Pierre Jackson couldn’t have imagined a better outcome to the junior college national tournament, but it looks like the fun is only beginning.
Division I basketball recruiters are lining up to show interest in the Desert Pines High School product after he carried College of Southern Idaho to the NJCAA championship last week.
Jackson, a 5-foot-10-inch sophomore point guard, was voted tournament Most Valuable Player after the Golden Eagles’ 72-64 victory over Midland (Texas) College in the championship game Saturday at Hutchinson, Kan. He hit a key 3-pointer late in Southern Idaho’s victory.
In a week, Jackson went from being a largely unheralded juco player to a target of several top college programs.
“I feel very blessed,” said Jackson, who is home in Las Vegas this week. “Sometimes things happen for a reason. But I always had faith in myself, and I never stopped working. Now all that hard work seems to be paying off.”
Few schools were recruiting Jackson before last week. When he was at Desert Pines, only Long Beach State and San Diego actively recruited him, but he failed to qualify academically for Division I.
On Friday, Southern Idaho coach Steve Gosar rattled off a list of schools that are suddenly interested in Jackson.
“South Florida, Creighton, Baylor, Iowa, Nebraska, Hawaii, Boise State … I believe the Rebels,” he said, referring to UNLV. “I might’ve missed a couple.
“He wasn’t getting a whole lot of recruitment before Christmas. But his play the last month or two, and especially last week at Hutch, changed all of that. His recruitment has really blown up.”
What changed was mostly Jackson’s game. He arrived at Southern Idaho with a reputation as a shooter, but he suffered a broken right elbow in a preseason fall in 2009, forcing him to improve his passing and become a better distributor.
After missing several months, Jackson regained his shooting range but did not abandon the unselfish facets of his game during his sophomore season. He averaged a team-leading 18.6 points and 3.9 assists while sparking Southern Idaho (33-4) to a third national title.
“(The injury) was a blessing and a curse,” Gosar said. “The curse was he was out of action. The blessing was he became a complete basketball player that a lot of D-I schools would like to have play for them.”
Jackson said he’s not going to rush into a decision on a Division I school.
“There’s a lot of factors,” he said. “The school itself. The style of play. The coach. Playing time. Ultimately, I’d like to go somewhere where I can play right away and make a difference. I think my game translates well to D-I.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or at 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.