Twitter and Instagram: @_J3ff2
With another Christmas having come and gone, basketball audiences in the Richmond, VA area can now expect several holiday varsity high school tournaments to start taking place during the incoming days. Six tournaments have been scheduled in the 804:
- ‘Henrico Holiday Hoops Tournament’ (Henrico High School)
- ‘The Southerner Classic’ (Lee-Davis High School)
- ‘Benedictine Capital City Classic’ (Benedictine High School)
- ‘Douglas Freeman Holiday Bash’ (Douglas Freeman High School)
- ‘Tri-City Holiday Classic’ (Petersburg High School)
- ‘Lady Knights Classic’ (Thomas Dale High School)
Five out of the six will begin tournament play on Thursday (12/27); the hosted Henrico one starts up today (12/26). Down in Petersburg, the Royals of Prince George High School make up one of eight teams arriving for participation. Head coach Travis Carr’s group has gotten off to a good start in the first 1/3 of their season, with a 5-2 record. I’m sure the team sees this tournament as one that can potentially come with several benefits: gather some hardware, make their name even more known, and finish off 2018 strong. Before things get going tomorrow, I had a chance to catch up with the Royals’ biggest interior presence, Jeff Jackson ’19.
I remember Jackson had made my six-player standout list when I first saw him and Prince George competing in Christopher Newport University’s ‘Fall Team Camp’ back in September. The 6’7” forward caught my eye in his hustle on the defensive end, whether it involved going after loose balls or making sure he contested every possible shot. However, I’d have to say Jackson’s rebounding stands out as his best skill. He has strong hands and excellent timing to go after offensive put backs/tip-ins at pretty much any point when he puts his mind to it. His motor looked excellent when I saw him both at the fall team camp and again when I stopped by a Prince George workout during my ‘open gym tour.’ Most of his scoring comes from his efforts on the glass, but he can also patiently take his time in the paint to make quick/strong moves for finishes through defenders. A combination of him and 6’5” Patrick Gee ’19 results in an impactful front court presence for the Royals.
In his own words regarding the first portion of this season, Jackson acknowledges the team has found some moments of satisfaction but still has a bit of a way to go before reaching their fullest potential.
“I’d say, right now, we’re still learning how to play as a team; still building on some things, chemistry-wise,” Jackson detailed. “But, it’s going pretty good, all-together. We’re 5-2 at the moment and looking to get more wins as the season goes on.”
As one of the veterans, the two-year varsity letterman also has noted his role taking a big leap compared to a year ago. During his junior campaign last season, Jackson took more of a backseat when the team had a starting lineup of five seniors. One of the five included 6’10” big man Christian Chappell ‘18, a 2018 All-Metro third team selection.
“Yeah, my role has definitely changed a lot when looking at things. Last year, I wasn’t playing as much; I came off the bench to give some minutes. But this year I’m starting and producing more numbers. Rebounding-wise, I think I’m averaging about 8-9 a game. That, and around at least seven points. So, in the two years, I feel I’ve grown a lot in my ways to score and rebound on the court.”
In my few interactions around the team, I’ve gained a sense that Coach Carr has a strong connection with all of his guys. They seem to enjoy playing for him and see him as a mentor that goes beyond that of just basketball. Jackson would concur with that notion.
“It’s definitely been more of a bonding experience with him leading the team. Not all coaches may go out of their way to spend time with players or get to know you on a personal level like he does. He’s a great coach that knows what he’s talking about. It’s just important that all of us (on the team) buy into what he’s saying so we can get to our goal of a state championship.”
Regarding the team’s next challenge in the upcoming ‘Tri-City Classic,’ Jackson realizes how the Royals will need to make more of a bounce back after their appearance in the same tournament last December left them discontent.
“I remember we played in that same tournament last season but it was held at Hopewell High School. We didn’t do as great… lost in the first round against Huguenot High School. But I think everybody learned from that and we’re better prepared this time. We’ve been practicing hard each day during this winter break and also taking some time to gel. For example, we all went bowling the other day after practice. We’re just trying to build up that bonding/team chemistry more and more; both on and off the court. I definitely feel we’re going to be alright.”
Experience is always the best teacher. I expect Prince George will have some answers for opposing teams this time around in the tournament. As this year of 2018 starts to close, the senior has a few specific areas of focus he’d like to see both the team and himself improve on in 2019.
“Hmm… I think talking on the floor more can get better for all of us. Shooting percentages need to go up too. Those are the main two things. For me, personally, I want to become more of a threat on offense. Right now, I’m seen more as a defensive guy that rebounds and makes other players work for points. I’ve been really trying to work more on getting my post/ midrange game down so it can help the team more offensively. Just becoming more versatile, really.”
When putting into perspective his own future after high school, Jackson, like most other seniors, remains undecided and still considering options. Currently, it appears as if his future could potentially go in one of two different directions.
“Right now, I have about three schools that have shown basketball interest, Honestly, I wasn’t really looking to play in college last year. I had in mind of going to the military. But, if playing college basketball becomes available, I plan on taking that route.”
Senior year of high school, and all the decisions that come with it, can get stressful… I’ve been there not too long ago. Nevertheless, it’s good to hear that the rest of Jackson’s final semesters, outside of the entire basketball aspect, as a Royal have come without any issues thus far.
“School’s been going pretty good, pretty smooth. I’ve already taken all of my hard classes so I just need to finish a couple more to graduate.”
When he’s not in the gym, one can find Jackson directing his focus to another specific hobby.
“I’m also a musician. So, I like to make beats and go out to have jam sessions with my friends.”
Having the ability/creativity to make music is tough! Something I wish I had the skills to do… I’ve always respected artists within different genres. Obviously, basketball doesn’t serve as Jackson’s sole talent; the big fella has a good ambition in his persona that should aid in him finding success throughout the rest of his senior year and life after high school. I look forward to seeing what’s in store.
So, he can hoop and produce music, but where does Jeff Jackson see himself in ten years?
“In ten years, I see myself having a family and being an officer in the Marine Corps. My MOS will center on aviation/engineering.”
Catch Jeff and his Royals in some tournament hoops action this week at Petersburg High School; December 27-29!