SDSU breaks ground on basketball practice center

SAN DIEGO - San Diego State University broke ground Wednesday on its basketball practice facility, which will be named after major donor Jeff Jacobs.

The $14.5 million Jeff Jacobs JAM Center, which will provide practice space for the men's and women's basketball programs, will also honor donors Hal and Debby Jacobs, Steve and Lisa Altman and Jim Morris -- the first letters of their last names making up the JAM acronym.

The facility will contain two full-length courts, eight baskets, locker rooms, film rooms, team lounges, an athletic training room and coaches' locker rooms.

The Manna Charitable Foundation and the Walter and Betty Zable Foundation were also major contributors to the project. SDSU said about $2 million still needs to be raised, but no state funds will be used to construct the building.

10News learned $12 million toward the center is coming from private donations. It is expected to be ready in time for the 2015-2016 season.

"We're at a significant moment in the history of San Diego State athletics really stepping forward on a national stage," school President Elliot Hirshman said. "What the new JAM Center will do is continue this momentum."

When Jeff Jacobs, the son of Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs, was approached to donate money for a new practice center, he didn't hesitate.

Jacobs told 10News anchor Itica Milanes, "To be competitive in the national landscape you need to have a practice facility to get the players in and then get them coached properly and provide them the facilities so they can achieve greatness."

Fisher said even before breaking ground on the center, it has already given him a dominant edge in recruiting elite athletes.

"We showed them on paper the architect's design. We got some kids because they said I want to be part of what you're continuing to do, and this Jeff Jacobs Jam center is a part of that," he said.

The men's basketball program went from being one of the worst in the nation to one of the best since coach Steve Fisher took the helm 11 years ago. The Aztecs have nine consecutive seasons with 20 or more wins and have been to the NCAA tournament five years in a row.

The Aztec men put together a 31-5 record in the 2013-14 season, won the Mountain West regular season championship and advanced to the "Sweet 16" of the NCAA Tournament.

When asked about having the center named after him, Jacobs said, "My first reaction was a little embarrassment when I walked in and saw my name but it's fun. There's obviously a huge sense of pride."

The Jacobs family's relationship with SDSU started 48 years ago. Jeff Jacobs said, "Our family moved to San Diego from Boston in 1966, and we moved next door to the then men's basketball coach."

A lifelong bond was forged, and gone are the days when the team was so bad that Fisher would walk around campus handing out free tickets to the game. The upcoming season is sold out, with all 12,000 seats filled.

The ceremony provided some good news on a day in which U-T San Diego reported that prized freshman recruit Zylan Cheatham will undergo surgery for a broken bone in a foot, and could miss three to four months, comprising practice time and part of the upcoming season.

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