Quickness, athleticism and jumping ability are the qualities that first come to mind when one thinks of Jerome Jackson, and it’s those same qualities that caught the eye of Tom Barr in the summer of 1995 when he found the six-foot-four, 205-pound post player from Lake Providence, La., during an open tryout in Jackson’s home state.
“Former Assistant Coach Jason Tinsley and I went to Winnsboro, La., to attend a tryout of unsigned high school players in that area. Coach Tinsley wanted to see a couple of players he knew from there, Kevin Winn and Chris Rollins – two other well-known members of our program, and some other players. We were sitting there watching this guy, who wasn’t very tall, dunking and scoring and we said, ‘Who is this guy?’ A lot of people didn't know about him because he was from a little school in a very impoverished area of Louisiana. We talked with him and asked him to come up here for a visit, and the rest, as they say, is history,” Grizzly Head Coach Tom Barr said of his first encounter with the future Grizzly Hall-of-Famer.
Jackson, a first-team all-district and team co-MVP selection during his years at Lake Providence High School, had tried attending college during the fall of 1994 after graduating high school, but the experience wasn’t a pleasant one. A series of mishaps prompted him to drop out of the community college he had been attending. Not one to give up, Jackson took a chance at being discovered during the open tryout and was given another opportunity to achieve his goals at Missouri State University-West Plains. The Grizzlies were the better for it. From his very first game as a freshman member of the team, Jackson showed he was a great addition. Using his hustle, athleticism and intensity, he helped re-establish a post game for a program that had lost a lot of its inside punch with the graduation of its first class of sophomores. He quickly earned the moniker “lean, mean rebounding machine” after coming off the bench in his first Grizzly game November 2, 1995, and snaring 17 rebounds. Although many of his rebounding records have been eclipsed by Grizzlies that followed, he still ranks sixth on the list of most rebounds in a game as a result of that first effort.
Offensively, Jackson made an impact, as well. He averaged 14.9 points per game during his career and remains first in the category of most two-point field goals in a career with 417 in 65 games. He still holds a share of the lead in most two-point field goals in a game with his 14 goals against Moberly Area Community College on February 29, 1996, and he’s second on the list of most two-point field goals in a season with the 240 goals he scored during 32 games in the 1996-97 season.
His best offensive performance as a Grizzly, however, took place during the Las Vegas Junior College Invitational Tournament where he sparkled as brightly as the lights on the infamous “Strip.” He averaged 26 points and 8.6 rebounds during the event and scored a career high 33 points against College of Southern Idaho, earning himself a place on the all-tournament team.
In the minds of many Grizzly fans, however, the highlight of his career took place on December 13, 1996, when he sank the first three-point shot he had ever made in competition against Barksdale Air Force Base at the West Plains Civic Center. Due to the Grizzlies’ commanding lead, Jackson had been taken out of the game, but his continuous pleas to Coach Barr to be put back in so that he could try a three-pointer finally swayed the coach. On his first attempt, the ball fell through the net, delighting his fellow players and the many fans in the stands. “I had been asking coach if I could shoot a three-point shot in competition three games before that game,” a chuckling Jackson recalled. “I had shot it pretty good in practice. Finally, he let me go back in and try it, and I made it on my first attempt.”
Jackson graduated from Missouri State University-West Plains with his Associate of Arts in General Studies degree in May 1997 and transferred to Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn., where he earned second-team All-Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) honors and was selected to the OVC’s All-Newcomer Team his first year. During his two years as a Governor, he averaged 14.1 points and 5.4 rebounds. His .554 career shooting percentage is still sixth best in Austin Peay’s record book. He graduated from Austin Peay in December 1999 with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture degree and is now teaching agriculture classes and serving as assistant basketball coach for Northeast High School in Clarksville. He and his wife, Lanitra, celebrated their first anniversary on December 31, 2003.
Jackson said being named to the Grizzly Athletics Hall of Fame is a great honor for him. “I never expected to even go to college. To have the chance to go to college, has helped me out in life. It’s why I’m where I’m at now,” he explained. “I loved being around Coach Barr all the time. He was such a good person and a good mentor. I can’t even begin to explain how much Missouri State University-West Plains has helped me. Just having been there has been a great memory for me.”