After finishing out his senior season at Marian (IN) High, point guard Demetrius Jackson brought the house down with his winning performance at McDonald’s High School All American Skills Competition. Jackson also showed out in the annual all-star game, displaying a tight handle and superior court vision. Check out the feature below, which ran in the Punks section of SLAM 167, and check out Jackson at the 2013 Nike Hoops Summit on April 20 as he leads the charge against the World Select Team.—Ed.
Not many people know the name Demetrius Jackson. And don’t fret if he’s escaped your psyche until now. The high-flying point guard from Mishawaka, IN, somehow managed to remain unknown until his junior year. Now, he’s emerged from relative anonymity to become the top ranked high school recruit in the state, and the No. 4 point guard in the nation.
This rise wasn’t the result of any plan to give Jackson more notoriety. He wasn’t coaxed into joining an upper-echelon AAU squad—giving him national exposure—just so that he could land a scholarship with a top-flight school. Instead, Jackson’s climb into the spotlight has been a result of loyalty, leadership, and incessant hard work.
At Marian High, the 6-1 floor general transformed his team into a title contender, one high-flying dunk at a time. Before Jackson arrived at Marian, the Knights had grown accustomed to years of losing, unable to post a winning record in 10 years. Something that Jackson was well aware of when deciding which school to attend.
“My high school never really had any star basketball players. The year before I got here, they won four games. My freshman year, we won 8,” said Jackson, acknowledging that he was building something out of nothing.
When Marian High coach Robb Berger first saw Jackson as a freshman, he noticed that Jackson was a decent ball player who looked like he could have a bright high school career ahead of him. Then, during Jackson’s sophomore year, Berger noticed that his work ethic in practice was really starting to pay off. Jackson quickly transformed into a formidable presence on the floor. At that point, he knew Jackson was going to be a bit different than the other players he was coaching.
Jackson admits that it was during his sophomore year that he finally realized he was playing at a level light years ahead of his peers. He had finally emerged. The Knights went 16-6, doubling their win-total from only a season ago. College scouts began showing up regularly at games to watch the action, and life for the Mishawaka native was about to change.
“My sophomore year, the schools started coming around, I started elevating my game more,” said Jackson. “Things changed in a lot of ways, [the notoriety] put a target on my back going against some of the local teams that I played, and it provided a little extra motivation knowing that maybe some day I could play basketball at the next level.”
Through the last two seasons, Jackson has averaged 24.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game, leading Marian High to a 38-10 record. Coach Berger described Jackson’s progression and cited that he’s a true student of the game.
“His sophomore year, teams would give him a step or two, and try to make him beat them from the outside,” said Berger. “Now, he can knock down shots from 20 to 25 feet. And then if they try to get up and guard him, he blows by and dunks on them. It was athleticism at the beginning, but through his hard work, his overall game has taken it to a level this area hasn’t seen before.”
Several seniors graduated from the team this past year, leaving a void in the driver’s seat. Jackson admitted picking up the load has tested his limits. But by averaging career-highs in points (28.0), rebounds (6.0), and assists (4.3) per game, he’s shown that the added responsibility doesn’t faze him.
“Being a point guard, you need to be a leader, and you need to be almost a coach on the floor,” said Jackson. “Especially this year. We’re young. It’s been a good challenge for me. Last year, we would talk here and there, but everyone knew what to do. Now, there’s a bigger need for me to be a better leader and a positive role model for these younger guys.”
Scouts have pegged Jackson as the best prospect to come out of the South Bend area in 30 years. As for his impact on Marian, Coach Berger confirmed as much, “He’s propelled this program to heights we never thought possible.”
With Marian High only a 13-minute drive away from the Notre Dame campus, head basketball coach Mike Brey had the opportunity to begin recruiting Jackson before anyone else knew his name.
“My assistant, Anthony Solomon, got me over to watch Demetrius play when he was a ninth-grader playing on varsity,” said Brey. “It’s exciting for us because we have not had a kid in town since the mid-80’s that has been able to play for us. It was neat to have a local guy who was going to be a top-level recruit.”
After hearing from schools like Michigan State, Kansas, Butler, and Indiana, Jackson committed to Notre Dame to play for the Fighting Irish, just a short drive from Mishawaka. For Jackson, the decision was very similar to when he chose to attend Marian High. The highly intellectual guard explained, “Notre Dame allows me to pursue excellence both academically and athletically.”
What really set Notre Dame apart from the other schools?
Jackson knew it would be a challenge.
“I know it’s not going to be easy,” said Jackson. “Notre Dame, you can watch them on TV. They challenge themselves everyday to be better, and they challenge themselves to work hard in the classroom.”
This season, Notre Dame is ranked in the Top 25 of the AP and USA Today Coaches Poll. With a record of 22-6, they’re poised to enter the NCAA Tournament as a top-tier competitor. They’re also ranked No. 2 in the Association in assists (17.7) per game. As the Fighting Irish will have five seniors to replace when the season is over, Jackson will again have his work cut out for him.
In his assessment of Jackson, Brey compared him to Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose. “[Jackson] plays above the rim, and with his speed and quickness he can really pressure the ball and get turnovers,” said Brey enthusiastically. “We haven’t had a guard this athletic in our program’s history.”
Looking forward, Jackson intends on graduating with a degree and bringing his competitive spirit with him to South Bend. “I chose Notre Dame to compete and win games,” said Jackson. “I just want to make a name for myself.”