It frustrates Wilde Lake's Carl Jackson that he hasn't been able to play up to his full ability this season after signing with No. 10-ranked Penn State Nov. 9.
But an unexpected medical problem sidetracked Jackson, who still hasn't regained the kind of conditioning that enabled him to impress Division I coaches at summer camps, where he played even up with some of the top center prospects in the nation.
The 6-foot-8, 235-pound center was diagnosed with high blood pressure during a routine physical before basketball practice started, and had to sit out six weeks with no physical activity before the condition was brought under control.
"At the beginning of the season it was frustrating to have worked so hard to get to a certain point, and then not be able to turn out the kind of numbers a Division I recruit is supposed to," Jackson said.
"I don't like to accept mediocrity. But it's hard to get into shape during the season, especially with as much snow as we've had. It would have helped a lot if I would have been allowed to run during those six weeks I sat out. I'm still catching my breath a lot, but my blocked shots and rebounding numbers are starting to go up. I'm just returning to playing form."
On Feb. 8 he scored 15 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked six shots against league-leading Centennial.
On Feb. 6 against Glenelg he played his best league game, scoring a triple double with 13 points, 20 rebounds and 11 blocked shots.
It was his third triple double this season. He scored 25 points, had 15 rebounds and 10 blocked shots against Magruder.
Through 16 games he's averaging 13.7 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots, and is shooting 47 percent from the floor and 62 percent from the free-throw line.
"He's done a magnificent job coming back. Six weeks is a long time to sit out," Wilde Lake coach Paul Ellis said. "He's a great human being and exceptional talent who gets triple-teamed and still turns in good performances."
It initially pained Jackson to hear people second-guessing Penn State's decision to sign him. But he's learned to live with it, and is confident he'll be able to play the role of power forward in college.
Ellis still gets irate at Jackson's critics, however.
"Coach Jerry Dunn personally recruited Carl, and he's proven this season that he's no dummy," said Ellis, referring to Penn State's unexpected success.
"They didn't hesitate about Carl. They wanted him and so did other schools. Coach after coach said he played heads up with some of the best big men in the country at the summer camps."
Jackson made the all-star teams at two Five-Star camps. He said that Dunn came to watch him practice at Wilde Lake-River Hill two weeks ago.
"It [Dunn's visit] was a pleasant surprise," Jackson said. "This is like a dream come true. I didn't realize that Penn State would be a Top 10 team. They were picked 63rd in the AP poll."
Jackson said he was hooked on the school after visiting Penn State the last weekend in September. He also had considered Virginia Tech and DePaul among 110 schools that recruited him. He said Maryland did not start recruiting him until September.
"For me, academics and basketball go hand-in-hand, and that's why I liked Penn State," said Jackson, who wants to be an architectural engineer.
Wilde Lake (8-11 overall, 6-7 league) has struggled most of the season but has won three of its past four games. Jackson hopes the Wildecats can keep the momentum and return to the state playoffs at College Park where he played two seasons ago.