of the hardwood.

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Last season Division I boasted three Jacobs sisters — all playing for the La Salle Explorers. Amy, Claire’s twin, has since graduated and gone on to play professionally for the Perth Lynx of the WNBL in their Australian hometown. Claire departed for Nevada, and Fresno State welcomed Mia, who is three years younger.

“I think it will be super competitive,” Claire told The Next of the Jan. 20 matchup with Mia. “Going one-on-one in the backyard is last I remember. But I think it will be super good and exciting to see her with her new team. I am super proud of her. She is growing. The roof of her potential is unlimited, in my opinion.”

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Both sisters said they wanted a change of scenery last spring and went on West Coast recruiting visits together, since their parents were in Australia. While Mia favored FSU’s weather, people and playing style, Nevada intrigued Claire. Seeing as the schools were in the same conference and the 300-mile distance was drivable, Claire signed on with the Wolf Pack and Mia became a Bulldog.

“We haven’t played against each other a whole lot,” Mia told The Next. “Last year was the first time we played with each other. I am excited to play her. Claire’s knowledge of basketball got passed down to me and my other sister, Amy. The way she carries herself on the court has really rubbed off on both of us as well.”

Mia Jacobs of Fresno State shoots a free throw versus Air Force
Mia Jacobs of Fresno State takes a free throw versus Air Force. (Photo credit: Wyatt Bible)

Mia is having a breakout year for the Bulldogs, who are 9-8 after Wednesday’s loss to Colorado State. The 6’2 forward was named the MWC Player of the Week in December after a 31-point performance in an 80-76 loss at Arizona State. She also recorded 15 points and 11 rebounds in a 68-47 win over Sacramento State that same week. Following her 15-point and 10-rebound performance against the Rams, she is averaging 13.4 points and 6.8 rebounds.

“She grew taller than Amy and I — lucky,” the 6′ Claire joked. “From a young age, we saw her potential. We saw her willingness to compete. When she was younger, she would lose to Amy and me all of the time. She wouldn’t drop her head. She would keep coming and fighting. That is showing in her game today. She is super aggressive and doesn’t let anything phase her. Even playing as young kids, I knew she would be successful.”

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Claire Jacobs made the move from La Salle to Nevada. (Photo credit: Nevada Athletics)

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From the A-10 to the Mountain West

Originally, La Salle coach Mountain MacGillivray visited the sisters in Australia, rather than having them come to Philadelphia. They were up for the challenge. Claire was a star for the Explorers right out of the gate. She scored 15.4 points per game as a freshman, leading the team in scoring and setting program records for first-year players. She was third-team All–Atlantic 10 as a sophomore with more than 16 points per game. Mia was elected to the Atlantic 10’s All-Rookie team last year after averaging 9.3 points and 5.5 rebounds.

“In the Atlantic 10, it was more one-on-one,” Mia said. “the floor is more spread out, very American style. Over here [in the MWC], it’s more of the Australian style. There is a lot of help side, a lot of gapping, a lot of digging. It’s been more challenging to get to the rim, but I think that’s why my shooting has gotten better. Because there have been more kick-out shots than just passing shots.”

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Missing one sister

The only down side to their first matchup will be the absence of Amy. After graduating from La Salle, Amy began playing in WNBL 1, the second tier of professional basketball in Australia. She has played only half a season since she was in school and became Sixth Woman of the Year.  She later made the roster of the WNBL’s Perth Lynx, playing with Nevada alumna Teige Zeller.

“Her work ethic has played a big part in how far Amy has been able to come,” Mia said. “I think it has rubbed off on me and as well on to Claire. Hopefully, we’ll get on the same team one day, back in Australia, but we will see what the future holds.”

Claire mentioned that it was also a goal of hers to play professionally in either Australia or Europe. She also mentioned the biggest thing she learned playing with her the sisters is how to move without the ball.

Nevada’s Claire Jacobs on the court with her arms outstretched
Nevada’s Claire Jacobs set a program freshman scoring record while at La Salle. (Photo credit: Nevada Athletics)

Nevada is 7-9 after Wednesday’s loss to Air Force, with three losses to Power Five opponents Oregon, Cal and BYU. Claire is averaging 9.1 points per game, which is second on Nevada behind Audrey Roden’s 13.2.

“I think this team has helped me with my defense and my defensive intensity this year,” Claire said. “Scoring, I have come back into it. I started off rocky, but I think conference play will be good for me. The strength of my game is my ability to score in tough times. I want to take more of what the defense is giving me to create more scoring opportunities for myself.”

Claire’s clutch play was on display when she scored 18 points and nailed a game-tying three at the buzzer in what would become an overtime loss to UC Santa Barbara.

“She has been a great addition,” Nevada head coach Amanda Levens told The Next. “[Claire] is a proven scorer at the Division I level. She is something we were really looking for in the transfer portal, and I think it is a great fit. She has been battling some injuries in the preseason, and I think if she can get healthy, people will see what a great scorer she can be.

“They have such a great family. They are on FaceTime all of the time, and they are so supportive of one another. If her sister is playing, she has it on her phone, watching her, and she is so proud of her. But when they play each other, there will be no love lost. They are both competitive and they both want to win and have those bragging rights. I just love, though, how they are so supportive of one another, even though they are one opposing teams in the same conference.”

The teams will meet at least one more time, on Feb. 21 in Fresno State. There could then be a potential rubber match at the Mountain West tournament, with Claire’s final chance for an NCAA appearance on the line.

“It’s been exciting getting a good run on,” Mia said of the season. “I really like how I have been able to come in and make an impact right away. The trust my coaches have in me is really important. It gives me a lot of confidence. I’m going for the Newcomer of the Year spot, so we will see how that goes. For the overall season, I want our team to improve. We have a very young team, but I am excited to see how it will shape out. We have a lot of good pieces.”

Written by Scott Mammoser

Scott Mammoser has covered major international events for FIBA, World Athletics and the International Skating Union. He has been to six Olympics and traveled to more than 90 countries.

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