Baltimore Sun

Digital Harbor's Justin Jackson makes his choice

Justin Jackson was all set to stay in Baltimore for college until a Division II program in Ohio extended a late scholarship offer earlier this month.

Digital Harbor's star point guard planned on visiting the Urbana University campus before deciding between the Blue Knights and a preferred walk-on opportunity at Morgan State. But ultimately, Jackson never took the trip to Ohio.


"I was just talking to my family and they said that Morgan looks like a good choice because they've got the [financial aid] situation straight, so it's good," Jackson said. "… [The Morgan coaches] basically thought I was going there from Jump Street, so they were just happy to have me on the board. I talked to my assistant coach and I'll be playing there my first year."

Jackson's been a well-known name throughout the city basketball scene for the past several years, culminating with the 2008-09 high school season when he and older brother George Jackson guided the Rams to the Class 1A state championship. Jackson looked the part of a Division I prospect, but things didn't go quite as planned after the initial buzz about his game."Basically, a lot of people were saying I didn't have the hunger since my 11th-grade year because that's when my brother and I really blew up and the whole city basically knew us," Jackson said. "But then summer ball played a part in it, too. I did good playing for the Baltimore Stars in the summer, but I really [didn't] get a lot of college looks from that. That's because I didn't really go off and play to my fullest potential when scouts were in town looking. But in the last few months, a lot of colleges were hearing about me, seeing me and just wanting me. But I definitely did fall after my junior year. I guess I got laidback and playing lackadaisical. We were still winning, but I wasn't giving people 30 a game. I was just satisfied with winning. But now I've got the fire back and I'm back on the top of the radar."


A big part of Jackson's return to that aforementioned radar took place earlier this month during the Baltimore Summer League at Loyola's Reitz Arena. The 6-foot, 175-pounder more than held his own against players from Morgan, Coppin State, Towson, Loyola, UMBC and other college programs.

"That really boosted my confidence because my whole thing was going there and adjusting and playing to my hardest potential and seeing what I needed to work on," Jackson said. "Playing against DI players, that's real tough. So I was basically going up against them to see what I needed to work on and see what I needed to improve. But I was pretty shocked myself when I just gave them the business, getting assists, holding my own on defense and making some big plays. So that basically helped. And that got my confidence boosted a lot."

Plans for the rest of Jackson's summer include playing pickup, working out and moving into the Morgan State dorms next month. While he'll be a walk-on at Morgan, Jackson hopes to crack the defending MEAC-champion Bears' rotation. Regardless of how his freshman year plays out, Jackson's excited to stay in Baltimore and team with guys he grew up admiring.

"Some guys, they're ahead of me by about four years because I'm just coming out of high school," Jackson said. "I just remember being younger and they were seniors in high school. That's crazy. So it should be good. It looks like I was in middle school and they were seniors in high school. It's like Danny Smith, I remember looking up to him at Woodlawn. And Kevin [Thompson], I remember him at Walbrook. I thought, 'Man, these guys are pretty good.' … So I knew a couple guys from Maryland, watching them growing up and now I get a chance to play with them."

Baltimore Sun photo of Justin Jackson by Amy Davis / Jan. 16, 2009