03/19/06 — Girls basketball POY Ñ Jackson turns in big year for GHS

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Girls basketball POY Ñ Jackson turns in big year for GHS

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on March 19, 2006 2:02 AM

Decked out in her blue, Lady Cougar uniform for her Player of the Year photo, senior guard Chevoya Jackson walked over for her interview.

Also on hand, her coach, Gladys McClary, smiled as some tears welled up in her eyes.

McClary had seen Jackson grow from a freshman with abundant promise into a senior that more than fulfilled that potential and was donning her school colors for likely the last time.

"When she came in she was competitive after already playing a few years of AAU basketball," McClary said. "The only thing she had to do was adjust to playing with a group of different girls. After five games, she started as a freshman."

Over the last several years, a handful of great players have worn the Blue and Old Gold for McClary. Like Clintoria Bryant and Ashelyn James before her, Jackson is the third straight Goldsboro player to win the News-Argus Girl's Basketball Player of the Year. But, it's safe to say that no Lady Cougar in recent memory has faced the same challenges as Jackson in her senior year.

Unlike the last three years when the Lady Cougars marched to the eastern regionals each year as a 3-A team, Jackson, a four-year starter, basically found herself as the lone, returning senior leader on the floor.

She admits it wasn't easy.

"In the past I had more people around to pick up some of the leadership, but this year it was more on me," she said. "The biggest thing was trying to find out how to get everybody into it and also do my job."

As a lightning-quick point guard with fluid moves, Jackson's main job was to run the offense and lead the frontcourt defense. From start to finish, Jackson put up solid numbers -- finishing with an area-high, 22 points per game with six rebounds, four steals and three assists. But, only senior post player, Angel Roberts, who averaged eight points and six rebounds per game, came close to averaging double figures with Jackson.

The Cougars started the season at 7-3 after a win at Smithfield-Selma, then dropped a pair of games to tough, 4-A opponents in the Cougar Classic Christmas Tournament. But in their first season in the Class 2-A Eastern Plains Conference, Jackson and Goldsboro went 2-8, before bouncing back to defeat Greene Central in the first round of the conference tournament.

Their season eventually ended after a loss to eventual eastern regional champion, Farmville Central in the tournament semifinals.

McClary praised Jackson's ability to work through a tough, senior campaign.

"Chevoya was the only leader left this season. It took its toll on her through the season, but she handled herself well," said McClary, who just finished her eighth year as Goldsboro's coach. "Out of all her years, the senior year was the most challenging and most frustrating for her, because she didn't have anyone to turn to. She worked hard to keep her focus. She dealt with it well."

McClary believes Jackson's height -- as she stand at just -- is the only thing that might hinder her ability to perform at the next level.

"The only drawback or hindrance is her size. Her ability is there. She has the work ethic," McClary said. "Wherever she decides to go, if she continues to listen, she'll be fine. I don't always recommend my players to go to the next level to play, because they don't meet the qualifications. But, she does."

Jackson has already been accepted to the University of Maryland, but hasn't received an offer to play basketball for the Lady Terrapins. She said if she doesn't receive a Division I offer, she'll likely go to Maryland and study Business Administration.

Despite not reaching the playoffs her senior year, Jackson looks back at her career at Goldsboro with a sense of pride.

"I thought we maybe had a chance to make the playoffs, but it just didn't happen," she said. "But, I'll always remember the winning tradition we had here."