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January 18, 2012

Jackson feels right at home

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Few basketball players are capable of sparking a debate on the fundamental principles of education. Justin Jackson, a four-star sophomore out of Houston, is one of them.

That's because Jackson, like all of his Houston HCYA classmates, is homeschooled. While there may be some debate as to the pros and cons of homeschooling, there is one thing that is starting to become a universal truth in Houston - this humble and well-spoken young man can really play.

HCYA is more of a foundation as opposed to a school. In fact, it stands for Home-school Christian Youth Association, and it is designed to give Houston-area kids such as Jackson, and 2012 four-star forward Chicken Knowles, a place to play basketball and interact with other homeschooled kids.

"All of us are homeschooled, whether that's at home or we actually go to classes," Jackson said. "People doubt homeschooling a little bit. They look down on it. So we sort of have to overcome that."

Jackson views his educational situation as mostly the same as any other typical high school student.

"I don't see it as much of a difference," he said. "We play pretty much the same competition as a private school team would play. As far as me, individually, it gives me a little more time to work on my game, but there's still also a ton of homework in homeschooling."

While they play locally in Houston, HCYA also plays an elite schedule against some of the top teams in the country.

"For the most part we play regular-season games against Houston private school teams, but other than that, we travel to tournaments on the weekend. Ohio is the farthest we have been, but we've gone to Dallas, Oklahoma, and then we're going to Missouri for homeschool nationals."

Last weekend HCYA traveled to Kettering, Ohio, for the 10th annual Flyin' to the Hoop event, where it played three games against top Midwestern competition. HCYA won all three games, and with several four- and five-star prospects in attendance, Jackson arguably was the top performer at the event.

The 6-foot-7 small forward, who is ranked No. 11 overall in the class of 2014 by Rivals.com, scored a combined 80 points in three games by displaying a fully developed offensive skill-set. A smooth ballhandler with nice touch on his jump shot all the way out to the three-point line, Jackson punished opponents all weekend with a variety of midrange shots. Capable of shooting either the dribble pull-up or a turnaround over either shoulder from the post, Jackson is extremely comfortable and confident on the wing and could not be guarded over the weekend.

When asked about his strengths as a player, Jackson said, "Offensively, my shooting and scoring. I know I can get stronger and develop my speed and quickness."

Another area that stuck out in Jackson's game at Flyin' to the Hoop was his passing abilities. Few sophomores with his size are able to push the ball in transition and make good decisions when the defense stops them from scoring. Jackson is not only capable of passing on the break, but he also can dish the rock in the half court. Whether it was on double-teams in the post or finding cutters in the HCYA offense, Jackson also led his team in assists over the three games.

The trip to Kettering gave Jackson an opportunity to take an early college visit, as the forward made the one-hour drive from the Dayton suburb to downtown Columbus to see the campus of Ohio State.

"The OSU visit went great. We stayed there all day," Jackson said. "We got to talk to coach [Thad] Matta, they gave us a tour of everything and then we got a chance to watch them practice."

Ohio State is on a long list of powerhouse schools that have extend early offers to Jackson. The Buckeyes are joined by Texas, Texas A&M, Washington, Georgetown, Virginia Tech, Virginia and Baylor, while North Carolina, Duke, Kansas, Marquette and Florida are showing interest.

Jackson, who has visited Oklahoma and also took a trip last season to Chapel Hill to watch North Carolina host Duke, plans on taking more visits once the season is over - although he isn't sure which schools will be hosting him yet.

"Our season is starting to get a little crazy," he said. "We're trying to figure out who to visit and when we'll have a chance to go."

With his signing day being roughly two years away, there is no hurry in the Jackson household to make a decision yet.

"I'm trying to go out every day and get better," Jackson said, "and when the time comes, just make the right decision."



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