Saturday, April 20, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Jackson finally makes it official

Leader sports editor

Months after a press conference announcing her intention to play college basketball at the University of Arkansas, Jacksonville standout Jessica Jackson finally made it official Friday morning, signing her NCAA letter of intent with the Razorback women’s team.

Jackson never publicly wavered in her commitment to Arkansas, but questions began swirling when coaches from other schools began showing up at Jacksonville home games in mid-season. Oklahoma State was the first school that turned up in central Arkansas. Jackson finally admitted Friday that she did begin to think she’d held the press conference in November too hastily. She said the University of Texas and Texas A and M were the two schools she was seriously considering, especially A and M.

“As the season went on these other coaches were still calling and coming and I started to get to know them,” Jackson said. “I just started thinking I should’ve left my options open. I really started liking some of those coaches and those schools. Coach (Gary) Blair (A and M) coached at Arkansas when they went to the final four. He just won a national championship, and they were on me in ninth grade. I think they were the second one to offer me a scholarship.”

In her career, Jackson was named to the state tournament All-Tournament team three times, was a McDonald’s All-American finalist and made the Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Association All-American team.

Her high-school coach Katrina Mimms said she’s also been a phenomenal teammate.

“She’s been a big prospect since I first got her in ninth grade,” Mimms said. “But she’s always been a team player. She could’ve gone out and scored 30 every night if she’d wanted to, and if we needed her to do that, she did it. But she also knew she had a pretty good team around her and didn’t always have to do everything. Sometimes though, I think she was a little bit too unselfish.”

The four-time All-Conference, two-time All-State and 2013 state tournament MVP fell back on her original commitment because of proximity to family and a lifelong love of the Hogs.

“I really wanted to stay close to my dad so him and my family could see me play,” Jackson said. “I’ve always been a fan of Arkansas too. I want to be a part of getting Arkansas women’s basketball to where teams like Texas and Texas A and M are at.”