Tiffany Jackson: Basketball team leader in all ways
In her final season on the Forty Acres, All-America senior forward Tiffany Jackson has seen, experienced, and accomplished more than your average collegiate basketball player.
Then again, Jackson is no ordinary athlete. An extremely versatile forward, Jackson first began to show promise in her freshman year when she led the team in scoring, blocks, and steals, en route to being named National Freshman of the Year. From there, Jackson continued to contribute more and more the next few seasons, garnering All-American honors and finalist recognitions for all three National Player of the Year awards the last three years.
As usual, Jackson’s stat line reads like it does every season as No. 23 Texas heads into today’s showdown with No. 5 Tennessee -- team leader in scoring (18.4 ppg), rebounding (9.0 rpg), steals (3.4 spg) -- along with a team-high in blocks (13) and minutes played (34.7).
This year, however, there is a new element that Jackson currently is leading as well -- the team.
Following last year’s disappointing team finish, Jackson learned the most important lesson of her playing career -- the significance of leadership.
With this year’s team consisting of 11 underclassmen, all eyes have been turned to Jackson to lead a team full of potential and talent, but lacking in leadership. Never backing down from the challenge, Jackson quickly took the team under her wing and began to strengthen her relationships with teammates.
“During the summer, I had the chance to learn everyone’s personality and got to talk to everyone on an individual basis,” Jackson explained. “I was able to figure out what I could do to create a more comfortable and trusting relationship with them. Our team has different dynamics from a year ago.”
“Beginning last spring, I really focused on improving my game, hoping that it would get everyone else in the gym to work on their own skills,” the ethnic studies major noted. “I realize just how important all the little things in your game are in order to progress.”
With Jackson leading the Longhorns, the coaches not only notice a change in attitude but more improvement in Tiffany’s own game as her leadership grows.
“Tiffany is really being a strong leader,” said UT head coach Jody Conradt. “She has always been a tremendously talented and hard-working player, but the third prong is to make everybody around her better. I see her doing right now. Tiffany realizes that being a leader also makes her a better player. It is really fun to coach her and to see her reach her full potential as a player.”
In her transition to become a better leader, Jackson has found help from the coaches, particularly from new assistant coach Clarissa Davis-Wrightsil.
The most prolific and acclaimed player in Texas Basketball history, Davis-Wrightsil brings a new level of knowledge and awareness of the game to the court each day. This advice and knowledge is something Jackson has quickly absorbed.
“Coach Davis-Wrightsil has been a huge addition to our program,” Jackson noted. “She brings in a lot of knowledge to the post position and has been teaching me so many things. I’ve learned so much from her. She challenges me every day. She really knows what it takes to get to the next level because she has succeeded there.”
While she learns from the most decorated Longhorn ever, Jackson plans on making her own final mark on Conradt’s basketball program -- a mark which goes beyond statistics and top career rankings.
“I want to be known as the player who always worked hard, every practice and game, and got the job done no matter what. I pretty much believe that is the impression that I will have left on the Texas basketball program,” said Jackson.
Naturally, no Longhorn fan is ready to see Jackson complete her eligibility, but Texas basketball supporters, coaches, competitors and professional coaches all know the bright future ahead for Jackson.
“Tiffany is extremely bright, basketball-savvy, competitive as they come, and her talent is obvious,” said Conradt. “She is among the handful of the very most talented to ever come through our program. Now, she has added the leadership element to her game, which is very important.”
“I know she wants to continue her basketball career, and that is going to be an option for her, because my phone rings quite frequently from WBNA coaches asking about her,” concluded Conradt. “She knows she has much let to accomplish here first, of course. Tiffany has matured a lot over the last year, and I I know that she will be prepared for whatever life throws at her.”
A team will always have a leading scorer, but pulling a team together is a skill of a leader. No one could be happier than Jackson herself that she gets to lead both categories.
“I’m responsible for building a positive attitude out there,” Jackson noted. “Right now, everyone is just stepping up and taking more initiative to cover for the loss of some of our players to injuries -- something that we didn’t do well last season.”
“Watching everybody get better game by game and seeing different players step up have been the strongest things we’ve shown so far,” Jackson concluded. “It shows that everyone is willing to play a part, no matter how big or small the role is. That attitude will help bring us far this season. It’s my job to keep encouraging them and directing them.”
Spoken like a true leader.