By Bruce Hope and Troy Hollinger
Fourteen-year-old Kent Jackson of the St. Paul’s Catholic School Warriors loves to practice on all aspects of his basketball game. He works constantly on his craft. Right now, he’s shooting, B-E-E-F: Balance, Eyes on the rim, Elbow in, Follow through. With a flick of the wrist, the ball is gone. It falls through the rim, touching nothing but net and making that sound every player loves to hear; swish.
In the first game of the season, against Palmer Catholic Academy, Jackson went off, showcasing his complete game. He scored 28 points, handed out five assists, and contributed on defense with four steals for the win.
Jackson followed up the season debut with a more mundane stat line, but the game was a blowout and didn’t need him to put up huge numbers. Still, he finished with 12 points 5 assists 3 steals 4 rebounds in an easy 18-point victory.
He should have a well-rounded game. Jackson is the son of a coach and began playing basketball at “maybe three or four years old.” He’s been around the game his whole life.
“I like to pick one move to do, and do one move 300 times, rather than 300 moves one time,” Jackson says of his practice habits. Jackson is a gym rat and the basketball is his cheese.
Jackson is humble. Like most players, he remembers his great games, but he can just as easily tell you about his bad games, and how that drives him to improve.
“We were playing in a regular-season game. We were playing against one of these Catholic grade schools,” he said, “Nothing was connecting. My shot wasn’t there. I wasn’t finding any of my teammates. I wasn’t contributing to the team. That’s what I remember.”
Tommy Hulihan is Jackson’s basketball coach at St. Paul’s. He has been at St. Paul’s for 24 years during which he has been a physical education teacher, basketball coach, and athletic director.
He has had the chance to coach some pretty good players along the way.
“There’s JP Kuhlman. He ended up starting four years at point guard at Davidson right after Steph Curry left,” said Hulihan. “We also had another player, Andrew Fleming, who ended up at Oak Hill Academy; Steve Smith’s team. Then he ended up playing at Iowa.”
It looks like he might just have another one.
“He stacks up right with those guys,” Hulihan said of Jackson. “He’s very competitive. He’s a really competitive player,” says Hulihan. “He shoots it extremely well. He’s an extremely good ball-handler, he’s a really good passer.”
A lot of young players in today’s game concentrate on just scoring points, but Jackson also defends.
“A little too much with his hands sometimes,” said Hulihan with a chuckle, but the consistent defensive effort is there.
Jackson is a leader according to Hulihan. He leads with more with his actions, as opposed to his words and makes his teammates better with his passing.
He has the total package, and according to his coach, if he remains on the path he is on and continues to work the way he does, he has a chance to play extremely well at the high school level and definitely can play in college.
Hulihan has coached Jackson since he was in the fifth grade. Jackson made the team at that age and competed regularly against players as many as four years older in organized games.
It isn’t Jackson’s successes that drive him. It’s his failures.
“It drives me, to where I need to work harder,” Jackson said, flashing back to an earlier loss. “After that game, all I was thinking was, I needed to get better. So then the next day I just thought about that game and thought about the stuff I needed to work on…and I worked on that stuff. A lot.”