BREESE — After four years of watching Central High guard Jacob Timmermann shut down their top scorers, the rest of the Cahokia Conference just may throw him a going-away party.
"We certainly won't be sad to see him graduate," Carlyle coach Andy Palmer said. "When you prepare for them that's the first person you talk about. He just plays with so much confidence in himself."
A four-year starter who helped lead the Cougars to the Class 2A state championship as a sophomore, Timmermann is that rare player who enjoys playing defense as much or more than playing offense.
He's averaging 14.5 points this season, after averaging 10.2 last season, as Central (20-8) prepares for the playoffs as the No. 2 seed at the Class 2A Mater Dei Regional.
Since his freshman year, his assignment has been shutting down the opposing team's best player -- and Timmermann rarely fails to do his job.
"That's the reason I think I started as a freshman because I showed (former) Coach (Stan) Eagleson that I could play defense," said Timmermann, who estimated he has guarded at least 12 all-state players during his career. "Coach Eagleson would just put me on them and say if you shut them down, we're going to win the game."
A simple, but effective formula. And one that will be missed when Timmermann's Cougar career comes to an end.
While Timmermann ranks as Central's seventh all-time leading scorer with 1,253 points, his value turns up in so many more areas than the scorebook.
There's his speed and aggression on defense, his ability to run the show from the point guard spot and get to the rim whenever he wants, and his ever-present threat of using defense to create offense.
Counting the points he helps take away at the defensive end, Timmermann might as well be averaging 25 points a night.
"You can't replace what he's done for this school and this program for four years," Central coach Jeremy Shubert said. "I have not seen somebody in a long time that can guard like he can. That's what Jacob's left as a legacy for Central --being able to shut people down.
"Every coach in the conference has told me they're going to be happy when Jacob leaves."
Former Central guard Austin Rickhoff, now playing football at Lindenwood-Belleville, recalled watching Timmermann impress the coaching staff during the summer before his freshman year.
"His point guard play shocked a lot of people, it was something a lot of us had never seen before," Rickhoff said. "He could get to the hole whenever he wanted. Nobody can guard Jacob one-on-one. It's impossible."
Former Central all-stater Brandon Book, now playing for Southwestern Illinois College, saw something special early on in his fellow Albers resident.
"He had a lot of talent ahead of him that made him want to work hard to be one of the better players," Book said. "He was a big factor of why we did so well in the postseason and won the state championship."
Career comes full circle
Timmermann has gone from a freshman trying to fit in with much older players to assuming the leadership role he learned from others. He credited players like Nick Grapperhaus, Rickhoff and Book for showing him the way, just as he has tried to do this season for a young Central lineup.
"I'm trying to teach them that it's not OK to lose," Timmermann said. "Freshman year, Nick Grapperhaus was always after everyone. He never wanted to lose and was all up in your face, so I just wanted to be like that and shut people down and win games.
"That's what he did and I learned from him."
Shubert commended Timmermann's ability to inspire his team.
"He hasn't really had to be the leader other than this year with all those upperclassmen he had ahead of him, but he's led by example," Shubert said. "He's been our hardest worker in practice and that's what you expect out of your seniors."
Blessed with confidence
Eagleson retired from coaching after last season, but contemplated sticking around another year because of his close relationship with Timmermann.
The pair still talk after nearly every game.
"We knew right away in the summer before his freshman year that he was pretty special," Eagleson said. "It always started with the defense. We had three good defensive guards, but you always knew Jacob was going to take somebody from the other team out of the game."
Timmermann's older brother, Alex Timmermann, played basketball and Jacob grew up being part of and playing against an older crowd.
"Jacob grew up playing with older kids," Eagleson said. "He wasn't intimidated, the stage definitely wasn't too big for him. I really think he expected to play as a freshman."
Timmermann never left the lineup again. He never forgot the way Eagleson welcomed him to the varsity despite his lack of experience.
"He gave me all the confidence in the world when I was a freshman," Timmermann said. "He gave me a lot of freedom. He got on me and got on everybody, but he gave me a little edge there and it paid off sometimes."
Timmermann's confidence never wavered. Whether he was playing in sold-out gyms against arch-rival Mater Dei, in the playoffs or even under the intense emotional and physical strain of a state championship game, he brought the same energy and split-second decision making.
When the game was on the line, the Cougars would typically look to Timmermann to make something happen.
"It seems like he's always involved in the big play: a big steal, big rebound, causing a turnover," Palmer said. "Early on he knew his role and learned it an accepted, it learned from those other guys.
"When the game's on the line, you know he's going to make the right decision and make the right play."
Timmermann said nothing he has done will top the feeling of winning a state championship. The feeling has never really left him, even two years later.
"That was an experience I'll never forget," he said. "For the next month you just had people coming up to you and congratulating you. It had never been done before at Central and not around here in Clinton County for a long time, so it was fun to bring back that state title."