David Jackson: silent and determined
SAO PAULO (DIRECTV Liga de las Américas) – After each positive action by David Dwayne Jackson, the whole Pedrocão (Franca’s stadium) comes together in a deafening chant: “MVP, MVP”. The American player is going through an individual bright streak that makes the Brazilian league’s current leading team's fans go wild. “They believe I'm playing to get that prize. I'm not focusing on that. I just want my team to win and to be champions. However, I'm still happy with the acknowledgement of the fans,” says David. This collective cry also booms during the first semi-finals pairings of Liga de las Américas. The frustration of the unexpected elimination of the local team does not placate the love the fans have for the only foreign reinforcement of the team led by Helinho.
The shooting guard, who most recently was a Liga Sudamericana champion, was Franca’s greatest scorer in the current Liga de las Américas, with 17.3 points per game. Being left at the doorstep of the Final Four does not impair Jackson from enjoying the greatest continental tournament. “I like this league a lot. It gives you the chance to face great teams from different countries. It also gives you the possibility of being seen by people from other teams, those that one day may want to sign you".
Jackson — D.J. for his teammates — is one of the many Americans that have traveled the Americas to share their talent in many different places on the map. This was the path set out for him after his college career ended. “I played for Penn State. My last year wasn't as good as I expected and I had lost a bit of the passion I felt for playing basketball. But once the season ended, I went back to the gym and to train. There, I made the decision of trying to play outside of the United States,” says the shooting guard.
His chance to move and start his own journey around the Southern continent came up in 2007. “It really was something strange for me. I participated in a summer league in California, and someone in Uruguay saw a recording of the game. When I was returning to my house from California, my agent called me to offer an opportunity to play in Uruguayan basketball. I had three days to decide. I accepted the proposal without knowing anything about Uruguay or South America. I’d never been out of the United States, and I was totally unaware. I was very nervous, but at the same time, looking forward to it,” Jackson remembers.
“It was a bit difficult because everything was new to me. Because it was a short competition I didn't have the opportunity to travel to visit my family, and that cost me a lot because I missed them very much. My first son, David Jackson III (I'm David Jackson, Jr. and my father is David Jackson, Sr.) had just been born. He was only four months old. I missed a great part of his first year of life. He’s very special to me. As he grows, I explain to him the sacrifices I make to give him the best possible life,” David explains.
Gerardo Jauri was Defensor Sporting’s coach. The coach remembers how Jackson's arrival at Uruguay went, and how he incorporated to the violet jerseys: “We needed a shooting guard and we considered that, due to our budget, it was a good idea to bring in a foreign player for the first time. We saw some videos and we noticed that he read the game well and that he managed some concepts that we were interested on developing. He also had a way with the shots that was very significant. I remember David as an introverted, quiet and professional player. He was a very good teammate. He quickly understood his role in the team and showed the quality of player that he would develop to be. He always was someone with a lot of plays under his sleeve, but he wasn’t selfish at all.”
This 2007-2008 season in Defensor Sporting, where he averaged 21 points per game in the Uruguayan League (he scored 38 against Soriano, for his best mark yet), and 24.5 in Liga de las Américas, made coaches from several countries aware of his presence. In fact, from Uruguay he traveled to Puerto Rico to play in Grises de Humacao. “BSN (Puerto Rico’s National Superior Basketball League) is totally different. If you're a foreign reinforcement there, you must always play well so that they don't change you for another one,” said Jackson. His stay lasted a mere 11 games. But that did not represent a problem, because a call would arrive that would allow him to make a substantial improvement. “After my experience in Puerto Rico, Sergio Hernández called my agent to invite me to play at Peñarol, in Mar del Plata. That was what truly set forth my basketball career in the Americas. Sergio allowed me to showcase my talents. I had played against Peñarol in Liga de las Américas when I was in Defensor Sporting and that allowed him to get to know me,” the shooting guard said.
He stood out in Peñarol during his initial campaign in the Argentine National League. He continued to capture everyone’s attention during the two seasons that he wore the Unión de Formosa jersey and, years later, also at Gimnasia, in Comodoro Rivadavia; and at Quimsa, in Santiago del Estero. A short-lived experienced by Guaiqueríes, in Margarita, Venezuela, was the last stop before arriving at Brazil — another land where he would leave his mark. “I came to Brazil for the first time to play in Flamengo, a team full of talent. I thought that we would be champions this year, but we didn’t have the expected level, and we lost in the fifth game of the playoffs. We had a great team and it was an excellent experience, even though we didn’t meet our goals,” says Jackson.
The Rio de Janeiro giant was the first of the four Brazilian teams where David Jackson played. Limeira, Vasco Da Gama, and now, Franca, complete that square. “Brazil is most definitely my second home. Everywhere I played I was welcomed by the people in the club, by the fans and by my teammates. I just need to train and play. I'm very professional and I work to keep my best physique, improve my game and think about how to help my team. I've always joined my teammates and I'm another one of them. They don't see me as a foreign player. I'm a team player. That's the best thing I've learned during my professional career,” the shooter explained.
This dialogue with Jackson goes on in his native English language. However, he allows himself to say some things in Portuguese and sometimes sprinkles in a little bit of Spanish. “Everywhere I went to I tried to play the language of the country I was playing in, that's what I'm doing now with my teammates. At the time, when I played in Argentina, I talked in Spanish, although I've lost some of it now,” acknowledged D.J.
Jackson is noticeable for his game and scoring capability. But not only that. In his recent games, his multi-colored shoes also made him quite noticeable. “In February I had the opportunity to go home and see my son who, has started to play basketball and has a pair of these shoes. He wanted me to buy the same pair so that we could use the same ones. I promised him I’d play with them. And here they are,” laughingly said David.
At 36, Jackson does not see his career anytime soon: “I still have many years ahead. I don't even think about that because I want to believe that I can still continue to play, and I don’t want to stop. I feel great and I take care so that I'm always healthy.”
One team in Uruguay, four in Argentina, two in Puerto Rico, one in Venezuela, and four in Brazil make David Jackson a distinguished player in all of Latin America. However, he is not well-known in his country. “They don't notice me in American basketball. I don't use social media and I'm not the type of player that shows off everything he does. I doubt that those who don't know me personally know that I'm an internationally known player. I lead a very discrete life.” This D.J. does not need loud music to be noticed. His stellar melody is composed by two main sounds: the ball’s dribble on the floor, and the swoosh of the nets in each one of his scores.