Behind The Scenes With Frank Jackson

We sit down with Al Jackson, father of incoming freshman Frank Jackson to discuss his son’s final high school events, what he’s looking forward to at Duke, and how his plans have changed. 

So now that Frank is done with the All Star events, how’s he feeling about getting started at Duke?

Al Jackson, father of Frank Jackson:  Man, he’s excited and he’s got a real opportunity here to do some really special things for not only himself but also for the program. What a great situation for Frank to be going into and he’s going to be going to school, he’s going to graduate early and he’s going to be on campus at Duke on May 18 when school starts and he’ll get a good head start on developing that relationship with Coach K and the staff. What a tremendous opportunity he’s got to do some really great things. He’ll be taking the very first summer session at Duke, which is great. We originally thought July 3rd but then when he kept on asking me for my ATM card for gas money and other stuff, we said, “you know what, maybe you ought to go to Duke now haha instead of a month later.” As parents we’re ready for Frank to leave the nest and it’s going to be great because Coach K is going to be there since he’s not going to be there much during July with USA Basketball, so Frank getting to campus as soon as possible helps him establish that relationship with Coach K much quicker, which is what he really wants.

So was Frank coming in early for the first session entirely a family desire, or was it something that the Duke staff asked you guys to consider doing?

You know, Harry and Jayson are also going to be there on May 18 and right after the McDonald’s game my wife and I talked about if Frank stays on the July 3rd schedule for summer school, that would mean he would be home in April, May and June and probably not in the most productive setting as an individual as opposed to if he was at Duke in that environment, so that’s when we engaged the Duke coaches and they told us that we could come on May 18th and we were like, “done, he’ll be there.” He’s actually going to be there for the second summer session as well that starts around July 3rd, so that’ll be great. It’s really time for Frank to leave the nest and start a new chapter and put high school behind him so he can get as many classes in as possible at Duke and get that experience going. I’ve been told that he’ll be pretty busy which is good. 

Have the coaches discussed with you and Frank any further plans on how they want to start developing him and working him out once he’s on campus?

Not really, I’ve just been told he’s going to be super busy which is great. I’m assuming they will help him get his body ready for the season which will include the weight program. And it’s just as important also that he develop a relationship with the other guys there including Harry and Jayson. We’re grateful that Grayson is coming back because him and Frank have really developed a great friendship and I’m looking forward to having Grayson mentor Frank, we’re really thrilled that he’s coming back to Duke for his junior year.

Did you guys have any advance notice on Grayson’s decision to return to Duke?

No, we found out like everybody else. We saw it on Twitter and then we shared it with Frank and Frank became quite elated, he and us were really stoked about that.

Now that you know Grayson is coming back, what are your thoughts on what it’s going to look like with Frank and Grayson in the backcourt?

Man that’s going to be a crazy, dynamic backcourt and with Grayson and his experience, they have similar games, they both can get to the basket and they can both shoot the 3, they both defend well and they are both athletic. It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch and more importantly, Grayson is such a great kid and he’ll be a great mentor and friend for Frank. They are going to be great together.

Frank is in line to potentially play the point for Duke next season. Now that you know that’s the potential situation based on where the roster is, how are you guys feeling about Frank in that potential role?

It’s just an opportunity really, it’s up to Frank now how he fulfills that potential for him to be in the starting lineup. It’s up to him with how hard he’s going to work, how hard he’ll work to learn from the coaches. The opportunity is there which is tremendous, but it’s really up to him and how he performs.

Has the staff discussed anything they want him to work on along those lines in preparing to compete to potentially play that point guard role?

No, not really. They will wait I’m sure to get him down there and then have those face-to-face meetings which will be fine.

What kind of feedback did you get from the Duke staff on Frank and his play in the various All-Star events he participated in?

All positive and they are clued into all the guys and what they are doing including Harry, Jayson, Javin, and Jack White. They stay in constant contact with not only Frank but the entire family. It’s a really great staff and we feel a part of the Duke family and they’ve been immersed in keeping track of what Frank is doing. That’s been tremendous.

What kind of things have they checked on along those lines?

How he’s doing in practice, they get their own independent feedback but they also like to get the dad’s perspective. They ask how he’s doing in school, is he continuing to go to class and is he working out, those kind of things are what they have been interested in. And really what we’re doing is just developing a rapport and oftentimes we’ll talk about Frank, but really we’re also getting to know each other even better through getting to know each other’s families and how things are going with the program and their recruiting and things like that. We’ve developed a relationship with them that goes way beyond basketball. When Frank got hurt at the Jordan Brand Classic, the first people I heard from was the coaching staff including Coach K. Coach K, Coach Capel and Coach Scheyer were all super-concerned for Frank and I actually got a call from Coach Scheyer right after it happened to check on Frank and to see how he was.

How is Frank doing with everything from that Jordan injury?  I’d imagine it was probably a little scary in the moment.

Yeah it was scary. His biggest thing was he was disappointed that he couldn’t play anymore in that game because his Uncle had driven all the way up from Washington DC to see him play and that was his first thought was, “man, I let my Uncle down with not playing.” Then the second though was, “if I had made that dunk, I would have never been hurt.” He’s fine now, he had a mild concussion and we shut him down for a few weeks. He’s doing great, he’s almost back to normal. He hasn’t had any major side effects aside from feeling a little sore in his back and where he fell. He’s not showing any signs of any real damage which is just great.

Separate from that, Frank obviously got a chance to participate in some big-time events that not many players get to with Hoop Summit and Jordan and McDonald’s—what was that like for you guys with him doing that and what would you consider to be the most memorable experiences from those events?

I think a couple things, three real important things. #1, being the co-MVP and winning the Slam Dunk Contest at the McDonald’s, that was great and I think Frank also enjoyed doing some of the service projects that they had setup with the boys in Chicago. That always means something when he can serve. That was a great week for any kid and their family for him to be co-MVP and to win the Slam Dunk Contest. Then #2, at the Hoop Summit and being able to scrimmage in front of a ton of NBA General Managers was also a really cool experience and getting to play in that environment that week was fun for him with some of the top players in the country. Then thirdly, during the Jordan Brand Classic he got to meet Michael Jordan and that was just terrific for him. Those are probably the 3 biggest highlights from those weeks. As parents we just soaked it in and we just enjoyed watching Frank excel not only on the court but also off the court. He did a few interviews with ESPN and he always does his mom and dad proud, he’s so well-spoken and humble and appreciative of the moment. Those are the things that thrill us as parents. The basketball is a given, but we’re always really focused on how he grows up to become a man.

I noticed a picture online of you and Jayson and Harry’s Dad at one of those events…

Yeah, that was cool wasn’t it? The relationship there is just really cool, I’ve developed a really great relationship with Justin Tatum, we text back and forth a lot and he’s just a really good man and I got to meet Harry Giles’s dad for the first time at the Jordan Brand Classic and he’s a really good dude. We really got along really well, we all know it’s going to be really fun being at Cameron Indoor watching our boys play. I mean what better thing can there be for a dad to see our boys play, it’s just so cool they are going to be together at Duke?

How many games do you think you will be able to see of Frank’s?

Well we actually plan at being at all of them, we’re actually moving back East, we’re moving at the end of May and we’re going to be in Williamsburg, VA which is about a couple hours away from Duke. We plan to be at all his games. It’s a small town which is great and we can get up to DC when we need to and get down to Durham too in about two, maybe two and a half hours. It’s the perfect spot and we’ve always wanted to live there. We found a house and all is well. We’re really looking forward to it.

I wanted to return to you mentioning the NBA guys being there to watch Frank scrimmage at some of the events. At events like those you heard a lot of discussion about how well Frank played in front of them and how he might have put himself in position to think realistically about leaving after a year in college. What is your thought process towards all the discussion about the potential for Frank to go pro after one year?

We all have certain potential to reach certain things and you know what, to be honest with you, we’re not even focused on that. He hasn’t even made it on the Duke campus yet and we’re just trying to win a championship and engage in Coach K’s program and getting him to be the best player that he can be. If he works hard and does things the right way and is a good kid on and off the court, everything else will work itself out. Of course it’s natural to think about it and it’s very flattering and it’s cool to hear, but right now we’re just focused on getting him to college and letting him have that experience, that’s all we’re concerned with right now.

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