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Becoming Bison – AJ Jacobson

Only a handful of years ago, three Bison athletes were just like you. Quarterback Carson Wentz, women’s basketball player Holly Johnson and men’s basketball player AJ Jacobson were growing up in North Dakota and doing whatever they could do to stand out in their respected sport. Wentz was a multi-sport star at Century High School in Bismark, molding his athleticism while Johnson was taking every step necessary to become the next great college basketball player from Minot High School. Jacobson buried himself in his studies to prepare himself for life after basketball at Shanley High School while finding time to perfect his jump shot. Each athlete faced adversity before wearing the Bison jersey, but each of them are grateful for the journey they went through before becoming Bison.



Fargo Shanley’s AJ Jacobson is quickly turning into the mayor of Fargo. Through his first season on the court, he showed why there was so much buzz surrounding him coming out of Fargo Shanley High School where he won North Dakota’s Mr. Basketball in 2013 and was North Dakota’s Gatorade and Powerade Player of the Year. Jacobson complements his sharp shooting on the court with his academic performance in the classroom. Through the first three semesters at NDSU, he holds a 4.0 GPA and is working towards his degree in biological science. 

Family Man

Bison fans recall Jacobson’s mother’s legacy at NDSU as the second all-time leading scorer for the Bison women, but his father David had the biggest influence on him academically. David Jacobson is a family practice physician at the VA hospital and is the man responsible for sparking AJ Jacobson’s interests in science.


Books Before Ball

“It always came first,” AJ Jacobson said about growing up and bringing his schoolwork with him on the road for basketball. “You can go play in a tournament on the weekends and stuff like that, but they always made sure I was doing homework and keeping up with my studies.” Jacobson said he does five to seven hours of studying outside of class per week. School always came easily to Jacobson who said it’s better when you’re paying attention in class and always staying ahead with homework. “I’m a guy who likes to look at the syllabus and find out when I’m going to have an assignment due,” Jacobson said. “I don’t like procrastinating.”

What Is AJ Like In Class?

“Always a good student, but being a good student is like a good basketball player; they’re both coachable. It’s the same thing with a good student. If they do what you ask them to do, get their stuff done on time if they ask questions when they’re unsure. The thing with AJ is that he’s a kid that’s easy to get along with, he’s going to help himself as much as anybody because he’s willing to ask questions and he wants to learn, he wants to know more and when you want to do that, that’s 90 percent of the battle.”– Leon Knodel was Jacobson’s 6th-grade teacher and coached Jacobson for three seasons at Shanley High School.



Jacobson said one of the biggest concepts he follows in both school and basketball is to never hesitate to ask questions. He said it shouldn’t be embarrassing to ask for help because everybody’s mind works differently. “If you don’t know something, don’t stress out trying to figure it out yourself.” He continued to say how the Bison basketball team works in such a way that it’s a healthy environment to ask questions and to ask the coaches why they’re running certain plays in certain situations.

Avoiding Distractions 

Jacobson wants to become a dentist one day and to do that, he knows he needs to stay on the straightened path. “It’s something where if you have one slip up, it can cost you your career and that’s something you always have to keep in the back of your mind,” he said while explaining the people he surrounds himself with. Jacobson is with the basketball team for nearly eight months out of the year and they keep each other in check. But he emphasized having a niche group of friends that share similar values outside of sports to keep you fresh and not worn down with the day-to-day competition.

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