Speaking up was something Sade Jackson just didn’t do when she when she arrived at Adelphi.
Panthers coach Heather Jacobs admitted to calling Jackson, a former Aquinas high school star, by the wrong first name early on as a freshman. The guard, now a senior, never said a word about it.
“She didn’t correct me,” Jacobs said. “She didn’t say anything. Finally I realized, ‘Am I saying your name wrong?’ We joke about it now.”
Jackson couldn’t be more different now and the player she’s become is no laughing matter.
“It’s taken a lot of time,” Jackson said. “I feel like I’m still growing.”
She leads vocally, not just by example, and has matured into the one of the nation’s top points guards in Division II women’s basketball. Her 9.1 assists per game are the best in the nation. She is also averaging 14.1 points per game and 5.9 rebounds. Her strength attacking the basket and an improved jumper makes her tough to defend.
The 5-foot-8 Jackson doesn’t lead by just barking instructions and critiques. Her goal is to build confidence and comfort in and for teammates. She will ask the coaching staff how she can get a particular player better or ask a question in practice when a teammate may be too shy to speak up.
“This year I feel more comfortable, more than I’ve ever felt,” Jackson said. “It’s the last go around. You can’t really hold anything back.”
The Panthers, who feature 10 players who are juniors or seniors, have been hard to stop. Adelphi, which was 8-18 her freshman year, is 14-4 this season and 7-4 in the Northeast-10 conference. The Panthers are ranked No. 20 in the country. Jackson has been a big reason why.
“She has always been really good about making players around her better and really getting the best out of her teammates and I think that’s what makes her truly special,” Jacobs said.
The Panthers had to wait until the August following her senior year of high school to finally land her game-changing talents. That’s because Jackson, like all high school kids, dreamed of playing Division I basketball, but the offer never came. She though about walking on at Old Dominion before realizing the great opportunity she had at Adelphi to play at a high level and earn a degree.
“I didn’t want her to land at a place where she could get lost and get frustrated,” said Rock Rosa, her New Heights travel ball coach. “I felt at the Division II level she could excel.”
Jackson understands now how important that decision was and going elsewhere could have cost her becoming the player she is today. She understands how special a ride she is on, going from a small school at Aquinas to a college star.
“It’s definitely gratifying,” Jackson said. “If I had to look back four years to see if I would be here, I wouldn’t have thought I would be.”