Jackson excelled in new role for Cougars
By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on March 14, 2009 11:32 PM
Opportunity knocks in life and athletics when it is least expected. Tyrelle Jackson is a perfect example.
The Goldsboro High forward emerged as the Cougars' offensive leader, helped the team compile 19 wins and advance to the sectional semifinals for a third consecutive season.
For his efforts, Jackson is the 2008-09 News-Argus All-Area boys basketball player of the year.
Jackson averaged a double-double -- 17 points, 10 rebounds -- as the Cougars experienced an up-and-down season. His numbers are surprising since he saw limited action on the court until his senior year.
"My junior season I saw a lot of the pine," said Jackson. "I decided to work on my game and try to work hard so I could be a bigger part of the team."
Jackson expected to be a second or third offensive option this season. But a new coaching philosophy and a season-ending injury to the team's top returning player -- Keovanta McDuffie -- changed Jackson's role.
He responded to the challenge.
Jackson assumed the leadership duties and developed an impressive offensive arsenal in the Cougars' fast-paced system.
"Kevo told me after he got hurt that he was going to have to leave the team," said Jackson. "I knew that I would have to step up."
Jackson played more minutes, became a better defender and developed a strong mid-range game that kept teams from corralling him in the paint. But perhaps the biggest part of Jackson's coming out party was his renewed focus on rebounding.
"I had to hit the boards. That's something that has been drilled into me ever since middle school," said Jackson. "I remember when I was a kid, I played point guard, and our coach would always yell at me to crash the boards. I guess the message stuck."
Jackson piled up impressive statistics this season.
But one assist, which didn't count, remains hard to forget.
The power forward logged a double-double -- 18 points, 10 rebounds -- in the Cougars' season-ending loss to Pittsboro Northwood. With precious seconds quickly fading away, Jackson collected a loose ball and threw it behind his back to teammate Donald Lewis.
Falling backward, Lewis fired an off-balanced 3-pointer that swished the net as time expired. But the officials waved off the game-winning shot.
Jackson was devastated.
"I am still thinking about that play. It's always on my mind," said Jackson. "I think 'what if I didn't float that pass? or what if I kicked it out sooner?'."
Despite the loss, Jackson wants to continue his career.
"I would love to continue to play and maybe get a scholarship," said Jackson. "Everyone wants to play at the division one level, but I'm also looking at some division two schools and trying to find a place where I can go and be a part of the team."
There's no doubt the hard-working Jackson will get that chance.
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