Jacks land a big one in Bittle in tournament aftermath

Travis Kriens

Just days after their first NCAA Tournament game, the SDSU men’s basketball team received a verbal commitment on March 18 from Jacob Bittle, a 6-foot-4 point guard from Bixby High School in Oklahoma.

Jake’s father, Jay Bittle, who is an assistant at Bixby, as well as an AAU coach for the Oklahoma Elite, told OKHoops.com that Jake “decided to go to SDSU since they’ve been the ones on him from day one of his junior year.”

Scouting reports say that Bittle is a versatile player that can play on or off the ball. His natural position in the past has been at point guard, but after a growth spurt, he’s now a threat off the wing. Bittle can cover positions one to three, while still maintaining the ability to run an offense. His jumper is a threat, but he’s at his best when going to the hoop on offense. He was also one of the best defenders in Oklahoma this past season.

Bixby head coach Scott Padek said that the best way to describe Jacob is, “the bigger the game is, the better he plays.”

Bittle had some interest from Tulane and Oral Roberts, along with an offer from Denver. He also had home visits from Samford and Central Arkansas.

Jacob, along with his father and grandfather, were at the SDSU vs. Baylor game in Albuquerque, N.M., on March 15. However, Padek thinks that his mind was made up before then.

“The fact that they (SDSU) made it (to the NCAA Tournament) didn’t hurt anything, but if they had finished second in their tournament and didn’t get in, I don’t think that would have kept him from going. I think by the first of March, he pretty much decided that was the place for him.”

During his senior season, Bittle averaged 12.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 27 games.

In a December, 2011 article on OKHoops.com, when asked if he had any favorites at the moment Bittle responded, “Definitely Denver. Denver is at the top of my list right now.”

The Bixby guard also admitted that location would play a factor in his decision.

“I’m not looking to go too far away from home,” Bittle said.

So what made the difference and why did things change, according to coach Padek?

“The University of Denver was in the mix until mid-January. I think [DU’s] coaching styles, kind of a screamer and big time cusser, put everyone on pins and needles there and Jacob’s not looking for that. That wiped them off the list.”

Padek also said that the priority of SDSU’s team compared to where Denver might rank in that market makes a difference. In other words, SDSU basketball is a big deal and that played to Bittle.

With the television packages and online streaming available today for all SDSU home games, location isn’t as big of a factor when it comes to being able to watch a child go off to college and following their career.

In the end, it came down to what school was the right fit and that ended up being the Jacks.

“[SDSU] recruited him hard,” Padek explained, “but they gave him his space and time to finish his high school season and let him have some time to think about what he wanted to do. I think Jacob really appreciated that.”

It will be interesting to see what the future of recruiting for SDSU basketball holds after a strong showing against Baylor. For a team not known for venturing too far from home to look for players (a pair of Canadians in Kai Williams and Taevaunn Prince aside), SDSU may find that an invite to the Big Dance will open up the door for them to bring in players that can get them back there on a yearly basis.

“I think what’s really going to help him is that he gets a year to play with (Nate) Wolters and practice against him every day. That’s going to help you enormously,” Padek said.