Friday, April 04, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Jackson fine with new coach

Leader sports editor

Some controversy has surrounded University of Arkansas’ hiring of Jimmy Dykes as its new head coach of women’s basketball, but former Jacksonville Lady Red Devil Jessica Jackson plans to stay in Fayetteville and see how things play out. Dykes has been an ESPN men’s basketball analyst since 1995. He hasn’t coached since 1991, he’s never been a head coach and he’s never coached women at all.

Beth Bass, CEO of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association called the hire “disappointing to the multitude of more-than-qualified coaches”, and characterized the reasons for the hire as being because of Dykes’ “celebrity, ties to the university and to the Fayetteville community…”.

Jackson, a 6-foot-3 forward, has long proclaimed desire since childhood to be a Razorback, committed early as one of the most sought-after recruits in the nation and now remains committed to Arkansas. But she does admit to giving some thought to transferring.

“To tell you the truth, I did not know who Mr. Dykes was, so I didn’t know what to think about it,” said Jackson. “When I got to meet him and talk to him, it went well. He had nice things to say. I wanted to see what his coaching style is, what kind of role I would play. That might have made a difference, but it would’ve been hard to leave Arkansas. I love it here so I probably wouldn’t have transferred.”

Jackson just completed her freshman season and made an immediate impact, quickly making a name for herself as one of the premier players in the Southeastern Conference. She was a three-time SEC Freshman of the Week, was named All-SEC second team, was the league’s seventh-leading scorer at 16.2 points per game, sixth-leading shot blocker, was fourth best in free-throw percentage at 80.3 percent, had five double-doubles and was the team’s leading rebounder and scorer.

She was saddened when she heard the news that former coach Tom Collen had been fired, and became apprehensive when someone she’d never heard of had been hired to take his place.

“I was very sad because I’ve known coach Collen since ninth grade,” Jackson said. “I trusted him and you think you’re going to have four years with someone, and then you don’t. It was hard.

“Mr. Dykes is different though and I like it so far. His energy is sky high. That’s definitely different. And I think if you can coach, it doesn’t really matter about your background. He knows a lot about basketball and you can tell that already from just the three practices that we’ve had. He’s like a basketball expert. We haven’t really started on any new stuff yet so I’m still not sure what his style is going to be, but it’s been good so far.”