The Best Hoops Player In Hawaii

Bob Hogue
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Wednesday - January 20, 2010
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C.J. Jackson is doing it all for HPU

If you’re looking for the most-dominant men’s college basketball star in the Islands this season, consider the name C. J. Jackson.

Jackson, a 6-foot-8-inch, 260-pound transfer from the University of Illinois now playing at Hawaii Pacific University, is so dominating that he scored 20 points and grabbed 20 rebounds in the SeaWarriors’PacWest opener in the San Francisco Bay Area. He followed that effort with back-to-back double-doubles in points scored and rebounds in two more conference wins for HPU.

“Double-double” has almost become Jackson’s nickname. He’s currently averaging over 15 points and 11 rebounds a game for the SeaWarriors, and he’s amassed double figures in both points scored and rebounds in his last 10 starts. His high game in scoring so far is 29 points.

“He’s very dominating. I don’t recall a player ever going for 20-20 for us. Those are amazing numbers,” says longtime HPU head coach Tony Sellitto. “He may not be the best big man we’ve ever had here, but he’s got to be one of the best. He’s very physical, can score with the left hand and right almost like he’s ambidextrous, and he’s a great rebounder and shot blocker. He’s also a very positive influence on our other players and a good leader.”

Jackson came to HPU after playing both basketball and football at Illinois. He was a reserve forward for the Illini basketball team and played on the offensive line for the football team, including in the Rose Bowl against USC two years ago when the Illini were the Big Ten runners-up. Having exhausted his Division I eligibility, he still wanted to play college ball, so he contacted schools in Hawaii to see if he could transfer to the Islands and play a final year in NCAA Division II.

“He wanted to come to Hawaii,” Sellitto says. “I remember somebody told him they wanted to see some film, but I told my coaches we didn’t need to see any film. If he was good enough for Illinois, he was definitely good enough for HPU.”

So Jackson was offered a scholarship sight unseen, but Sellitto and his staff knew what they were getting.

“We knew he was an all-American coming out of high school and that he played in the Rose Bowl,” the head coach says. “I’m not sure if he was playing the right position (for Illinois basketball), but we’ve got him where he’s at his best - in the No. 5 spot.”

Jackson was an awesome high school player with outstanding athletes running in his family. His cousin is Udonis Haslem, the former University of Florida star now playing in the NBA. In high school in Georgia, Jackson won the so-called High School Heisman in football and was an all-American in both football and basketball and an allstate star in track and field. He was recruited by several big-name schools in the SEC, ACC and Big Ten, but chose the Illini when it ended up in the NCAA Final Four.

“Not too many people get to be at a Rose Bowl and be so close to a Final Four,” Jackson says. “To see that, to be a part of that was great - I feel really lucky.”

At Illinois he was considered a crowd favorite even if he didn’t get a lot of playing time - he played three seasons of basketball there, sandwiched around his time with the football team. The Illini crowds loved Jackson’s aggressiveness and positive enthusiasm.

“I loved the fans there and I also love the fans in Hawaii,” he says. “You have to love the game, and I show my enthusiasm out there. Since I came here, I really appreciate my coaches and my teammates, and the location is amazing. It’s been like a rebirth for myself in basketball. I’ve got my confidence back and I’m excited.”

He only has this one season of eligibility left, but local basketball fans will get to enjoy Jackson for the next couple of months as HPU contends for the PacWest title.

You can call him CJ or the Dominator or the 20-20 man, but whatever you call him, you’ll know you’re witnessing an outstanding college basketball player playing his heart out every single game.

This college basketball season, C.J. Jackson is The Man!

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