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March 02, 1992 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 1992-03-02

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Page 4-The Michigan Daily- Sports Monday- March 2, 1992
Ray Jackson is happy away from spotlight

JACKSON
Continued from page 4
attributes much of his running and
jumping ability to his track days,
when he was a 22-foot long jumper
and a 48-second quarter miler.
But basketball was where he
excelled. He was dunking at the end
of junior high, and, like all kids,
vividly remembers his first triumph.
Jackson used to play ball before
school as a 5'10" eighth grader. One
morning, "we were just playing, and
I got a break and I just went up -
And I was in pants at the time, so I
didn't expect to do it - and I went
up, and it was like, 'Damn!' and
everybody was like, 'Yeah, yeah."'
It would be the first of many
successes on the hardwood for
Jackson.
U..
Lyndon Baines Johnson High is
one of 10 high schools in Austin.
The city does not have open
enrollment, but much like Detroit,
has magnet schools which students
may attend if enrolled in a particular
program. LBJ is one of those
schools, with a science academy that
draws kids from around the city.
Ray Jackson arrived at this
school of 1,300 students in the fall of
1987. The basketball team played in
Class SA, the largest division in
Texas, against squads that draw from
enrollments of five thousand or
more. LBJ is moving to 4A next
season, but coach Mike McShane
says it should have been in the
smaller class all along.
Jackson initially played on the
freshman team his first year, but
because members of the varsity
became ineligible, he was moved up
less than halfway through the season
- still the only frosh to play varsity
in McShane's eight seasons. At 6'2",
he was put in the post against much
bigger individuals.
In one of his first games with the
big boys, LBJ played Austin High,
the best team in the district. Jackson
matched up with 6'7" Scott
Ruffcom, a senior who would go on
to Baylor and become the first round
selection (25th overall) of the
Chicago White Sox in the 1991 June
baseball draft.
Jackson recalled that although he
had a slight injury, Ruffcom didn't
let up. "This kid just used Ray," says
McShane, who has known Jackson
since the latter was a third grader.
"Of course, Ray was only 13 years
old."
"My leg was hurt, and he kept
playing me," Jackson says. "And
this dude was pretty good, so I was
like, 'All right.' Next time we
played, I just went right at him."
The two teams met again the last
game of the year, and Jackson did
just what he said he would do.
McShane remembers his 18 points,
13 rebounds and four blocks - a
boy against an NCAA Division I
prospect.
Jackson remained a post player
his sophomore year, finishing the
season with averages of 16 points
and eight rebounds a game as LBJ
completed a 28-4 campaign. He
moved out on the wing beginning his
junior season and exploded, leading
LBJ to its best season yet. Jackson
averaged 23.5 points, 12 rebounds
and three blocks a game as the

Jaguars finished at 32-5, losing in
-the state semifinals to eventual
champion Dallas Kimball, 61-52.
That game is still on the minds of
many Texans. McShane says it was
thought of as the final because it
pitted what was considered the two
best teams in the state against one
another. Kimball junior Jayson

Walton, rated one of the top 25
seniors in the country a year later
and now a fellow Big Ten rookie at
Minnesota, squared off against
Jackson.
"I knew they had a good ballclub,
and he was the catalyst of the team,"
Walton says. "By far he was the best
player on the team, and probably one
of the better players to come out-of
the Austin area. It was a clash
between a couple of the top players
in the state.
"From the scouting report when
we were going to play those guys, if
we stopped him, we would win the
ballgame. So that says a lot for him
... what kind of athlete he is, what
kind of player he is."
Although Jackson had a solid 18-
point, 10-rebound type game, the
loss was hard to take.
"I think we just took them a little
lightly," he says. "They came out on
us, and it was hard to come back on
a good team. It was a close game
until the end of the fourth quarter.
We started giving up, I guess."
The Jaguars stormed through the
competition again Jackson's senior
year, streaking to 28 consecutive
victories en route to a 31-2 record.
But the year, and the streak, ended
with a two-point loss in the area
championship to a club that LBJ
defeated earlier in the season.
Jackson again had a stellar

U..
Former Michigan coach Bill
Frieder calls Texas "a big untapped
resource" of basketball talent. There
has always been an abundance of
very good basketball players -
Clyde Drexler and Spud Webb, to
name a couple - but the amount of
talent coming out of the state
recently has been amazing. Larry
Johnson, LaBradford Smith and
Shaquille O'Neal are part of the new
breed of Texas athlete.
"Every good Division I ballclub
has a Texas player on their roster,"
Walton says. "So that goes to show
you that Texas is steadily rising as
far as basketball is concerned."
Unfortunately for prospective
hoopsters, Texas has and always will
be a football state. And although
basketball is growing in popularity,
the fact remains that it still plays
second fiddle to the pigskin.
Oh, the Texas college basketball
crowds are comparable in size to
other parts of the country. But
football will forever, it sometimes
seems, be No. 1 with fans and the
media.
For that reason, much of the
local high school talent looks
elsewhere when it comes time for
college. Of the five players
mentioned above, only Drexler
stayed in state, to play for Houston.
Southwest Conference basketball
does not get the recognition it needs
to draw the talent necessary to
increase its competitiveness, thereby
attracting more top players. When
kids look for a college, they look for
two things: exposure and
competition. And none of the Texas
schools adequately fit the bill.
"I think the conference is gonna
have to change," McShane says.
"Seniors who are really good think
exposure, NBA. Now we know only
one, two percent make it, but the
schools back east show the TV
contracts, the arenas, the exposure.
Those things turn a kid's head.
"I think in a few years the
Southwest Conference will be a
small church league. (Texas) A&M,
Texas, Houston will align
themselves with another conference,
and the TV package will come."
The in-state coaches themselves
are another problem. They
seemingly don't recruit Texas
natives as hard as out-of-state
coaches do, for whatever reason.
Some assume the kids will stay;
other coaches think the kids are
definitely leaving; still more feel
there are other players that they have
a better chance at landing.
Jackson knew all this, but he
didn't have any worries. He already
had an idea where he was headed for
college. As early as the 10th grade,
Jackson had told McShane that he
wasn't going to stay home and play
for Texas - he just wanted to get
away from home.
The recruiters began to come
hard the summer between his junior
and senior seasons. But as he
listened to their overtures, there was
one school always on his mind.
Although he downplays how
strongly he felt about it, his parents
say it is a dream come true for him
to be there now.
That place, of course, is the
University of Michigan.
U..
His family and coach say Jackson
has always been a Michigan fan. No
one is sure when it started, and there

are many theories as to why. But one
thing that is certain is that he has
been a Wolverine at heart for a long
time.
The explanation Jackson gives is
that he was a Michigan football fan.
Not so much of the team, but - like
many youngsters across the country
- of the helmets.
So Jackson began to watch
whenever the Wolverines were on
TV. He fell in love with the team,
and had his heart set on coming here,

his parents say.
Not quite so, says Jackson. "It
was a school that I wanted to look
into, but I didn't know anything
about it to want to go there."
At any rate, his parents began to
look at the school. One of Ray Sr.'s
fellow coaches at LBJ was a lady by
the name of Diane Wiley. Wiley,
conveniently, payed on the
women's team at Michigan from
1981-85. When Jackson was a
sophomore, Ray Sr. asked Wiley
whether she knew anybody involved
with the Michigan men's team. She
did, but her acquaintances were
affiliated with the Bill Frieder era,
which was about to come to an end.
It was a start, though, and
throughout the recruiting process,
his parents kept Michigan in the
back of their minds.
"A lot of people said he had
wanted Michigan because they had
won a national championship," Ray
Sr. says. "But Ray was in love with
Michigan before.... I don't know
where that came from, but he's
always been in love with it."
Fisher, fresh off his NCAA
triumph, first saw Jackson play in a
shootout in Houston that summer
before his senior year. "We just said,
'Boy, oh, boy! He's really good,"'
Fisher recalls. And Michigan's
recruitment of Jackson began.
Gladys remembers the Michigan
coaching staff's home visit with her
son. Fisher and then-assistant Mike
Boyd showed up an hour earlier than
expected. They saiu they could come
back, but Gladys wouldn't let them:
"I said, 'No! Ray would be too upset
if that happened. This is the visit
he's looked forward to the most."'
Jackson says all his home visits
went well. But there had to be
something special about this one,
and about Jackson's trip to Ann
Arbor. Because that November,
during the early signing period,
Jackson said no to Georgetown and
Arkansas and became the third
recruit in Fisher's class-to-end-all
classes.
U..
By the time Ray Jackson got to
Ann Arbor, he had practically been
forgotten. His four fellow
newcomers had played all-star
games and AAU summer ball
around the country together, while
he was home in Texas. He was a
good player, one of the top 100
'It's like I don't even
want the recognition.
... I just need my
chance. If I prove
myself, then
everything will come.'
- Ray Jackson
seniors in the nation. But when your
fellow rookies are all in the top 12 or
15, you tend to get less recognition.
That was all right for Jackson. He
had his share of notoriety in high
school, and was willing to let others
face the pressure of the national
media. What did bother him was
speculation about Fisher possibly
redshirting him for the season.
"Where's he going to play?" people
said. "Michigan has four super
rookies joining a team that lost only
Demetrius Calip. Might as well save
Jackson a year of eligibility while he
improves his game."
What those people didn't know

was just how hard Jackson would
work, and how hard he would play.
They didn't know he was willing to
step into a uiimited role and do
everything he uld - in that role
- to help the Wolverines win.
"It's like I don't even want the
recognition," Jackson says. "First, I
just net a aiy chance. If I prove
myse men everything will come.
. i ien players) are gonna have
to -e ourselves eventually, since
its >4 est players that play."

i
.

9

AP PHOTO
Jackson (r), shown here in the regional championship game against San
Antonio John Jay, led his team to the state semifinals in his junior year.

7th grade

campaign, pumping in 23 points,
grabbing 9.2 rebounds, handing out
six assists, and blocking three shots
per contest. He was named MVP in
Central Texas and first team all-
state. His contribution to Jaguar
basketball is one McShane will not
soon forget.
"He could shoot it, pass it, handle
the ball," McShane says. "He
brought every skill you look for in a
player. ... He just had a great
attitude and demeanor for the game.
He would do anything that he felt we
needed to do to win. If we needed a
passer, he would pass. If we needed
a point guard, he would play point.
If I needed somebody that could
score, he'd go to the blocks and
score.
"My problem was, if I had five of
him, no problem. He could play so
many different positions.
"I've said since when he was a
junior - of course, I didn't tell him
this - that I think he's one of the
best players ever to come out of
Austin."

"I think he was pleased with the
pressure being off of him," Gladys
says. "When he came home just
before official practice started, to see
him and to hear him talk about the
other four guys was fantastic - the
relationship they had at the time, and
the closeness.
"To nii, winning is the main
thing, and if it takes the other guys
to help do that, he's a team player,
he's a very unselfish player.
"I think he feels like his time is
gonna come, and if somebody else is
in the spotlight right now, then that's
fine with him."
After a couple weeks of
practices, Fisher knew Jackson
would contribute. Although he used
him sparingly the first few games,
Fisher liked what he saw.
Jackson began to average nearly
15 minutes a contest. He contributed
what he could in terms of statistics,
but he gave his all in other areas.
Crashing the boards. Running the
floor. Playing tough 'D'.
"He's played consistently hard. I
think if you say, 'What does he do
best?' (I'd answer) he competes
really hard," Fisher says. "You
couple that with his terrific - and
I'm getting into what others are
saying - athleticism - he can run,
he can jump, and he is slowly but
surely learning how to play. He still
makes mistakes, but he is learning
how to play." .
Jackson had become the perfect
fifth wheel, so Fisher rewarded him
with a starting position Feb. 9, and
he has been on the floor at the
beginning of every game since. He
still has his shortcomings, but he has
endeared himself to his coach by his
willingness to'play a limited role and
let his teammates share the spotlight,
while quietly going about and
improving his game..
Part of that process includes
gaining more confidence in his play.
Jackson knows he has the ability, but
has been very cautious of making
mistakes when he is out on the floor.
As a result, his offense has suffered.
He frequently passes up open
jumpers, a shot definitely in his
repertoire but one he has not felt
comfortable taking.
"In high school, I could put it
up," Jackson says. "I mean, (coach
McShane) knew I wasn't gonna put
up a crazy shot or nothing like that.
... I'm starting to get a little more-
confidence."

"He's an inconsistent perimeter
shooter because he's always played
where he can slash and shoot it off
the drive," Fisher says. "He's never
had to just spot up and hit that
perimeter jump shot. So he's been a
slasher, a dunker and that kind of
thing out of high school. And now
he's gotta take that perimeter game
to the next level.
"I don't expect him to be our
leading scorer, but I would say from
an offensive standpoint he's gotta be
able to be a threat. There can't be
five defenders guarding everybody
but him.
"If you continue to go from
where we are right now, we got a
team that we could have five guys
averaging anywhere from 10 to 18
points a game. And I'd like that."
Once that confidence comes, and
Jackson is sure enough of himself to
know that he can make a few
mistakes without getting yanked,
Wolverine fans will get to see the
full extent of his abilities.
"I think in the next two years,
he's just really gonna elevate, and
the confidence factor is just gonna
come," McShane says. "I think he's
a definite NBA-level player. Of
course, Michigan's got about four of
them! ... I think he's gonna stay (in
school four years), and his stock will
really go up.
"He'll be a (Glen) Rice-type
player. He can stroke it, he can play
inside, he's big and strong and still
growing. The coach up there does a
great job, ol' Fisher. He knows that
Ray's a young guy, probably a little
younger than the rest of those
freshmen. I think it's just a matter of
him maturing, and hey, when that
confidence gets there, and he gets
the green light, then something's
going (to happen). I really think he's
just gonna kinda just 'BOOM!' The
tools are there."
But until that boom takes place,
don't expect to see or hear much
about Ray Jackson. Unless you're at
Crisler Arena watching him grab
offensive rebounds or saving balls
from going out of bounds.
"I think playing at (summer
basketball) camps like Nike
would've helped my game a lot, and
given me a lot more media
attention," Jackson says.
"But I think I did pretty good
without it,"he adds. "It took a lot of
hard work to get where I am.... I
feel pretty good about myself."

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