Junior college transfer finding success at Loyola

Aundre Jackson warms up before a game against Bradley
Aundre Jackson warms up before a game against Bradley on Wednesday Jan. 27. (Elan Kane/MEDILL)

By Elan Kane

Shawn Trochim, the McLennan (Tex.) Community College athletic director, called men’s basketball coach Kevin Gill one day to talk about the actions of forward Aundre Jackson. But Jackson was not in trouble. Far from it.

Trochim had just received a call about how Jackson and a few of his teammates had helped a family at a grocery store carry groceries to their car.

“He’s a good player but he’s a better kid,” said Gill.

For Jackson, now a junior playing at Loyola University, playing basketball and being a good person have always gone together.

“I kind of believe in good karma, bad karma,” Jackson said. “Whenever I see somebody struggling, I try to help them out. Like with the family [in the grocery store] I saw that they had a lot of stuff so I helped them carry their stuff. Like with homeless people around my [home] neighborhood [or] around Loyola I just help them out because I know what it’s like to not have much.”

Whether it is the good karma or just hard work, Jackson is thriving at Loyola. He is ranked fourth in Division I men’s basketball in field goal percentage, shooting 70.8 percent. He is also the second leading scorer on the Ramblers, averaging 14.8 points per-game and has been named the Missouri Valley Conference newcomer of the week three times this season.

It all started in Texas. Jackson grew up in Kennedale, Texas, and started receiving Division II offers from schools after high school. He chose to first attend junior college at McLennan to
give him a better opportunity to play at a higher level down the road.

“I saw people that I played against getting offers or scholarships and I felt I was just as good as them if not better,” Jackson said.

That motivation has stayed with Jackson throughout his collegiate career.

“Everybody didn’t think I could do what I’m doing,” Jackson said. “College coaches didn’t take the chance on me, they didn’t want to recruit me, they’d sign me and then I’d be undersized and I [couldn’t] play for them. [I’ve just] been overlooked for people that I feel I’m better than, so I always play to prove that I’m just as good or better than the people they took over me.”

Jackson’s small size as a forward (he is currently listed at 6-5) has been a constant obstacle throughout his career, but his work ethic has helped him overcome it.

“Before my varsity high school career started I would always get my shot blocked [and get] punked around because I was smaller but I played post,” Jackson said.

During the summers in high school Jackson would train with his coaches to develop ways to score over bigger players.

Field goal percentage has always been a staple of Jackson’s skillset. He holds the record at his high school for the most fields made and highest field goal percentage, and still recalls the game he shot 10-for-10 from the field.

Gill attributed Jackson’s field goal accomplishments to his game knowledge and confidence.

“It’s a combination of taking good shots – he doesn’t take a lot of bad shots at all – and he takes shots that he thinks he can make.” Gill said.

But the transition from playing junior college basketball to Division I basketball has not always been smooth for Jackson. He struggled around Christmas time to score with consistency, but Loyola coach Porter Moser said he did not expect anything different from a first-year player.

“I don’t care whether you’re [coming from] high school or junior college, there’s always a learning curve,” Moser said. “It’s just a step up.”

Jackson admitted he got too comfortable but said his teammates helped him regain his confidence.

“Once we got into the conference play, everybody turned it up to another level and I don’t think I did that,” Jackson said. “When I was going through those bad games, my teammates were just telling me they know I’m a beast, they know what I can do, so [I should not] lose my confidence. Just keep coming to practice, keep coming to games ready to play and then everything will fix itself, which it kind of did.”

Moser emphasized the importance for Jackson to perform at a high level this late in the season.

“He’s crafty,” Moser said. “We need a low post threat and he’s our best one and we’ve got to continue to get big games out of him down the stretch.”

Regardless, Gill said he is proud of Jackson’s on-court achievements, but especially proud of his off-court ones.

“We’re just so happy for him. It couldn’t have happened to a better guy,” he said.

Photo at top: Aundre Jackson warms up before a game against Bradley on Wednesday Jan. 27. (Elan Kane/MEDILL)