Tamir Jackson's collegiate basketball career remembered
We can learn a lot about people not only from their words and actions, but also from their tweets. Last September, Tamir Jackson tweeted in the wake of the announcement that former Rice student Arsalan Kazemi would be the sixth member of the basketball team to leave the school.
"People all over and even supporters are going to count us out but I'm going to stand by my team and school," Jackson tweeted.
Six months later, the senior point guard of the Rice men's basketball team has played his final game for the Owls. Jackson leaves behind a legacy not only as one of the best players in the program's history, but also as a young man who honored his commitment to his team and his school, refusing to put his head down when the going got tough.
Jackson came from a world that did not stress loyalty. As an alumnus of St. Benedict's Preparatory School in Newark, Jackson learned to play the game among many players headed to Division I college teams and the NBA, like former alumnus J.R. Smith of the New York Knicks. His school, among others, breeds these players but also participates in the rapid turnover of these same athletes. Many young men who attend these schools transfer to best position themselves for future offers, paying little regard to team loyalty.
This makes it all the more exceptional that Jackson, who played for years among the best high school players in the nation, has for so long maintained his steadfast commitment to Head Coach Ben Braun and the Owls.
Surrounded by the tumultuous environment of self-interested players changing schools constantly, Jackson has always put the program first. Jackson signed with the Owls in the early signing period during his recruitment, remaining true to his commitment when Bowl Championship Series programs came with offers later in the process.
Jackson started from day one with the Owls, becoming the only player on the 2009-10 team to start every game of the season. As a sophomore, Jackson adjusted to a move off the ball, since he was forced to play more as a shooting guard than a point guard with an incoming crop of freshmen. Jackson took the changes in stride, leading the Owls in scoring during conference play while taking a young contingent of guards under his wing. As a junior, Jackson was again the guiding force for a stable of freshmen. His individual numbers took a hit, but the team's performance improved drastically, as the Owls won 19 games, finished .500 in the league and made a run to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament quarterfinal.
Then, over the months leading up to a highly anticipated senior season, the bottom fell out. Six of the team's nine returning scorers left the Rice program to pursue other basketball opportunities, both at the collegiate and professional levels. But, as his tweet indicates, Jackson never expressed any doubts about playing out his senior season with Braun and the Rice Owls.
After a 77-71 loss on Jackson's Senior Night last Saturday, the Owls end the regular season at a disappointing 5-24, needing to make a run at this week's Conference USA Tournament to keep Jackson's college career alive. But in last Saturday's game, as has been the case all season long, the final score does not reflect the effort and dedication that Jackson has put forth for his school.
With his team trailing University of Tulsa by 10 with under a minute left, Jackson attacked the rim and drew a foul while converting a layup. During the next possession, it was Jackson again, playing in his typically relentless style, who got into the lane and scored to keep hope alive. Trailing by as many as 20 points in the second half, Jackson rallied the Owls to within four in the closing seconds. Tulsa called a timeout, reorganized and put away the short-handed Owls for a six-point victory. But Jackson left everything on the court, setting a career-high with 30 points in his final game in front of the home crowd at Tudor Fieldhouse.
After the game, Jackson was as humble as ever, heaping praise upon his teammates for their hard work and resilience.
"I'm just glad to be a part of this team and play with these guys," Jackson said. "They never let me down, and I'm never going to let them down. We just fight as a team and stay together- all the time."
Jackson is the first player in the program's history to play over 4,000 minutes in a career. He ranks sixth all time in points scored, fourth in assists and fourth in steals. Jackson is only the second player in school history to rank in the top 10 in each of those three statistics. Based on those numbers, Jackson graduates from Rice University as one of the best basketball players in the history of the school.
Jackson has always led not through his performance, or his words, or even his Tweets, but through his effort and commitment to Rice University. Thank you Tamir, for putting your school above all else and for remaining devoted to a program at a level where loyalty is taken for granted.
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