Defensive Specialist Josh Jackson Perseveres Through Loss
June 3, 2013 • Colorado Springs, Colo.
February 16, 2013.
Josh Jackson still remembers the day.
He won’t ever forget it.
That day, his high school, Consortium College Prep (Mich.), earned a 37-point win over Dayton Dunbar High (Ohio) and Jackson’s stat line at the end of the night read 30 points, eight rebounds and seven blocks.
“I’d say that was probably the best game we ever played as a team,” Jackson said reflecting back. “Everybody was involved, everybody was scoring, blocking shots, playing defense.”
Yet the joys of that victory were short-lived as an hour following the win, Jackson received an unexpected phone call informing him that his head coach, Al Anderson, was in the hospital. The news didn’t seem real.
“I made my way up to the hospital and found out he was deceased,” Jackson recalled.
Anderson, 40, had passed away from heart complications and Consortium would have to continue through the rest of its season without its main leader. The team still somehow managed to win a regional championship and advanced to the Michigan Class C quarterfinals, but everything was different. Things weren’t the same because Anderson wasn’t just considered a successful basketball coach; he was also a teacher and a mentor.
“He was like a father to me,” Jackson said. “He taught me how to become a man, handle my business and to always be responsible and have good character. Just doing the right thing when nobody is looking. He taught me a lot of stuff off the court.”
Since Anderson’s tragic death, Jackson has worked on and improved his shot and added strength to his 6’7” 190-pound frame. He’s currently in Colorado Springs, Colo., competing for a spot on the USA Basketball Men’s U16 National Team and Sunday he was announced as one of 16 finalists for the final 12-man roster. If he goes on to earn a spot on the team, the coaches have already hinted that his primary role will be on the defensive end of the court. While he plays defense at Consortium and for The Family, his AAU squad, he’s known more on those teams for his scoring and facilitating.
“Most kids’ problem with defense is nobody likes to play defense,” Jackson said. “Me, I actually like it. You can’t be good at something and not like it. I take more pride in somebody not showing me up, then scoring 40 points on somebody else.”
Interestingly, one of Jackson’s main passions off the court is chess. His father, Clarence Jones, taught him how to play when he was in second grade and Jackson hasn’t stopped playing since.
“Every day I came home from school, I wanted to play my dad,” Jackson said, “and then I was going to school and always trying to play chess. I got other kids interested in it, and my school actually decided to have a chess team.”
Even though he admits he’s never defeated his father in chess, he does see similarities between the strategy board game and basketball.
“Basketball is a thinking game and so is chess,” he said. “Whoever is the smarter person is more than likely going to win.”
Through all the triumph and adversity he’s faced thus far in 2013, Jackson now aims to wear a jersey with the letters U-S-A displaying across his chest.
“Any role that I get to play on this team is an honor for me and a once in a lifetime chance,” he said.
If he makes the team, he will get the opportunity to play for USA U16 and Iowa City High School (Iowa) head coach Don Showalter, a coach that shares a lot of the same beliefs that the late Anderson did.
“He’s taught us to never give up on our dreams and to always work hard,” Jackson said of Showalter. “No matter if it’s basketball, or something else like being a police officer, always work hard at what you do, and try to be the best.”
This is Jackson’s second trip to Colorado Springs, and when he first visited in October 2012, he returned to Southfield, Michigan, and presented Anderson with a picture of the group that attended the USA Developmental National Team mini-camp. Anderson placed the picture right above the chair inside his office and the photo remains in the exact same spot today.
“When I got invited back here, I just was thinking about him and how proud he would be of me,” Jackson said. “When I’m here, I’m just remembering small stuff that he told me. Every night I pray to him and try to do my best for him.”
Although Coach Anderson isn't there this time for the 16-year old to deliver a team picture to, Anderson’s life lessons have continued to guide Jackson.