Grand Valley State basketball’s Jake Van Tubbergen was honored by Basketball Times last week, as the senior was named a DII Preseason All-American.
Van Tubbergen is coming off an impressive junior campaign, as he averaged a double-double last season and surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his GVSU career.
The Holland, Michigan native averaged 18.4 points and a GLIAC-best 10 rebounds per game, including dropping a career-high 39 points to lead the Lakers to a double-overtime win at Northern Michigan; the most points by a Laker in a single game since 1997.
Van Tubbergen said he is honored by this award — which comes off the heels of him being named an All-American by the National Association of Basketball Coaches last season — but still wants to live up to the preseason hype.
“Obviously it’s a cool honor and everything, but at the end of the day, it is still a preseason award,” Van Tubbergen said. “It doesn’t really mean I’ve done anything this year, so I guess that means I got to live up to that expectation and come out and perform this season.”
Van Tubbergen said his biggest issue in his first two seasons was consistency, and after getting a lot more collegiate reps under his belt and gaining confidence, he is happy to now be a player the Lakers can consistently rely upon on both sides of the floor.
“A couple of times, I would have a rough stretch when I was a freshman or sophomore and I would kind of hit a slump,” Van Tubbergen said. “But I think especially now, in my junior season and building up to that, I feel like I’m a lot more confident in my abilities. If I’m not having the best game, I can find other ways to impact the game that can help the team besides scoring with the ball.”
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Van Tubbergen and his Laker teammates have not gotten a chance to play 5-on-5 in months, as they’ve split into two groups for workouts to properly social distance and work on improving individual skills instead. While the senior said it felt great to be back in the gym, it does feel strange to not be able to fully practice with his teammates again.
“It definitely does feel abnormal, and one of the bigger things is wearing masks in practice, which obviously affects your conditioning level,” Van Tubbergen said. “As far as everything else, it’s just kind of weird. We haven’t even gotten our schedule yet or anything along the lines for that. Right now, I guess were just trying to prepare for anything.”
After his group finishes their portion of practice, Van Tubbergen stays after to watch his new freshmen and transfer teammates’ practices in an effort to get a feel for their game and identify their tendencies on the hardwood.
The senior views that as one of his responsibilities as a leader on this year’s team. It hasn’t fully set in to Van Tubbergen that this may be his last year playing for GVSU.
“It does feel strange calling myself a senior,” Van Tubbergen said. “I feel like it was just yesterday that I was walking around campus as a freshman, so time has definitely flown by.”
If the 2020-21 basketball season gets cut in length or fully cancelled, Van Tubbergen is unsure if his final year of eligibility would carry over to next season, so he is trying to make the most of this uncertain season.
When his successful GVSU career does ultimately come to an end, Van Tubbergen is hoping to keep pursuing his dream of playing professional basketball, whether he gets a chance to do it in the U.S. or has to travel overseas for it.
Living his West Michigan for his entire life, the thought of traveling to the other side of the world is a little daunting for Van Tubbergen, but that travel is ultimately worth it for the senior if he gets to continue to pursue his dream.
“That’s been my dream since I was a kid, so I’m going to try to chase that dream,” Van Tubbergen said. “It is going to be a little scary at first, but I’ve been (in West Michigan) about 22 years, so being able to get outside and travel and do something I love while getting to see other parts of the world, I think that in itself is a great opportunity that I don’t think I can pass up.”
Van Tubbergen was one of the Lakers who took last year’s postseason absence the hardest, as despite helping GVSU to the most wins in a season since 2007-08 and going 23-7 to earn a GLIAC South Division championship, the Lakers were snubbed of a ticket to the DII NCAA tournament.
Before chasing his professional basketball dreams, Van Tubbergen is hoping the combination of young talent and veteran leadership can help GVSU to a lengthy postseason run in what might be his final season playing college basketball.
“I think if you look at our roster and what we return, we have a lot of veteran guys and some new guys that are very talented,” Van Tubbergen said. “I think with the combo of those two things — if we can find a way to shape that into what we want for this coming year — I think we have a really good shot to win the conference, if not even make a deep run in the tournament if there is one.”
Even if Van Tubbergen only gets to play a couple of games for GVSU this season in front of a limited crowd, he is just excited to finally return to the hardwood and pick up right where he and the Lakers left off last season.
“I can’t wait, honestly,” Van Tubbergen said. “Once they release some sort of schedule, I’ll be counting down the seconds. It was tough because they told us with the social distancing that basketball wasn’t one of the activities you could do, so realistically, I haven’t played a full 5-on-5 game in months. For a basketball player, that’s a long time. I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it.”