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Sierra Vista standout Jackson finds room for improvement

Jeanette Jackson can’t help but laugh a little when she thinks back to three years ago.

Sierra Vista’s point guard since her freshman season, Jackson already had plenty of game.

She has improved by light years since.

“I can shoot now. My foot speed is better,” Jackson said. “My defense has improved a lot, my work ethic has gotten a lot better, my court vision, getting my teammates involved.”

With all of those improvements, it’s scary to think how good the second-team Class 4A all-state guard could be this season.

Jackson, who averaged 19.9 points, 5.8 steals and 4.7 assists per game last year, is back to lead the Mountain Lions for a fourth straight season. She’s one of three returning starters on a team that went 20-9 last season.

“She stepped in and immediately made us better,” Sierra Vista coach Lindsay Whalen said of Jackson’s arrival three years ago. “She’s gotten a little bit stronger and has more court awareness and more knowledge of the game.”

Only 5 feet 4 inches tall, Jackson has been a thorn in opposing teams’ sides, helping the Mountain Lions to 54 wins in three seasons.

Despite putting up solid to fantastic numbers year after year, Jackson hasn’t gotten the attention she has deserved, largely because of an opposing Southwest League team always having another fantastic, older guard.

Two years ago it was Durango’s Mia Bell, and each of the last two years it was Bishop Gorman’s Aaryn Ellenberg. Jackson, meanwhile, was something of an afterthought.

“It doesn’t really affect me,” Jackson said. “I looked up to those girls and played AAU ball with them. This year, I’m looking to be that leader.”

She leads her teammates by example on and off the floor and has a knack that point guards work hard to master – knowing when to shoot and when to set up a teammate to score.

“I enjoy getting my teammates involved, but if I need to score, I don’t have trouble doing that,” Jackson said. “I do have to be more of a leader this year. We have a lot of girls on our team that I’m trying to help prepare for this year and so they can get more knowledge of the game for next year.”

Jackson, classmate Marley Wakeen and junior guard A’Yanna Johnson are the Mountain Lions’ returning starters, and all three are guards. Sierra Vista has inexperienced post players, and helping them improve and gain confidence is partially Jackson’s responsibility.

“She makes the younger girls a lot better,” Whalen said. “She realizes that the more she gets other people involved, the more opportunities she’s going to have, too. The sooner we get them involved, the better off we’re going to be in the long run.”

Jackson is still fielding offers from colleges. She said Northern Arizona, Dixie State, Prairie View and Texas-Pan American are showing the most interest, and she would like to major in business management with the goal of eventually starting her own AAU team.

Before that, though, she hopes to lead the Mountain Lions back to the Sunset Region playoffs.

“I feel like as a team we should get that opportunity again,” she said. “We have young kids, so we’ll see. We just need to build chemistry. I really like our work ethic this year. Our defense should be where we win games.”

Contact reporter Bartt Davis at bdavis@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5230.

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