SIGNING DAY 2016: Jackson breaks away from family of coaches and signs with South Carolina
By Tim Gayle
Freda Freeman-Jackson was torn.
On the one hand, as the head coach of the Alabama State women’s basketball team, she was a recruiter who wanted the talents of Bianca Jackson on her court the next four years.
On the other hand, she was a mother who wanted what was best for her daughter.
“One of the things I told her early on is if it’s not one of the top five schools in the country, then she was going to come play for me,” Freda said. “She was heavily recruited by Tennessee, Notre Dame, LSU, Georgia, Florida State and several other schools, but we narrowed it down to Georgia and South Carolina in the end. I thought it was important for her to get off to a great start, not just with basketball but also academically and South Carolina has one of the best nursing programs in the country.”
The Gamecocks also have one of the nation’s best women’s basketball programs, reaching the Final Four in 2015 and losing just 10 games over the past three years while dominating the Southeastern Conference. On Wednesday, Bianca Jackson signed a letter of intent in the Brewbaker Tech gym to join the Gamecock family.
“Today’s been a very good day,” she said. “I’ve been waiting on it for a very long time. It’s something that I’ve been dreaming about for a long time, going to a big school and playing at the highest level.”
South Carolina coach Dawn Staley announced the signing on the school’s Web site.
“As the daughter of two basketball coaches, her knowledge of the game is apparent every time Bianca steps out on the court,” Staley said. “She is a natural leader, and her skill set makes her a dangerous weapon on both ends of the floor. Bianca has a great feel for the game and is a true student of the game.”
Jackson, a 5-foot-11 guard, is the 11th-ranked guard in the Class of 2017. A three-time Alabama Sports Writers Association all-state selection, she averaged 22 points, six rebounds and 4.2 assists last season.
Both parents said Staley, a three-time Olympian, was a primary factor in their daughter’s decision.
“On the recruiting trail, I get an opportunity to see her,” Freda said. “She’s decorated. You’re talking about an Olympian. They’re ranked No. 3 in the nation. (Bianca) has her work cut out for her, but I think she’ll handle it.”
“Coach Staley and her staff have been recruiting Bianca for three years,” Lewis Jackson said. “I think the job they did on her was selling that nursing program. I think that is what prompted her to go there, even though they also have a great athletic program with the girls’ basketball team.
“At the end of the day, you want the student-athlete to be happy. Of course, Freda and her staff did a good job of recruiting her, it just came down to the point where she said, ‘Dad, I’ve grown up here and the recruiting process they’ve done is great, but I want to get out and venture on my own.’”
Bianca said her mother was supportive of her decision.
“She wasn’t trying to force Alabama State upon me,” Bianca said, “although they recruited me very heavily.”
With the signing process behind her, Bianca can now focus on leading the Lady Rams into the 2016-17 season.
“I have a lot of work to do before I go to college,” she said. “I’m just excited about the experience. I want to brush up on all parts of my game so that when I get there I can have a good impact on the team.”