Created:Wednesday, January 2, 2013 12:49 a.m.CDT
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Following a family tradition

Sisters Abby (left) and Olivia Jakubicek are looking to leave a impact at Cary-Grove like their older sister Claire, who is playing at Indiana University. (Josh Peckler – jpeckler@shawmedia.com)

Playing basketball has become a family tradition for the Jakubicek sisters.

But with that has brought the unenviable task and challenges of following an older sister on the basketball court. For senior forward Olivia Jakubicek, it meant replacing Cary-Grove’s all-time leading scorer when her sister, Claire, who plays at Indiana, graduated in 2011.

Abby Jakubicek’s quest to define her own career is even tougher. The 5-foot-10 junior forward watched from the bench in early December when Olivia became the second Jakubicek to score 1,000 career points as the reigning Northwest Herald Player of the Year has again put C-G in position to capture another Fox Valley Conference Valley Division title.

“Obviously, I’m really proud of them and love having them as my sisters and to be able to say that they’re super successful at what they do,” Abby Jakubicek said. “It’s kind of hard to follow in their footsteps because they’re amazing and I haven’t had as much time.

“The expectations may be high, and I might never be able to meet them, but I love them.”

It can be difficult to watch a sibling succeed on the court while stuck on the bench. But Abby Jakubicek embraces it as a learning experience with a front-row seat to Olivia’s success despite her own limited minutes.

“It’s kind of the same as it was between Olivia and Claire, it’s hard to live up to the older sister,” C-G coach Rod Saffert said. “I don’t think any of them took it that way. They’re one of the most closely knit families I’ve ever seen. They encourage each other and they’re there for each other all the time.”

Olivia’s success hasn’t hurt the sisters’ bond; if anything, they’ve grown closer during their one and only season as Trojans teammates. Of course, that doesn’t eliminate all the sisterly disagreements. But playing together has made this year and C-G’s success even more special, Olivia said.

“It’s really important for us to maintain a strong relationship because we are close and being teammates and playing on the same team has definitely brought us closer,” Olivia Jakubicek said. “I think she understands that anything I say to her, anything I’m doing, I’m just trying to encourage her. I think that she handles it very well.”

Three years ago, playing together at Cary-Grove was a pipe dream filled with what ifs. Abby Jakubicek’s basketball journey, though to this point has not yet achieved the same level of success as her sisters, has been remarkable in its own right. Through hard work and inspiration from Claire and Olivia, Abby made C-G’s varsity team this season despite taking a three-year break from the game six years ago.

“Seeing them (Claire and Olivia) succeeding so much it made me feel like it would be so cool if all three of us were playing,” Abby Jakubicek said. “I just felt like I wanted to try it again and see how it was. Even if I wasn’t amazing at it, just do it for fun.”

Although Abby Jakubicek played basketball from third through fifth grade, she decided to step away from the court and opted not to play sixth through eighth grade with the support of her parents, Frank and Ellen, who wanted her to do whatever made her happy. Abby’s passion was renewed while watching her sisters, but that meant plenty of catching up when she elected to play her freshman year at C-G after missing three key development years to work on fundamentals.

“It took me a little bit longer than everyone else to reach the level that they’re at, but I worked hard,” Abby Jakubicek said. “I remember the first time I started playing basketball again, it took me a good two weeks to remember the footsteps to remember how to do a layup, and everyone was laughing at me. Once I was reminded of it, I started picking it up.”

Abby Jakubicek hopes another offseason of dedication will result in a bigger role next year after Olivia’s graduation and the departure of four other seniors, including three starters. Olivia and Abby’s daily battles at practice, pushing each other to be better, has only helped the Trojans, who are searching for their fourth consecutive FVC Valley title.

“A lot of times we get paired up in practice and whatever drills we’re doing, whether it’s one-on-one or defensive drills,” Olivia Jakubicek said. “A lot of times Saffert tries to pair us up for the extra challenge. We also go to the [YMCA] a lot to shoot around and try and get better.”