Nov. 12, 2002
Jacoby Aaron Atako was born May 6, 1982 in Inglewood, CA, the son of Harlan and Demetria Milton. Through most of his life Atako was raised by his mother, though she did have help from his loving grandmother. He remains extremely close to his family and thoroughly enjoys the family gatherings where he gets to enjoy his amazing grandmother's cooking. When not with his family, Atako can be found with a basketball. Atako first touched a basketball in the third grade and since then has never wanted to put it down. He carried it through his adolescence all the way to high school. Atako prepped at Santa Monica High where he averaged 17.2 points, 6.0 assists, 5.0 steals and 3.0 rebounds per game as a senior. He was a McDonald's All-America nominee and was named to the Orange County Register's Fab 15 Third Team, recognizing him as one of the top 45 players in the west. Now, Atako is poised to lead Santa Barbara back to the NCAA Tournament.
This 2002-03 season Atako will have a huge impact on Gaucho success. He is the team's quarterback, and if the second-half of last season is any indication, he will be up to the task. His improvement in virtually all facets of the game was a major reason for UCSB's late-season run to the Big West Championship. Atako improved on the offensive end, both as a shooter and as a decision-maker, and on the defensive end, shutting down the top guards in the conference during the Big West Championship. If Atako can make similar improvement as a junior, he will become one of the top point guards in the Big West.
Entering his junior season, Atako has started each of the last 51 games at point guard for the Gauchos. As last season evolved, he became an Ironman of sorts for Santa Barbara. His 887 minutes ranked him third on the team, but the total was a 234-minute jump over his freshman campaign. In addition, his minutes increased as the season wore on, and he was up for the challenge, getting better and better towards the end. While Atako played 30 minutes or more 15 times last season, 11 of those instances came in the season's final 16 games. In fact, Jacoby played 102 minutes in a three-day span at the Big West Tournament, an average of 34.0 minutes per game.
If Atako's statistics represented major stock indexes, many of us would have made a profit last year. Atako improved in almost every statistical and intangible category over his freshman season. He averaged more points (4.7 to 5.4), more assists (2.9 to 4.1), more steals (0.7 to 1.1) and more minutes played (23.3 to 28.6). Atako also shot the ball better from the field (31.9% to 38.7%) and better from three-point territory (22.2% to 34.8%). He made 24 three-pointers as compared to the nine he made in his freshman season. In addition, despite playing 234 more minutes than the previous season, Atako had four fewer turnovers. Above and beyond statistics, Atako improved as a floor general and as a defender for the Gauchos. His efforts on the defensive end of the court in three Big West Tournament wins were vital. Assigned with the task of guarding UC Irvine's Jerry Green in the Big West Tournament semifinal, Atako played 36 minutes and responded with one of his best defensive efforts, helping the team to a 66-61 victory.
While all of Atako's statistics improved between his freshman and sophomore seasons, none improved as significantly as his ratio of assists to turnovers. In his freshman season, Atako's assist to turnover ratio wasn't bad as he finished with 83 assists and 65 turnovers, a 1.3-to-1.0 ratio. Last year, after some early struggles, he came on strong in the second half to finish with 126 turnovers and just 61 assists, a ratio of 2.1-to-1.0. Over the final 16 games of the 2001-02 season, Atako had 70 assists and just 23 turnovers, a 3.04-to-1.00 ratio. Finally, over the final eight games, including three at the Big West Tournament and one in the NCAA Tournament, he had 36 assists and just eight turnovers in 233 minutes, a ratio of 4.5-to-1.0 and an average of just one turnover for ever 29.1 minutes of play.
With Jacoby Atako improving in every facet of his game he is prepared to guide the Gauchos through the Big West and back to the NCAA Tournament.