At 6-foot-8 1/2 , Jackson is still growing into role

January 26, 1995|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,Sun Staff Writer

College coaches look at Carl Jackson's natural abilities and like what they see.

Wilde Lake's Jackson towers among most high school players at 6-foot-8 1/2 . Despite his 248 pounds, he is not fat. And he's growing -- 1 1/2 inches last year.

Age is on his side. He's barely 17. His birthday is in December. That makes him a "young" junior.

"He has barely tapped the natural abilities he has," Wilde Lake coach Paul Ellis said. "He needs a serious weight program, an off-season running program and a jumping exercise program before he can reach his potential. He's not matured physically. He's going to be awesome."

That kind of potential sparks interest. Letters pour in every week from colleges such as Wake Forest, Kentucky, Purdue, Clemson, Illinois, Alabama and Penn State.

"He gets tons of letters," Ellis said.

Jackson hasn't gotten tons of publicity, however. He is overshadowed in his own county by Mount Hebron's 6-foot-7 Patrick Ngongba, another Division I prospect. Unlike Jackson, Ngongba appears to have achieved his physical maturity -- one that awes college coaches.

An honorable-mention All American, the junior Ngongba played for a Baltimore City summer team. He attended Five-Star basketball camp during a peak midsummer week and drew lots of notice from college coaches.

Jackson's spot on a Baltimore City summer team fell through because he didn't have transportation. And his week at Five-Star Camp -- which was supposed to be the same July week as Ngongba's, was pushed back by the camp to the last week in August. By then the college coaches had left.

Jackson, nicknamed "Baby Shaq," averaged 8.6 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.6 blocked shots last season when the Wildecats (14-11 overall, 9-5 league) reached the state Class 1A championship game but lost.

Jackson is averaging 13.1 points, 13.3 rebounds and 6.0 blocked shots this season, and is the fourth-leading area rebounder -- ahead of Ngongba's 12.4-rebound average.

When the two faced each other last Friday, Jackson outplayed Ngongba in the first half; Ngongba outplayed him in the second. The final score illustrates the importance of each player to his team. Wilde Lake led 33-19 at halftime, but lost, 50-45.

"He's a confident kid, very competitive, and he accepted Ngongba as a challenge," Ellis said. "He's a real good passer and hit a couple of backdoor passes from the high post against Mount Hebron."

Jackson said: "I feel I held my own against him [Ngongba] but I'm not close to my potential."

"He [Ngongba] brings out the best in me, and is a good guy. He gave me a big hug after the game."

Ngongba scored 12 points, had 16 rebounds and blocked one of Jackson's shots to the other end of the gym. Jackson scored six points, had 12 rebounds and blocked five shots, including one of Ngongba's.

"I've got to work on my jumpers and my ball handling and I can't let myself get down when I make a mistake," Jackson said. "I've got to hustle back on defense and stay positive."

Jackson is agile for his size. He can catch the ball on the run. He can come to a jump stop. In practice he does the same overplay drills as the smaller guards and forwards. On the full-court-press drill he performs the one-on-ones and two-on-twos with everyone else.

He blocked 90 shots last season and has 72 this season. He has increased the number of blocks and reduced his fouls by learning to keep his feet and stay back.

He thinks his strength is his ability to take the ball to the hole from the low post.

His best game this season came against Magruder when he scored 24 points, had 18 rebounds and blocked eight shots.

Because Wilde Lake graduated three key seniors, Jackson's role is larger this season. The Wildecats are struggling at 5-7 overall and 2-3 in the league, but they have nearly beaten league powers Mount Hebron and Atholton. The Wildecats need Jackson to score more consistently. Ellis thinks that will happen.

"He's a nice kid to work with, shows improvement every day in practice and is a competitor. I'm thrilled to have him on my team," Ellis said.

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