With almost the entire 2020-21 team set to return, including All-American forward Riley Farris for a rare seventh season, the Fort Lewis College men’s basketball team only had a few players to target in recruiting this offseason.
Chief among them was a veteran point guard. Head coach Bob Pietrack checked that box when he landed senior JacQuess Hobbs, a transfer from Division I Eastern Kentucky.
“After last season, we decided that we wanted to add an experienced, impact guard to go along with all the returners we have,” Pietrack said. “JacQuess fit what we were look for to a T. Adding JacQuess to our backcourt makes us more dynamic and gives us another playmaker.”
Pietrack said the Skyhawks will benefit from the maturity and leadership of Hobbs as a senior transfer.
“He played four very successful seasons at Eastern Kentucky and comes to Durango with a reputation of being a great team leader and extremely hard worker,” the coach said. “To say we are excited to add JacQuess to our established team would be a giant understatement.”
From Louisville, Kentucky, Hobbs played four seasons at Eastern Kentucky in the Atlantic Sun Conference. The 6-foot-2 guard started in 35 of the 90 games he appeared in and has played 1,666 minutes at the Division I level. He accumulated 129 steals during his career and shot career-high percentages from the field last season at 47.2% from the floor and 42.1% from 3-point range. He scored 15 points in 15 minutes in a game last season against Campbellsville University-Harrodsburg.
Hobbs said a change of environment in Durango will suit him well at a college with coaches he quickly connected with.
“I really built a strong relationship with the coaches. And being from Kentucky, I’ve never been far away from home,” Hobbs said. “This will be a different adventure for me. I love the school, and the scenery is beautiful.”
Hobbs started 17 of 22 games he played as a freshman before Eastern Kentucky had a coaching change. He would then play behind Wendell Green Jr., who transferred to Auburn in April.
With a chance to use an extra year of eligibility granted to all athletes last year because of the COVID-19 waiver, Hobbs decided to transfer to Fort Lewis College instead of going through another coaching change at Eastern Kentucky.
A player who prides himself in defense, Hobbs will be a strong ball handler for the Skyhawks on the offensive end, too. He said he looks forward to playing with big forwards in Farris and Brenden Boatwright, and Pietrack is excited to see him work in tandem with returning guards Logan Hokanson, Akuel Kot and Dunnell “Scottie” Stafford.
“I’m here to make my mark on the league,” Hobbs said. “I’m going to let these teams know I ain’t here to play around. I’m here to win the whole thing and do whatever I gotta do for my team to win. Ever since I started playing, my only goal has been to win a championship.
“My other goal is to go undefeated at home. I want every one of those home games this year.”
FLC also added three freshmen. The class started with early commitment Jelani Mohamed, an ESPN two-star recruit from Palo Duro High School in Texas, the same school where junior guard Kot came to FLC from as another top recruit.
The 6-3, 180-pound guard scored more than 1,300 career points in high school and was a three-time all-district selection. As a senior, he shot 49% from 3-point range to lead all of Texas Class 5A players.
“He is one of the best pure shooters we have had the pleasure of recruiting here at FLC,” Pietrack said. “He can really fill it up. Like most freshmen, Jelani will need some time to adjust to the college game, but we are very confident he will have a great career at Fort Lewis.”
The Skyhawks added another young playmaker in 6-5 guard Or Sundjyvsky out of Fair Lawn High School in New Jersey. During his prep career, he set multiple school records, including 3-pointers made in a single season (87).
“When we first watched Or on film, we knew he would be an excellent fit for the way we play,” Pietrack said. “Or is a very solid all around basketball player. He’s big, strong, has a very high basketball IQ and is a extremely accurate shooter. We expect Or to have an immediate impact on our team and be a staple in our program for years to come. We think our loyal fan base here in Durango will really enjoy watching him over the next four years.”
FLC added another 6-5 guard out of Texas in Jackson Thoele. The product of Lebanon Trail High School was an all-district player at the Class 5A school in Frisco. The three-sport athlete was credited for being able to do a bit of everything on the floor.
“Watching Jackson play multiple times this year, you can tell he has really put a tremendous amount of time into developing his game, ” Pietrack said. “He had a very strong senior year in a very tough Texas high school conference. With continued development, Jackson will be a huge asset to our program.
“With so many players returning next season, we really wanted to add some four-year high school recruits who could become the foundation of our program for years to come. We felt we got three very solid young players who have the character and talent we value in our program. We see all three of them making enormous contributions during their careers here.”
This offseason, Pietrack also had to replace associate head coach Daniel Steffensen, an FLC men’s basketball alum who was an all-conference player at FLC before going into his own strong coaching career. He decided to leave the coaching profession this spring.
“I will forever be grateful to my brother (Steffensen) for his hard work and true loyalty to the program we helped build,” Pietrack said.
Pietrack hired Ty Danielson as his next assistant coach. Danielson previously was a coach at Missouri Western and played at Nebraska Kearney.
"We are thrilled to have Coach Ty Danielson join our program. He has very deep Division II roots, both as a player and coach,"Pietrack said. "Ty has established himself as a relentless recruiter and one of the top young assistants in Division II basketball. He will play pivotal role in all aspects of our program moving forward. I am excited for our alumni and loyal local supporters to get to know him."
FLC finished sixth in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference tournament last season. The Skyhawks last won an RMAC regular-season title in 2018, also the last time FLC made the South Central Regional tournament.
With the loaded returning core of the team that includes seniors Corey Seng and Will Wittman to go with the previously mentioned standouts, Pietrack is eager to chase a conference title in 2022 with the addition of Hobbs to the nucleus of players.
“This is a big year for FLC basketball,” he said. “We anxiously wait to get the season going and the chance to once again play in front of the best fans in the RMAC. We are very thankful that our seniors (Farris, Hokanson, Seng and Wittman) decided to come back and use the COVID waiver to chase the program’s seventh RMAC championship.”