Keeping the Faith With Georgia Basketball Signee Will Jackson


A year ago, UConn head coach Kevin Ollie and his staff received a verbal commitment from Athens basketball star Will Jackson, at the time a 4-star player according to After a visit to Storrs, CT for UConn basketball annual “First Night”, Jackson pulled the trigger for UConn.

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Before signing day came, however, Jackson saw reason pledge to the University of Georgia basketball program, announcing at his

signing ceremony

, “I’m ready to change the program at UGA and ‘Go Dogs!’”

Jackson’s tumultuous year following his commitment to UConn likely changed his perspective.

In August, Jackson suffered a meniscus injury. After surgery, the rehabilitation did not go smoothly and Jackson’s play was affected during the spring evaluation period. Also during the past year, Jackson grieved the deaths of a close friend and classmate, an uncle and an older brother.

“I’m very, very proud of what he’s been able to shoulder, because it’s been a heavy burden on the family,” said his mother, Lorry Jackson. “We’ve had a lot of losses, but this is a big win today. All of those challenges make today even more special for us.”

Although Jackson’s recruiting stock dropped due to his injury affected play, he held offers from Florida, Georgia Tech, Kansas and Louisville. And Jackson is a local athlete, playing his high school ball minutes from the Stegeman Coliseum at Athens Christian School. Long time observers claim Carlos Strong and Terrell Bell of the mid-90s as the last big name locals to stay home and compete for the Bulldogs.

“That’s why I’m signing this letter today,” Jackson said. “I’m trying to change something, like Barack Obama. That’s why I got up at 4 o’clock this morning to work on my jump shot.”

The Red and Black’s Connor Riley analyzed Jackson’s game.

"Strengths: Jackson has great floor vision and plays really well in transition, whether as a facilitator or a scorer. Jackson can create his own shot as well as create shots for others. He already possesses a capable mid-range jump shot. Jackson does not shy away from contact at the rim and shows good finishing ability.He knows how to use his length to bottle up small players on defense and also has good enough athleticism to be able to keep his feet in front of quicker, smaller guards. Jackson has the ability to play off the ball on offense and is big enough to guard most shooting guards, making him a true combo guard in every sense of the position.Weaknesses: Jackson, however, isn’t a true point guard in terms of initiating the offense and bringing the ball up every time. He will need to add strength to his body if he wants to have the ability to finish at the rim in college. He will also need to improve on his 3-point shooting, otherwise defenses will be able to pack the paint, cutting off his ability to drive the ball toward the net.Jackson also needs to improve on some of the smaller, more fundamental aspects of his game defensively, such as footwork and learning proper help rotations. However, those are areas that can be fixed with college-level coaching."

The Hartford Courant’s Dom Amore reported one in game incident indicating what kind of player Georgia is getting. Athens Christian School trailed by 20 points with less than five minutes in the state quarterfinal game.

“Georgia is home for me” – Will Jackson on his flip from UCONN to UGA

“I called a timeout,” Athens Christian coach Ron Link said, “and I just said, ‘Turtle, you take over this game. You do whatever you want to do.’ And do you know, that sucker scored 22 points in the last four minutes and 50 seconds? He didn’t miss a shot. Next thing you know it was 76-76 and then he went to the free throw line.”

Jackson finished his remarkable fourth quarter with two free throws to lift Athens Christian to a 78-76 win over North Cobb Christian and advance his team to the state semi-finals.

Coach Fox added these thoughts, reported by, about Jackson.

"He’s a very complete guard, one of the more complete guards I’ve seen in the last decade, really. He’s a guy that if he was on our team right now would be getting minutes. I think he’s a terrific player. He’s a better person. He’s been coached well. He’s been raised right. I mean, he’s just terrific young man.He’s very driven to get better. Most of the conversations with him were not about recruitment as much as it was about, ‘How can I get better?’ His first question would always be, “How do you think I played? What can I do better?”“He’s got a great IQ for the game. He makes players around his better. I think he could be a terrific lead guard. I think he’s got size to be great in that position and a feel for the game. But he’s a terrific shooter. So I think he could play both (guard) spots certainly. But where we want him to play is with the ball in his hands"

Georgia’s approach toward Jackson impressed the one time National 39th ranked player.

“The (Bulldogs’) coaches really believed in me. After my games they would tell me what I needed to do better, which is what my father does all the time, that’s what Coach (Ron) Link does with me all the time. That’s the type of coach I want. I wanted what Coach Fox and Coach Link and my father have told me, which is we all have flaws and we always need to be working on something.”

Even after Jackson’s initial decision to commit to Connecticut, the Georgia coaching staff continued to support him and that ultimately played a big role in his decision to become a Bulldog.

“Coach [Mark] Fox and Coach [Jonas] Hayes played a big role in my decision to switch. Even after I committed to Connecticut, they still told me they will support me. They always told me what I needed to work on and that really helped me out. They never gave up on me.”

Jackson discussed his decision to flip his commitment from national champion UConn to  Georgia with Dan McDonald of

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“Georgia is home for me, and it will be an easier transition for me. I’ve been here for a while and I know what it’s like at UGA with the fans and how the players are and how they play. I’ve become pretty tight with the guys on the team like Kenny Gaines.”

The persistence of Coach Fox and his staff cannot be overestimated in securing Jackson’s signature on a Georgia letter of intent.

“Coach Fox and Coach [Jonas] Hayes played a big role in my decision to switch. Even after I committed to Connecticut, they still told me they will support me. They always told me what I needed to work on and that really helped me out. They never gave up on me.”

Coach Fox kept the faith. “I think deep down inside the kid knew what we were about and what we could do for him and what we could do together.”

Next: Dawg's feel good class of 2014: E'Torrion Wilridge