A freshman at Carleton College has little alternative but to catch on quickly, especially when taking a full load of classes in preparation for an eventual major in math, science or engineering.
Brainerd High School graduate Jake Phillips was elated to post a 3.3 grade-point average in his first trimester at a school that ranks among the nation's top liberal arts institutions.
Phillips also caught on quickly on the basketball court at Carleton. After nine games he moved into the starting lineup at point guard and helped the Knights to a 12-8 record in conference play, 15-11 overall.
When preseason practice opened, the 6-foot-2 Phillips thought he could compete for playing time since the Knights' top point guard had graduated.
"Once I started learning the system, especially defensively, that our coach stresses quite a bit, once I got more comfortable with both of those, I got a little experience," Phillips said.
He played in all 26 games for the Knights, averaging 5.2 points and 2.0 assists. He was the team's top three-point shooter (51 percent) and its second-best free-throw shooter (81 percent). Phillips was named to the five-player All-MIAC first-year team.
"Jake had a standout first year," Knights head coach Guy Kalland said "He's going to be a dynamite point guard next year."
Phillips was relatively satisfied with his first college season. He thought he improved as the season progressed and he knows what he needs to improve on in the offseason.
"I have to keep working on my ballhandling," he said. "Offensively, in college ball, you have to create your own shot. I have to get better at that. You can always work on your shooting. And, I need to get stronger. I will be in the weight room a lot."
Phillips needs to get stronger to keep up with players who are faster and more physical than high school players.
"Division III has a lot of very talented players," he said. "Every team has some athletes who are very good basketball players. It's kind of fun playing against good players like that."
Phillips played his best game of the season Feb. 24 in the Knights' 83-76 playoff loss to Bethel. In 30 minutes, he had season highs of 10 points and seven assists. He was 3 of 6 from the field, sank both of his free throws, grabbed three rebounds and had two steals while committing only one turnover.
"Against a lot of senior guard pressure ... that's a pretty impressive stat line," Kalland said.
"It was interesting talking to Jake after the game," Kalland added. "We just visited about how much he learned about the game. He knows exactly what he needs to do to pick up where he left off. He's hungry for that.
"He's just a delightful kid, from a delightful family. (Phillips' parents) Gary and Kathy are supportive in all the right ways. It's a nice family coup for us."
Before attending Carleton, Phillips helped Brainerd to its first winning season in six years. As a senior he led the team in scoring with a 17-point average and shot 86 percent from the foul line, playing the point and shooting guard positions.
"It was a lot different this year, as far as my role, playing point guard," Phillips said. "I definitely was not looking to shoot as much. That's not my job. It's to get people into the offense, get stuff organized.
"My junior and senior year (at BHS) I played point a lot of the time. I have pretty much since I started playing basketball. It took a little while to bring (the ball) up again, but it came back pretty quick."
It's obvious from Phillips' first season at Carleton that it did.
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