By any measure, these are great times for Elizabeth City State point guard Shatara Jackson.
Her team clinched the CIAA Northern Division championship Wednesday, has won 12 straight games and has a 22-3 record. On Thursday, Jackson and teammate Stephanie Harper were voted to the All-CIAA team.
Therefore you can expect the normally laid-back Jackson to be a little misty-eyed when Bowie State comes into the R.L. Vaughan Center today to provide the last regular-season home game competition for Lady Vikings seniors Jackson, Harper, Chelsey Lee, De’Rya Wylie, Pasquotank graduate Jasmine Whitehurst and Shawnte Taylor.
However, Jackson is not going to be overwhelmed with nostalgia. She thinks the best days are still ahead for her and the program.
“It’s going to be an emotional day. but I don’t think it will be sad,” Jackson said. “There will be a lot of happiness and some anxiety about pushing this season and my career as far as it can go.
“I can definitely say I did all the things I wanted to do this year, but we’re definitely not finished until we win the CIAA tournament and go to nationals.
“I’m really excited about the possibilities.”
Jackson’s play is one of the reasons ECSU can even think about winning the first women’s conference title in school history.
She leads the team in scoring (12.4 points), steals (3.4) and assists (3.4) and averages nearly three rebounds.
But those are only numbers. Lady Vikings coach Alico Dunk says Jackson’s importance to the team goes far beyond the stats.
“Shatara has a high basketball IQ, she’s literally a coach on the floor,” he said. “She sees a lot of things I don’t see because she’s on the floor. She looks to get the other players involved and when she has the opportunity, she scores.
“She might not be a vocal leader, but she leads by example.”
“I’ve grown a lot as a player, from my jumper to my decisions, to being able to run up and down the court and seeing the floor better,” said Jackson, who started her career at Winston-Salem State and spent a year at Louisburg College before transferring to ECSU. “I’ve always been a team player. But I also know the difference between when I should go to the hoop and when I shouldn’t.”
Jackson’s development has come through perseverence. She has put together an all-conference season after recovering from a torn ACL in her right knee that wiped out half of a junior year in which she was averaging 16.8 points a game.
It was the second time in Jackson’s career that she had to rebound from surgery on the same knee. She was also injured four games into her freshman year at Winston-Salem State.
Jackson admits she was somewhat anxious during the early part of the schedule about how the twice-repaired knee would perform, but she became more confident as the season wore on.
“Every now and then it gave me a little struggle, but I just pushed through it,” Jackson said. “There were some times when I would try for a layup and couldn’t jump the way I want and it would give out on me. But I just keep going. There’s not much I can do about it and I certainly know the difference now between what it feels like if I am really hurt or whether it is just toying with me.”
In addition to learning to deal with pain and anxiety during her career, Jackson has had to figure out how to change the attitude she projected on the court.
“I’m one of those non-chalant people and my body language shows it a lot and it sometimes got the best of me,” she said. “It wasn’t a case that I looked like I didn’t care, but if I made a mistake, I’d drop my head. If I got frustrated with the team, you could tell it was bothering me.
“It started in high school when I didn’t even know what body language was until my coach made me write a one-page paper on it. I’ve tried to focus on it ever since, but it has been a battle.
“I can’t say I have completely conquered it. Some things you can fix in a week, others can take years. It’s something I will have to continue to work on as I play basketball.”
Jackson hopes to continue to play after college. The WNBA would be a long shot, but she believes she might get an opportunity to play professionally overseas.
“I think I have played hard enough and well enough for me to have possibilities to continue,” she said. “I hope so. I love basketball, I really do.”
Dunk said nobody should worry about Shatara Jackson if she doesn’t get a shot at pro ball.
“The one thing I know about her besides being a very good basketball player is that she is an even better person,” he said. “I know when she graduates she will be successful in life. She has great character. You don’t ever have to worry about her doing the wrong things.”