Watching a prospect go from unknown to coveted can be a windy, emotional road, and that’s exactly how Jake van der Heijden describes his experience over the past few years. Over the past year, van der Heijden collected offers from College of Charleston, Columbia, Leigh, Lipscomb, Presbyterian, Western Carolina, and of course, Bucknell. He committed on Sunday to Bucknell and we caught up with the big-time forward to talk about his journey, school choice, and plans going forward.
JB: What was it like to go from a relatively unknown recruit to being desired by so many programs?
JvdH: “The last couple of years were a pretty wild roller coaster for my basketball career. I came into Ravenscroft as a completely unknown player, starting from the ground level, and forced to work for every minute of game time I could earn—in order to make a name for myself. This was basically the case until my junior year. I really dedicated my first two years of travel ball in North Carolina to learning about myself as a player and developing skills that I’d need to contribute at Ravenscroft and play in college. As a freshman, I honestly didn’t believe I’d be playing Division I basketball, so being heavily recruited was pretty cool.”
JB: What ultimately led to you committing to Bucknell?
JvdH: “Bucknell offered me relatively early in the spring and recruited me harder than any other school since that point. I was able to attend an unofficial visit in the spring and the whole visit was extremely fun, professional, and they showed me how I’d be utilized on the court and my potential as a player in their program. Beyond that, they have great academics and have been really successful in the past. Throughout July, the coaching staff rarely missed my games on the Gauntlet (with Team Wall), which means a lot as a player to receive that kind of support from a coach. I committed kind of early because I believe that Bucknell would put me in the best position to succeed and have a great collegiate career, both in terms of academics and basketball. I feel like I’ll be in a position to do whatever I wanted with my life after college. I don’t think any other school would’ve been able to do that for me. I can see myself being really successful in their style of play and it’s definitely possible for me to become an emerging star up there.”
JB: What is the next wrinkle you’re looking to add to your game before stepping on campus?
JvdH: “Before I step on campus, I definitely want to improve my ball-handling. I feel like that would make me a much more complete player, added to my shooting ability.”
JB: Lastly, just briefly touch on the experiences you’ve had with Phenom Hoops and how you think it has helped you, if at all, in terms of recruitment and your overall body of work.
JvdH: “Throughout my three years in North Carolina, Phenom Hoops was definitely my first exposure to receiving actual evaluations as a player, especially through Twitter. Getting evaluated at the 150, NC Top 80 Camps, and tournaments gave me a lot of confidence as a player to know that people were looking out for me and believed in my ability and potential. It’s also been a major platform to get noticed by bigger travel teams and college coaches.”
There should be no doubting van der Heijden anymore, a player that we’ve thoroughly believed in since he first moved here—over three years ago. Bucknell captured an amazing player, but an even better person, and he should be at the forefront of their success going forward. His growth has been something to see, but it’s likely that he’ll continue improving and making a name for himself over these next four years.