Growing up in homeschool basketball I had the opportunity to watch a few really homeschool players. Players like the Sanders boys, Fosters, Wells, Kevin Johnson, Flatt’s and a few others were always fun to watch (although you never wanted to play against them!) So, when I returned to the homeschool coaching scene 4 years ago, I didn’t know what to expect or the landscape had changed. Then I started hearing names like “Chicken”, Jefferson, Spani, and one Justin Jackson. I remember the first thing I thought when I saw Justin play for the first time – “That kid is supposed to be a major college recruit?” That thought didn’t last very long! After watching him play, and seeing how the culture of our youth has changed in the last 10 years, I began to wonder – “Is this kid a good example of homeschool basketball? Is he a good example of HCYA basketball?” Those wonders were also quickly answered.
I have spent a lot of the last 3 years getting to know Justin Jackson. Not on a very personal level, but I follow his activities as much as possible. What I have come to know about Justin is this – He is humble young man, and his only desire is to truly honor the Lord and put his absolute best on the floor for his teammates and coaches. Sadly, this is not something that you see in many of the best players today. Justin has truly shown himself to be the model athlete for not only HCYA, but homeschool basketball as a whole. As he begins his last state tournament, I would like to take a moment and highlight some of what Justin has done for homeschool basketball.
Brought exposure to the game. Homeschool basketball has been blessed with some awesome players in the past, but no one has come close to a talent like Justin possesses. Many players, on both HCYA and their opponents, have received exposure to schools that they never would have without Justin. This is excellent for the homeschool athlete! There are great homeschool players out there, but sadly they don’t get much exposure. Recruiters are now learning that homeschool players have potential and they are starting to pay more attention. Good for players now, and in the future.
Demonstrated winning character traits. Justin has been committed to excellence for a long time now. He understands that it takes discipline in his school, at home, and on the court to exceed. He spends his time wisely, listens to his parents, respects his coaches, and loves his teammates. Not only is he the ultimate player, but he is the ultimate teammate.
Exhibited Christ-likeness through the game. It’s guaranteed that if you give praise to Justin, then he will give it right back to the Lord. He understands that The Lord has truly blessed him, and that his continued success is because of God’s grace and blessing. He never praises himself, but gives God the glory for all the success he has enjoyed. Justin has shown that you can play at an elite level and still keep the Lord #1 in your life.
The 2014 Texas State Homeschool Tournament represents the beginning of the end for the best homeschool boy’s player the game has ever seen. As a coach, I’m excited that we won’t have to go up against him again. As a fan though, I have bitter-sweet emotions. Justin has been terrific for the game, and helped take it to another level. I am going to miss seeing him play at these tournaments, but I will enjoy seeing him on ESPN in the coming years! As I go through this weekend, I will enjoy every game he plays. But, I will also take the time to shake his hand and tell him “Thank you”.
I hope you will do the same as well.