Interview conducted by Chris Monter
Jack Janicki, a 6-foot-4, 180-pound sophomore guard from White Bear Lake (MN) High, is ranked as the number three player in the state in the Class of 2023. He has a strong spring with the D1 Minnesota AAU 16-and-under program.
Janicki averaged 19.7 points per game this past season for White Bear Lake, scoring in double figures in 18 of 19 games. He had five games of 20 to 29 points and three more games of more than 30 points including a season-best 39 versus Stillwater.
GopherHole caught up with Janicki after a recent D1 Minnesota’s practice to learn more about his recruitment and upcoming junior season.
GopherHole: You guys have played in a couple AAU tournaments. How pleased are you with how well you’ve been playing so far this spring?
Jack Janicki: I’m pretty pleased. It is fun to play great competition, which is what we are doing and just getting better. We are coming along and hopefully, we’ll be ready to go by the end time that adidas Gauntlet starts.
GopherHole: How about your own individual play?
Jack Janicki: Obviously, I used to play with Taison (Chatman) and him off the team (he is playing up on the 17-and-under team) has kind of been a blessing in disguise since I have had to grow into a bigger role. Be more of a ballhandler and just kind of lead more, so that has been great for me. I think I’ve gotten a lot better because of that.
GopherHole: How about your season this past year at White Bear Lake?
Jack Janicki: It’s fun to play for your city, obviously, but with COVID and just kind of a weird year, we didn’t improve as much as I would have hoped to. We didn’t do as good as I hoped to, but it was still fun and it is always fun to play with your friends and your city.
GopherHole: What things are you really trying to work on this spring and summer to continue to improve yourself as a player?
Jack Janicki: Obviously, staying in the weight room. That is one thing that I’ve really hit hard the last year and getting more comfortable bringing the ball up the court and going to the right.
GopherHole: I know that you come from sports family. I know that your mom was Ms. Basketball at Mounds View and your dad was multi-sport player. How much do you think that has helped your love of sports, especially basketball?
Jack Janicki: Big-time. I think I could shoot a basketball before I could talk. My mom has always been a high IQ basketball person and she has not really taught how to be a great player, necessarily, but told me how to be a smart player, so that has helped a lot and my dad’s always the guy that wants to go to the gym, rebound for me, so that has been great.
GopherHole: I think her father coached her in high school, right?
Jack Janicki: He coached at Mounds View, so it is like generation by generation. Just kind of passing down knowledge.
GopherHole: Your sisters both played too, right?
Jack Janicki: They were probably D2 players, but they choose to go to bigger schools. One’s at Madison and one’s at Iowa. Fun for them.
GopherHole: I know that recruitment is just starting with you, but what schools are you hearing from right now?
Jack Janicki: Until June, I can’t really hear from that many right now, but I know my coach has been in contact with Iowa, Virginia, Wisconsin, Cal and Colorado. I’ve had brief conversations with Stanford, Notre Dame, Davidson and Harvard. I’m just really valuing a place that has great academics as well as sports.
GopherHole: You mentioned Notre Dame. Obviously, you have a tie there with your mom and dad, who both attend college there and your mom played basketball at Notre Dame. I know that you have been up there for football games. What is the relationship like with that school?
Jack Janicki: To be completely honest, it’s probably my first school, but I can’t say anything or be picking and choosing until I have enough offers, but it is definitely a place that I would be very interested in.
GopherHole: What is it going to mean to walk on that court, wherever you decide to go, your first game as a freshman?
Jack Janicki: It would mean a lot. That’s been the thing I’ve always worked towards. I’ve never thought about really being a professional, obviously because I am so young and it such a different type of player to be professional basketball player, but I’ve always wanted to go to school to play and play in March Madness, especially. I think that is every basketball player’s dream.
GopherHole: I know that you can’t talk to schools until June, but have you heard anything from the homestate school? They have had a coaching change, but have you heard from the Gophers?
Jack Janicki: I forgot. I left them out, but recently, my high school coach talked to the Gophers and I think I’ll plan on making a visit there and in being in talks with them, so that would be great for my homestate as well.
GopherHole: Obviously, recruitment is kind of weird with COVID and grad transfer and the transfer portal. Have people told you what to expect?
Jack Janicki: I’m like everyone in this AAU atmosphere kind of knows that this year could be a little slower, because A), you’ve got so many grad transfers in college, because of the COVID and you just have so many other transfers because this year didn’t count towards their eligibility, so obviously, especially as a sophomore, the process could be a little slower, but if you do your job and you play hard and you keep working, your offer will come. It could be a little slower. That is what I heard and it’s unfortunate, but as long as I keep doing my job, hopefully I can get to where I want to be.
GopherHole: I know that a lot of coaches that I have talked to are looking forward to watching kids, since they haven’t been able to do a lot. What are you expecting in July?
Jack Janicki: I’m expecting coaches to be at the games and a little bit of pressure, which has kind of been missing in sports the last year with no fans and to be honest, I’m looking forward to it. I think that it will be fun just to get the juices flowing again and play in front of the coaches and play in front of crowds, because we haven’t done that in a full year now.
GopherHole: What do you see as your strengths as a player?
Jack Janicki: Shooting and basketball IQ, for sure. I think that my range is something that I really use and then I use my range to get to the basket and then I think that my basketball IQ is something, especially since I’m not the most athletic guy on the court, I think my basketball IQ kind of separates me from some players.
GopherHole: Do you watch a lot of college or pro basketball?
Jack Janicki: Yes, I watch a lot of basketball. I’ve always been a Celtics fan, so I’ve been watching them since the 2008 championship. I was in my basement, crying after we won and Notre Dame basketball and honestly, just any college basketball. I love college basketball more. Just the atmosphere like watching guys that came out of Minnesota, it’s always more fun.
GopherHole: Are there certain teams or players that you watch for more when you are watching games? Like guys that are your position to learn things from them?
Jack Janicki: In the NBA, I watch players because there are some guys that you turn on the TV and you want to watch Steph Curry, but if there is a college game on and any conference matchup, I’ll turn it because I know it’s going to be loud and teams are going to be playing hard. It’s just fun kind of to watch schools play because I think the college game is played a little bit harder than in a regular season NBA game.
GopherHole: What is it going to mean to play at that level to you?
Jack Janicki: If I get there, I’m just going to be thankful, first of all and then, I’m not going to waste any time if I ever get to play there. I am going to get right to work and I am going to try to do my thing.